I grew up in Germany, the land of black forests, red and white toadstools, gingerbread houses and hungry children left to find their way home from the woods following trails of breadcrumbs. (Well, not literally – my parents were very good about remembering to bring us home after a day out and anyway, my father wasn’t a woodcutter.)

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No surprise then, that when I started writing my own books, they’d be inspired by fairy tales, myths and magic. That’s when I made an important discovery: not all the famous classical works have been adapted for children. Dante’s Inferno, for instance, in which the great Italian poet imagines himself literally going through a Hell modelled on the Greek Underworld, crossing rivers of fire and ice, grappling with Cerberus, centaurs, harpies, Furies… Why had no one created a children’s version of such a dark, spine-chilling tale?

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Then there’s Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, about a man who sells his soul to the devil in return for knowledge and power… only to find this doesn’t turn out to be such a good idea after all. Another great framework for an exciting story!

Something had to be done.

So I wrote Ante’s Inferno, sending 12 year-old Antonia on a journey through Hades, accompanied by her worst enemy, Florence, and guided by a mysterious 13 year-old boy called Gil. The book won the Children’s category of the People’s Book Prize, took a Silver Wishing Shelf Award and has undergone several reprints, including a special edition in 2017 to mark the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele.

Then came The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst, in which 13 year-old Henry will do anything to overcome his problems, even follow some weird instructions in a 16th century diary on how someone ‘in grete perplexitie’ might summon a spirit to their aid. What could possibly go wrong? Er, plenty, since you ask.

And in the pipeline…

The Fall of a Sparrow, about 11 year-old Eleanor whose hot temper banishes her to an old-fashioned boarding school where no one will talk to her, save for a strange, excitable little boy. Who is he – and why is he so sure he knows her? Unravelling the mystery draws Eleanor into a dark web of family history, awakening a long-buried tragedy that soon threatens to engulf her.

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