The Dragon and Her Boy is the sequel to Tiger Heart - both stories are set in a kind of time-slip between Georgian and Victorian London and tell the adventures of a gang of street children called the Gutterlings.
The hero of The Dragon and her Boy is a tumbler - or street acrobat - called Stick. The story starts on a very hot day in August when he and his friends Spud and Sparrow are performing for the crowds at Bartholomew Fair. There is a sudden rumble under the earth and Spud and Sparrow disappear. When Stick goes in search of them, he discovers an ancient dragon whose story is tangled up in his own dark past.
In Stick’s quest to help the dragon and rescue his friends, he ends up risking his freedom - and his life.
I have two very persistent alarm clocks in the form of my cats - Bonnie and Betsy - who wake me for their breakfast at six o’clock in the morning by poking me with their paws. If that doesn’t work, they resort to their claws. This means I am usually at my desk by eight, so most of my writing is done in the morning. But if it’s going well, I might work all day.
My ideas come when I am out on walks around the oldest parts of London - the narrow alleyways and dank churchyards of the City, where I can rub shoulders with the ghosts of Londoners and sniff out stories.
I usually spend a couple of months researching my ideas before I start writing, but quite often the characters surprise me by doing something I didn’t expect, so their stories can change quite a lot as I go along!
I am never happier than when a story is going so well it almost writes itself, and just pours out onto the page. Those are such good days! The hardest days are when I get stuck - often a few chapters in - when I start to doubt whether the story is any good at all! And indeed my own sanity!
I loved historical adventure books - so I suppose that’s why I write them now. My particular favourites were Joan Aiken - The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea etc - her characters were so vivid! But there were so many others … the heartbreak of Charlotte’s Web; the nonsense world of Alice in Wonderland; so many books that children all over the world still love.
I think I knew I wanted to be a writer from the moment I realised I could pick up a book and be anywhere in the world and be swept up in adventures with great characters who - in the best books - felt as familiar and real as friends.
How amazing to be able to write stories that would bring that same joy to children myself! I am so lucky! Best job in the world!
In the current climate of uncertainty surrounding school closures and access to books, Hachette Australia will be granting free permissions for online story-time events for those areas in a local lockdown.