Saturday 28 July 2012


Hi there,

I'm a retired newspaper reporter from the North East of England, following my childhood dream of being a novelist.

As a kid I read books under the bedclothes by torchlight. Now I dive under the bedclothes, torch in hand, to scribble down conversations between my nutty book characters in case I forget them in the morning.

FACTS ABOUT ME (including some stuff I've never dared tell anyone)

First off, I might never have been born. My mother told me I was the perfect baby but my younger brother was a nightmare. He cried non-stop every night and she never got a wink of sleep. She said if he was born first, she would never have had another.

As a tot, my dad would spread a newspaper on the carpet and I would sit on it and play with his tin of old rusty screws and bolts. I would mess on with them for hours. It wasn't that we couldn't afford toys, I just loved twiddling with the bits. Nowadays I twiddle with beads, making jewellery.

Growing up, I was a tom boy and nuts for climbing trees and playing football (US-soccer). When I was 10, a boy said I was pretty and kissed me on the corner of the mouth. I thumped him in the corner of his.

At about 12, my pals and I had a competition at school lunch to see who could eat the most sausages. I ate 29 and won; I had a stomach like Bessie Bunter  - – and was sick for a week.

I was really skinny in my early teens and one day my mother was hauled in to school and quizzed about why I was so thin. The school authorities thought my parents weren’t feeding me. My mother was really upset and angry. She told them about all the food she threw out that I wouldn't eat. My father, mother, myself and my little brother all ate off different size plates. One day I sat down at my father’s place at the table and started eating from his big plate. He came in and said, "Hey…" but my mother stopped him and said, "Let her eat" – and I’ve never stopped since.

At the ‘Big School’, I was in a lot of teams i.e. hockey, rounders (US-baseball), netball (US-basketball). We played hockey in all weathers and often got soaked through. In our classroom, our desks had a lid and sometimes myself and my team mates didn’t take our hockey kit home. Instead we lifted the lid on an empty desk, at the back of the classroom, and tossed in our muddy, wet hockey kit. Next match day, we pulled out the kit, sorted it and went off to play. The dried, muddy kit was like wearing a suit of armour. How we managed to walk in it, never mind run, I have no idea. Yuck.

In my teens I learned judo. In my class there was this giant cop, about 6ft 4in and 16 stone and he liked to throw his weight around. At the end of the class, we had a practice session and I was paired with monster cop. I was determined to throw him. But at only 5ft 3in and seven stone soaking wet, it wasn’t easy. But determination can make up for a lot. So gritting my teeth, I put every ounce of strength into the throw and woohoo, I threw him. But he fell on top of me and smashed my collar bone. But, hey, it was worth it.

My vivid imagination caused me to black out a couple of times in my teens and early 20s. This happened when I read, was told or overheard graphic details about an injury. Blood wasn’t an issue. I could take blood by the gallons but broken bones were another matter. I got a sympathy pain in the area of the body I was reading about or hearing about. If it was a broken leg or arm, I felt like I had a broken leg or arm etc etc. After a short while the pain disappeared, then I would feel sick. The sickness spread up through my body stage by stage.  I felt like I had butterflies in my stomach, then there was a great weight crushing my chest, next someone was strangling me and when the sickness reached my head - blackout time. This happened on a bus reading a novel, in a court room as a reporter covering a murder trial about someone who died from a head injury and in a girlfriend’s bathroom. She was washing her hair, talking about a knee operation and I collapsed in her bath tub. Crazy, huh?

As a newspaper reporter, I have interviewed thousands of people - authors, actors, celebrities, sports stars, politicians, heroes, bad guys, good guys and people like me and you. The person who sticks out the most is a 10-year-old boy with cancer. He told me it hurt sometimes and he was glad it was him and not his brother who was ill. A true hero.

I play golf but I’ve never had a hole in one. My partner has had 22. A bit greedy if you ask me.

My favourite number is a bajillion. If we had that much money, maybe there wouldn’t be wars and poverty.

My favourite colour is brown – from gold to chocolate and all shades in between.

Autumn is my favourite month. This time of year is soooooo pretty in England with the trees all my favourite colours of brown. On a sunny day or a crisp, frosty morning, they shimmer – it’s like a FairyLand.

I love chocolate, and hate coffee and tea.

History was my favourite subject at school. I'm also interested in different cultures. I'm learning Lakota Sioux but as I don't know anyone else who is, I will probably have to talk to myself...hey, so what's new.

My name is Linda and at the ‘Big School’, there were four other Lindas in my class. In Spanish, Linda means beautiful, pretty or cute. Nice. But I always dreamt of being called something else. So I chose Dakota Douglas for my pen name. Dakota because I love the Black Hills of South Dakota and Dakota means friend or ally in Lakota Sioux. Douglas is my brother’s christian name and my grandmother’s maiden name.

People you may have heard of who come from the North East of England: Musician Sting, movie director Ridley Scott, Admiral Lord Collingwood, who took command at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when Nelson was killed; author Catherine Cookson; Horrible Histories’ author Terry Deary; railway pioneer George Stephenson, who invented The Rocket - the most famous early railway locomotive; Mark Knopler, of Dire Sraits; rocker Brian Johnson, of AC/DC; and 1960s band The Animals.

Landmarks and locations in the area: Hadrian’s Wall, an 80-mile long military fortification started by Emperor Hadrian in AD122 to keep out the pesky barbarians from northern Britannia (Scotland); dozens of stunning castles including Alnwick Castle, built about 1096 to protect England’s northern border and most famously in recent years featuring as ‘Hogwarts’ in the first two Harry Potter movies.

This is how the idea for ANTics came about: 
While waiting to meet someone, I saw a group of ants carrying a crisp (US-potato chip). The crisp was about 3cm by 2cm and their antics at transporting this to their nest were pretty amazing.

First there were the workers, who carried the crisp, then several supervisors, who oversaw the operation. And when it appeared the job was too big for them, one ant ran off and came back with extra helpers. It was incredible to see them haul the crisp up a 12cm kerb. I was exhausted just watching. But very Impressed.

That night I dreamt about ants. When I woke, I lay thinking about the dream and the idea for characters with names ending in ant - describing their personalities - was born.  

(Information taken from Dakota Douglas' Blog with full permission of the author)

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