- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: M.Joseph; 1st edition (15 Feb 1982)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0718120655
- ISBN-13: 978-0718120658
- Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 17.4 x 2.2 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,166,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
When I was about six I lived with my Grandma in Ashbourne, a market town in Derbyshire. That was where and when I made up my mind what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer or an actor. Preferably both, because then I'd be able to write stories and declaim them. (And get paid twice, but I didn't know about that.) When I was wee, this involved standing on a chair and shouting a lot. I wrote my very first book at that time, in indelible pencil, and Grandma stitched the pages together for me. I stole all of it, naturally.
So I've been very lucky, because in my time I've been both. But for more than forty years now I've spent all my time, and earned my living, by writing, co-authoring, compiling, and editing books, almost all of them about science. It's fun, because basically what I'm doing is finding answers to questions, solving puzzles, figuring out how things work, and then telling stories about it. My boast is that if I can get to understand something I'll be able to explain it so you can understand it, too.
I also edit dictionaries. At present I'm in charge of five, all published by Oxford University Press, on plant sciences, earth sciences and geology, ecology, zoology, and environment and conservation. I collect words and phrases and whenever it's time for a new edition I insert all the new ones and revise and update the old ones. Dictionaries never end. It's all changing now, though, because all my dictionaries are online, at OUP's amazing new website. You must try it out.
The writer's life is not for everyone. I collaborate with people, but I seldom meet them. Quite a number of my books were published in New York, by people I've never met, and illustrated by a friend who lives in France, and I never get to see him, either. I sit in front of my friendly iMac, tip-tapping away or staring blankly at a blank screen.
But I have a great view. My wife and I live in the West Highlands of Scotland, overlooking a narrow stretch of sea toward one of the islands, with the mountains of another island in the distance. It's mind-numbingly beautiful, especially when a full moon shines across the water. Everything comes at a price, of course. Sometimes the midges are so fierce you have to wear a hood just to take rubbish to the dustbin or hang laundry on the line.
I'm still going strong. I have something like one hundred books to my name, but there'll be a few more yet, before I hang up my keyboard. Amazon has a list of all those that are still available and you can find a list of the whole lot at my own website (www.michaelallaby.com). Try one or two. You might enjoy them. Happy days!