Today is publication day for my latest children’s book, The Binding.
I started thinking about the idea ten years ago, after witnessing an unsettling incident in a remote part of Scotland.
I was walking past a ruined crofter’s cottage when I heard a commotion inside and went to see what was going on. I found four children, out of breath and flushed with excitement, the biggest one grasping in his fist a baby bird.
They flashed each other a guilty look, before the big boy rallied, took the chick to the nearest window and opened his hand. It fell to the ground.
‘It was stuck in here,’ he said. ‘We were trying to catch it so we could help it to get out.’
We all knew that wasn’t what they were doing, but the bird was free now, and I stayed there watching it limp away to the nearest cover while the children ran back towards their houses.
I got to thinking, how would it be for a child to live in a place where there were few other children, and virtually no adult supervision?
Then, in the wonderful way that fiction works, that little nugget of an idea began to layer up with other ideas. It resonated with memories from my own childhood, particularly the secret club I had with my three siblings, which we called ‘the meeting.’
My big sister was in charge of the meeting. She it was who made the box which contained all the secret business of the meeting. She decided the tasks and set the penalties.
On the less serious side, we had the mischief club, where I was in charge, being the second oldest, but it burnt out long before the meeting because it didn’t have the same magic and I lacked the power to hold it together.
My own childhood memories, stories other people had told me and new fantasies were called into my mind by this seed idea, and transformed in imagination to fit into it.
I love this process. It makes me feel energised and happy. And when, as occasionally happens, it also grows into a publishable book, well that’s just the icing on the cake.