Sue Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946. She was brought up in the suburbs, where she spent most of her free time playing in local fields and woods.
Sue only learned to read at the age of eight when, off school with mumps, she was given by her mother a pile of Just William books and taught to read in just three weeks. From that moment she became obsessed with reading. Later, she started to write for the school magazine.
Sue left school at fifteen with no qualifications and found employment in a string of unfulfilling jobs, from petrol-pump attendant to shop assistant. She kept writing, but did so in secret. At eighteen she married and a year later her first child was born. With two more children in her family and a subsequent divorce, she at last found a job she enjoyed – at the youth club on the estate she lives in.
In 1978 Sue met Colin Broadway and after she admitted to him that she had been writing secretly for years he encouraged her to join a writer’s group at Leicester’s Phoenix Arts Centre. After the third meeting, where Sue had shown nothing nor said anything, she was told to share some work with the group next week. Two weeks later she presented Womberang , a play set in a gynaecological waiting room. The play was put on and in 1979 won a Thames Television Playwright Award, including a bursary as Writer in Residence.
Having, almost by accident, embarked on a professional writing career, Sue went on to write numerous successful plays, including Bazaar and Rummage (1982) and The Great Celestial Cow (1984), both of which were performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
But it was the Adrian Mole diaries, which Sue had started in 1975, writing the first two and a half months in one sitting, that brought her lasting fame. These first appeared as a half-hour piece on Radio Four in 1982 as The Diary of Nigel Mole. Later that year, the publishers Methuen brought out The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 ¾ (1982) and later its sequel, The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1984). Together these books made Sue the bestselling author of the 1980s. There have been six further books in the Adrian Mole series , which have sold over eight million copies and have been adapted for radio, television and theatre.
In 1991 she was awarded an Honorary MA by the University of Leicester and subsequently has placed her papers in their Special Collections archives. Sue has continued to write other books, many of which have also gone on to be bestsellers, including The Queen and I (1992) and Number 10 (2002). Her latest novel is The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year, published in 2012 by Michael Joseph.