As a kid, I didn't read a great deal of fiction, and I've forgotten most of what I did read.

Madness doesn't happen to someone alone. Very few people have experiences that are theirs alone.

I was born too late for steam trains and a lazy eye meant I'd never be an astronaut.

I better make the plot good. I wanted to make it grip people on the first page and have a big turning point in the middle, as there is, and construct the whole thing like a roller coaster ride.

I am atheist in a very religious mould. I'm always asking myself the big questions. Where did we come from? Is there a meaning to all of this? When I find myself in church, I edit the hymns as I sing them.

I read very, very little fiction as a kid. All the books I can remember are junior science books.

I started writing books for children because I could illustrate them myself and because, in my innocence, I thought they'd be easier.

The most difficult book I wrote was the fourth in a series of linked children's books. It was like pulling teeth because the publisher wanted exactly the same but completely different. I'd much rather just do something completely different, even if there's a risk of it going wrong.

I don't remember deciding to become a writer. You decide to become a dentist or a postman. For me, writing is like being gay. You finally admit that this is who you are, you come out and hope that no one runs away.

I've always really enjoyed writing different things because I get bored very easily.

No one wants to know how clever you are. They don't want an insight into your mind, thrilling as it might be. They want an insight into their own.

I like having my back pressed against a wall and being made to work harder so I don't embarrass myself.

When I was writing for children, I was writing genre fiction. It was like making a good chair. It needed four legs of the same length, it had to be the right height and it had to be comfortable.

Fiction that responds to recent world events is a hostage to fortune, because all momentous events look very different a year, two years, three years later.

Writing for children is bloody difficult; books for children are as complex as their adult counterparts, and they should therefore be accorded the same respect.

I think Britain has this tradition which suggests that if you make the readers laugh too much, you can't really be serious. Whereas, I think one of the functions laughter can perform in a book, as in life, is that it's a reaction to genuine horror.

If you're trying to be a successful writer, and you go into a second-hand bookshop, it's the graveyard of people whose books haven't been wanted.

I thought Bill Bryson's 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' was remarkable. Managing to be entertaining while still delivering all that hard science was a pretty good trick to pull off.

I'm a writer! If you work in an office, it dampens you. It makes you fit a routine. The effect of being a writer is not dissimilar to being long-term unemployed. And everyone knows that is not good for you.

It took me a long time to come out as someone who doesn't like film. It's a bit like when people say they don't like books: you get that sharp intake of breath.

I'm really interested in the extraordinary found in the normal. Hopefully, my books don't take you to an entirely different place but make you look at things around you.

No one is ever really a stranger. We cling to the belief that we share nothing with certain people. It's rubbish. We have almost everything in common with everyone.

Many children's writers don't have children of their own.

Bore children, and they stop reading. There's no room for self-indulgence or showing off or setting the scene.

Show me the artist anywhere who's had an utterly stable mental life, and I'll buy you hot dinners for the rest of your life.

Indeed, I am repeatedly astonished by the number of really good writers who understand human beings so well on paper but don't know how to deal with them in real life.

Science and literature give me answers. And they ask me questions I will never be able to answer.

I think I've learnt that there is no character so strange that you haven't shared their experience in some small way.

I always thought I'd eventually learn how to draw really well, and despite constant evidence to the contrary, I just kept on trying. If you're too good at anything, you don't have to think about the process, whereas I feel like I spend my life with my head under the bonnet, trying to understand how everything works.

I've worked in television long enough to know that when you stop enjoying that type of thing you go home and do something else.

I went to boarding school, and then I went to Oxford, and I know how easy it is for certain groups of people to become wholly insulated from ordinary life.

I am really interested in eccentric minds. It's rather like being fascinated by how cars work. It's really boring if your car works all the time. But as soon as something happens, you get the bonnet up. If someone has an abnormal or dysfunctional state of mind, you get the bonnet up.

There was a time in my life when I was going in and out of houses that were extraordinarily different - from a working-class terrace in Northampton to the homes of friends who were really very wealthy. It was quite an odd position to be in, I realise looking back, and quite a nice one.

I am quite amazed how, when people earn lots of money, they think they have to spend it on things that give them access to the club constituted by the people who are in their tax bracket.

My book has a very simple surface, but there are layers of irony and paradox all the way through it.

There's something with the physical size of America... American writers can write about America and it can still feel like a foreign country.

Every life is narrow. Our only escape is not to run away, but to learn to love the people we are and the world in which we find ourselves.

Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.

I don't mean that literary fiction is better than genre fiction, On the contrary; novels can perform two functions and most perform only one.

Humour and high seriousness... Perfect bedfellows, I think. Though I usually phrase it in terms of comedy and darkness. Comedy without darkness rapidly becomes trivial. And darkness without comedy rapidly becomes unbearable.

I suffer depression only in the sense that I am a writer. We don't have proper jobs to go to. We are on our own all day. Show me a writer who doesn't get depressed: who has a completely stable mood. They'd be a garage mechanic or something.

Children simply don't make the distinction; a book is either good or bad. And some of the books they think are good are very, very bad indeed.

There's something rather wonderful about the fact that Oxford is a very small city that contains most of the cultural and metropolitan facilities you could want, in terms of bookshops, theatre, cinema, conversation. But it's near enough to London to get here in an hour, and it's near enough to huge open spaces without which I would go insane.

B is for bestseller.

I knew there was a story; once you find a dog with a fork through it, you know there's a story there.

From a good book, I want to be taken to the very edge. I want a glimpse into that outer darkness.

Things can be funny when people are uneasy. It softens them up and stops them falling asleep on the sofa. I like those moments where people half-smile and half-wince.

I really like the idea of being a bit unpredictable. I'm known for being a nice, easy-going person with a straightforward exterior. So I think a bit of me wants to be sort of sly and devious.

Use your imagination, and you'll see that even the most narrow, humdrum lives are infinite in scope if you examine them with enough care.