Somewhere in the world outside there was a man following me. Like a ghost it walked with me, the image of that man in the street. But I wasn’t afraid. Strangely, I was never afraid of that ghost.
The idea for Holly Starcross came from something somebody said to me. He was a teacher, and I’d never met him before. What he said was, “My 14 year old daughter said something very strange this morning. She came down to breakfast and said, Dad, you don’t know who I am.”
That chance remark stayed with me for ages. I think every teenager gets to the stage where they feel their parents don’t know them any more, because they’re trying to cling onto the child that used to be instead of recognising the young adult that they are turning in to. But I started to think about a father who really didn’t know his child any more, because he hadn’t seen her for years. What would it be like for them to meet up again?
Like The Snake-stone, I have partly set this novel in Edale in the Peak District, but I have called it Noedale. The river Noe runs through Edale and it is said that Noedale was the original name of the valley.
First, I hope you’ll read the whole novel. I am well aware of the sensitive nature of this idea and have tried to handle it extremely carefully. Holly knows it is her father, and she’s as desperate to know him again as he is to know her. She keeps in touch with her mother but out of loyalty she doesn’t tell her who she’s with. Of course this arouses tension and conflict and the wild element of chance, but that’s the nature of fiction. If she goes home and asks her mother’s permission the whole energy of the story is lost. Above all, I’m a novelist, not a writer of documentaries. All writers for teenagers tread dangerous paths – we might be writing about drugs, violence, suicide, pregnancy, love, death – there are no taboos so long as the subject is handled with care. Trust the writer.