Katy Parker and the House that Cried is my first published story for children. My inspiration came from my two favourite topics: old houses and the Second World War. I love visiting old houses and imagining the lives of the people who once lived in them and I am fascinated by how the war changed daily life for children in 1940s England: my own mum was an evacuee and used to tell me stories about her experiences, some of which ended up in my book.
I wrote my first draft by hand in a small notebook and it took me six weeks; I enjoyed every minute of the writing process and it more or less took over my whole life. I didn’t have a plan but the characters just came alive in my head and I had to write fast to keep up with what they were doing. Once the first draft was finished, I began redrafting to produce a book ready for publication. I let groups of children read the draft and listened to their feedback – I loved hearing what real-life readers thought about the plot and characters and their comments helped me shape the story better for the final draft.
I wanted to create a story which showed a young person doing something better than adults: I’ve given Katy a strong sense of natural justice and when she finds an injured German pilot we see her true nature as she shows ‘kindness to a stranger’. As well as this, I wanted to create a fast-paced, exciting mystery and I hope I have achieved this at the beginning of the story by entwining Katy’s dreams with her reality and the idea of slipping back through time.
I set the story in a small village in Cheshire, like the place where I grew up. I wanted to create that sense of a community where people work together, but I also wanted to use the story to weave a kind of magic, showing how people can overcome difficult situations in their own lives – Hillary has been disconnected from her neighbours for a long time and the events of the story give her the chance to reconnect.
I hope you enjoy following Katy and her brother, Patrick, on their magical adventure into the past.