Gillian Cross loves to write. But while some authors prefer an open space or perhaps a sunlit room, she works in a small, dark room behind her kitchen. It used to be a larder and it has no views, so she cannot be distracted. The results are impressive. She has written more than 40 books, which have sold some one million copies, and will be in Hong Kong next month for the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival. But like many aspiring authors, success did not come immediately. She had to wait five years before any of her books were published. After such a long wait she was lucky enough to have two books accepted in the same week. The first was called The Runaway, which was published by Methuen. Since then, Oxford University Press has been her only publisher. Children and critics love the way Cross uses clever plots and authentic characters. One of her most famous characters is in her series of Demon Headmaster titles. The school headmaster seems to have almost magical powers over students, who are unusually neat and well-behaved. Dinah is adopted by a family with two boys who attend this school. She needs to find out what is happening. The BBC has made a television version of the story. Other accolades include winning the Whitbread Children's Novel award and the Smarties Prize in 1992 for The Great Elephant Chase, and the Carnegie Medal two years earlier for Wolf. Her research for that book included going into an enclosure in London Zoo full of wolves. She wanted to show that these wild animals are different from what their bad reputation suggests, and that they are closer to humans than we sometimes admit. Even though she spends a lot of time writing, it normally takes the author about nine months to finish a novel. She learned how to do this herself. That is because she is not sure that some schools teach writing very well. She tells how teachers taught only the formal aspects of writing and she had to create her own ideas. One way was to tell her friends stories about themselves when they were travelling to school on the train. Cross usually starts her books with one clear idea and develops the story by writing rather than making a detailed plan. Like many authors, she does lots of research to make the books as accurate as possible. She does this mostly by reading and looking on the internet. She tells people to read a lot so they become familiar with all sorts of books. For example, she says that there is nothing wrong with adults reading children's literature. She is currently working on the first volume of a three-part series called The Dark Ground, and tells readers to look out for its very unusual cover. They will have to wait until April, when it will be published, to find out what it looks like. Since becoming a full-time writer, Cross has been able to do some fun things, like opening libraries, visiting schools and going on location with a television crew. She is British, married with four children (two boys and two girls), and her hobbies include playing the piano and orienteering, a sport that requires fitness and map-reading skills.