“What made me decide to write for young adults? I didn't. I can't tell who my audience is going to be. I just write a book that's going to keep me entertained for the time it takes to do it. It's a continual mystery to me that anyone reads me at all, but I'm glad they do.” Philip Pullman, on the audience for his books

The Writer

Philip has published almost twenty books which are widely read by children, although he does not write specifically with children in mind.

Philip’s first book for children was Count Karlstein, published in 1982. This was followed by the first volumes in the so-called Sally Lockhart series – The Ruby in the Smoke (1985) and The Shadow in the North (1986) – named after the spirited Victorian heroine of the books. Philip’s most popular work to date is the His Dark Materials trilogy (1995-2000), a fantasy adventure in which Lyra and Will, children of different worlds, discover parallel universes and become involved in a war of epic proportions.

The trilogy has earned him many awards including the Guardian Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal. The final instalment in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass (2000), was the first children’s book to win the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. The first instalment in the His Dark Materials trilogy, Northern Lights (1995), has also been adapted into a Hollywood film under its American title, The Golden Compass.

Philip was awarded a CBE in the 2004 New Years Honours list.

In 2002 Philip Pullman donated draft material for fourteen of his published books to Seven Stories, including manuscripts for his highly-acclaimed Sally Lockhart quartet.

Creative process

Philip’s draft material shows that he works in a highly organised, neat and precise manner. He always seems to produce at least   one draft by hand, and little notes and jottings give brief, tantalising glimpses into the working of his mind. One page of notes, for example, includes the musing ‘Maybe each story or play needs its own medium. Maybe one needs a pencil, another ballpoint, another fountain pen. Quite possible.’

Philip likes routine in his work, and always has to use A4 paper with a blue or grey margin and only two holes punched, never four. He only writes on one side of the page, using the other side for notes and observations. These can include plot problems to be resolved or memos to himself, such as ‘come on move’, when he feels the story is not developing at a decent pace. There are even sketches and doodles, like the cigar-smoking cat which appears in the manuscript for The Tiger in the Well (published in 1991).

Philip is a disciplined writer and will not leave his desk until he has written at least three pages of A4, which he estimates amounts to around 1100 words. At the end of a working day, he will always make sure to write at least one line on a new sheet of paper, so he will not be faced with a blank sheet of paper when he starts work the next day.

In his own words...

“I was glad to donate a number of original manuscripts and other papers relating to my work [to Seven Stories]. If this centre had not existed, it would have been hard to find anywhere in this country where they would have been looked after properly and, even more importantly, found their place among other such items. The value of a collection like this lies in the connections that can be made, the lines of influence that can be traced, the similarities and differences that can be pointed out. This can only happen if a critical mass of material has been gathered, and if it is all properly and expertly catalogued and examined.”


Philip Pullman was born in Norwich in 1946. He lived in many different places during his childhood, including Zimbabwe and Australia, before his family finally settled in North Wales. He read English at Exeter College, Oxford – thinly disguised as Jordan College in His Dark Materials. A passionate educator, Philip worked as a teacher in several Oxford middle schools, then spent eight years lecturing in Education at Westminster College, Oxford. He became a full-time writer in 1995.