Tracy Beaker is by far the most popular of all the characters I've ever invented. How she would love to know that! She would just glory in the fact that there are now three books about her, a very popular long-running television series, a magazine, a musical, and all sorts of merchandising, from pyjamas to pencil cases!
Tracy's always been a very special character to me too, because The Story of Tracy Beaker was the first book of mine illustrated by Nick Sharratt. I knew I wanted to have lots of amusing black and white drawings within the text, as if Tracy had done them all herself whilst writing her own story. My editor said he knew the ideal illustrator and arranged for me to meet Nick at the publishers.
Nick and I greeted each other politely and made small talk, both of us feeling very shy. I liked Nick very much but my one worry was that he wasn't quite wild and wacky enough to draw like my totally weird Tracy.
But then I bent down to get a hankie out of my handbag and spotted that Nick was wearing the most stingingly bright canary yellow socks - and I knew he'd be perfect! I've been so very lucky to be artistically partnered with Nick. I'm sure his brilliant inventive covers and expressive black and white illustrations are one of the main reasons why my books have been so successful.
The Story of Tracy Beaker had been the most successful. I got the idea from seeing photos of children in care in my local paper, all longing to be fostered. I looked at those touching pictures and wondered what it would be like to be advertised in that way. It would be great if you found brilliant foster parents as a result, but how would you feel in no-one at all came forward to meet up with you? I decided to write a story about a tough feisty little girl in a children's home who gets advertised like this.
I knew almost straight away that I was going to call her Tracy. It seemed a perfect modern street-wise bouncy sort of name. I had problems finding a suitable surname. I was thinking about it when I was lolling in my bath one morning. I peered all round the steamy room for some kind of inspiration. There aren't a lot of possibilities in the average bathroom! I wondered about Tracy Flannel, Tracy Soap, Tracy Tap, Tracy Toothbrush, Tracy Toilet - and decided I'd never ever find a sensible surname that way. I got on with washing my hair and then reached for the old plastic Snoopy beaker I kept on the side of the bath to rinse all the shampoo away. I stared at it. Tracy Beaker? Yes, I had