I am really pleased with my latest book – ‘The Last Apprentice: A Coven of Witches’ – but the truth is that I did not want to write it!
You see I had already written two books that year but, unfortunately, one had to be put back for months in order to allow time for extensive illustrations to be drawn. As a result my English editor twisted my arm up my back and told me that I had to write something to fill the gap.
“Write me a few stories about witches!” she commanded.
Obediently, I made a start and decided that the stories would each be about characters from the series. In that way the book could also become an introduction to the world of John Gregory and Thomas Ward. So we have stories about Alice, the Spook and Meg and an adventure in which we return to the landscape north of Caster where Bill Arkwright plies his trade. The latter story is told to us by Tom Ward as they combat a dangerous witch from Ireland.
One story introduces a brand new character. It is called ‘Dirty Dora’. Why is she dirty? It is because she is dead and lives under the rotting leaves in Witch Dell. I was going to call the story ‘Dirty Doreen’ but I have an aunt called Doreen. I always give her a signed copy and she reads and enjoys the books. I didn’t want her to think that the story was in any way based on her! So just in case, I changed the name!
I receive quite a lot of letters from readers in the USA and do my best to answer them all although there is an inevitable long delay. It hasn’t helped because I spent the winter in New Zealand writing, travelling and promoting the books both there and in Australia. As a result I have returned to find lots of letters awaiting an answer. But there is an easier way to contact me directly.
I have a new website: www.spooksworld.co.uk
Using that site you can email your comments and questions to me directly. I will reply within a week. Try it – it’s easier than writing a letter that could go astray or be delayed for months whilst volcanic ash wafts over Europe. Not only that, you can email the witch, Grimalkin, and ask her views on what’s happened in the series so far or what she thinks about certain characters. If you are lucky she sometimes says too much and gives hints about where the narrative is heading. Be polite though. Her knives are always sharp and she is skilled at finding people in her mirror. So it’s best not to offend her.
At the moment I have just written the first draft of Book Eight which is set in Ireland. I am also just starting to write a book about Alice. She will tell the story of her training as a witch by Bony Lizzie.