'On my Twentieth
birthday I decided to skive off college and
go somewhere different for the day. A friend
of mine suggested a town called Whitby on the
North Yorkhire coast. So I set out, not knowing
anything about the place. Well, from the moment
I stepped off the train I knew I was somewhere
very special and spent a very enjoyable, drizzling
day wandering about the town. With Carmina Burana
blasting in my headphones, I explored the ruined
abbey on the clifftop. I was inspired, but it
took another five or six years before I began
writing about it.
In "the Whitby
Witches" I tried to describe the excitement
of that journey and used as many of the local
legends as possible, whilst inventing a few
of my own, most notably the aufwaders.'
of Miss Boston is based on two people. The first
is of course, that wonderful character actress,
Margaret Rutherford, but the second is another
author. Lucy Boston was ninety-four when I met
her. I had simply written to her asking if she'd
sign one of her books for me and she actually
replied with an invitation to view her house.
She lived in a Norman manor which is the Green
Knowe of her books and every detail of the real
garden and the actual furnishings inside is
present in the novels. Strangely, the day I
went to see her was my twenty-third birthday,
and again I was inspired. Shortly after the
visit I began sketching "the Deptford Mice"
but later, when I wanted to write about Whitby,
I named the character of the old lady who takes
in two orphaned children "Miss Boston" as a
tribute to her.
Also, the illustrations
of Ben were drawn from my nephew who was the
right age at the time. He never seemed at all
bothered by it and when a girl in his class
was reading the book and claiming it as her
favourite, never even owned up to the fact.'