The first time I had to produce an ‘author biog’ for a book I had written, it began:
Caroline Taggart was born in London of Scottish parents, spent most of her childhood in New Zealand and went to university in Sheffield. Confused for some time, she now thinks of herself as a Londoner, but continues to change allegiance whenever it suits her, particularly during the rugby season.
Having worked in publishing for 11 years, she gave up a perfectly respectable job to become a freelance editor in 1989. Since then she has worked bizarre hours, gone out to lunch a lot and indulged her lifelong dislike of getting up in the morning.
That was in 1994, and I don’t go out to lunch as much as I used to, but most of the rest is still true. Particularly the bizarre hours.
I worked happily as a freelance editor for nearly 20 years, focusing on adult non-fiction. My two proudest boasts are:
• that I edited the BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs. I had been freelance for perhaps eight years and it was a great joy finally to be able to say, ‘Well, yes, actually…’ when people asked, ‘Have you worked on anything I would have heard of?’
• that I have worked with Jonathan Scott of Big Cat Diary fame since his first venture into publishing in 1982 and have edited 14 of his books – with, we both hope, more to come.
Then, about eight years ago, two things happened in quick succession. One, I was asked by David and Charles to edit the second edition of their Writer’s Market UK, a directory for aspiring writers, and to promote it by giving talks at writers’ conferences. And two, I was asked by Michael O’Mara to write a book about ‘stuff you forgot from school’. It was called I Used To Know That, it hit the Sunday Times best-seller lists and sold something over 250,000 copies. It, and some other titles in the same series, were reissued in paperback in 2011 and just the other day I received a copy of the Spanish edition of one of them, A Classical Education.
I have been doing much less editing (though deep down inside I still think of that as my day job), much more writing and quite a lot of talking in order to publicise my writing ever since. My record, on the publicity front, is sixteen interviews in a day talking about exclamation marks.
Since I Used To Know That came out, I have had a further 18 books published, have been series editor of another five and have two more due out later this year. Did I mention I work bizarre hours?