When I was growing up, I went to a total of thirteen different schools. And no, before you ask, I didn’t keep getting expelled. My father moved around with his job, and we went with him, from Ireland to Africa, to Trinidad, to England and Scotland. We finally settled in Leicestershire, but the school-hopping continued. The shortest time I spent in a school was three days, the longest three years. Life was unsettled and making friends was never easy. I did the only sensible thing I could do and turned to books. Reading became an escape, but it was also a pleasure. There were worlds between the covers of those books where I lived when my own world was a less cheerful place to be. I found magic, adventure, thrills and scares and laughter. I came across words I didn’t understand, and strange and baffling ideas which puzzled and challenged me, and my world expanded. I realised early on that it wasn’t enough to read books, I wanted to write them too, and so began years of scribbling in note books, on pieces of paper torn from school exercise books, on just about anything I could get my hands on. There was never any question of what I would write about. I loved ghost stories, folk tales and legends. I loved history
When I started to write The Crowfield Curse, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to put all these elements together. I already had Brother Snail’s character waiting patiently in the background for a story to come along. He began life a few years ago, when I was working on an archaeological dig on the site of an abbey. We dug up the skeleton of a nun. Her spine was bent over and the bones had fused together as a result of an illness. She wasn’t able to straighten up, and the image of this small, hunched figure haunted me for years. Then one day the nun became a monk and Brother Snail was born. Gradually, other ideas and characters presented themselves, and the story of the angel dying in the snow one Christmas Eve, and the boy who sets out to find its grave, slowly came together.
I’ve been asked if The Crowfield Curse is a historical novel with a magical twist, or if it’s a fantasy novel with a historical setting. The simple answer is, it doesn’t matter which it is. I like to think that magic and mystery exist in the most ordinary of places. In the book, William discovers that other worlds exist alongside his own everyday one, and that when the two overlap, well, that’s when the fun really starts!