15 February 2013


Today, I'm really excited to have Katy Moran on My Book Journey to talk about Conceiving a Book (and pinning down the plot), in particular for her latest book Hidden Among Us.

Having read and really enjoyed this story of the fae, I'm really excited to hear how Katy developed the idea behind it! In particular I loved the very British feel to the story, and if you read below you will find out where this inspiration came from.

Hidden Among Us was first formally discussed with my editor in 2009, but for many years prior to that I’d been percolating the idea for a book in which the everyday world is not all it seems; I wanted to make readers suspect that magic really might take place, and that those old myths and legends we grew up with are far more than just stories, but actually powerful influences on real people. My greatest teachers in this respect were authors whose books I drank in with bottomless appetite as a child: Alan Garner, Robert Westall and Diana Wynne-Jones to name only a few. One of my most favourite books as a child was Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan – I read about Pidge and his sister and their terrifying close encounter with the Otherworld so many times that the book is in tatters now. Of course, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is another masterpiece that explores not only the power of an ancient myth – the old Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd – but also the destructive effects of jealousy, bitterness and revenge. All of these books shaped my imagination as I grew up: ideas for books can brew in an author’s subconscious mind for decades before finally taking shape. Sometimes, ingredients are added almost without my being aware of them, but I do distinctly remember a boy who became my husband playing me a song in the kitchen of the house we shared at university. The song was Reynardine, sung by Sandy Denny. I’d never heard Reynardine before, and I knew that one day I would have to write a story about a wild and mysterious young man encountered one night by a young girl.

I grew up reading tales of myths rooted to wild landscapes, but one of the most crucial ingredients in Hidden Among Us was the countryside I grew up in. Cambridgeshire is almost suburban by comparison to where I live now but when I was a child, the fields and lanes we explored beneath those enormous shifting skies sometimes seemed perilously close to another world. There’s a lane in our village called the Drift – often spoken of in whispers. A friend and I ran down it in complete and genuine terror one day, convinced we were being chased by a giant – and totally non-existent – black cat. Another time, we were walking home from a dark pool that I was convinced witches had been ducked in when we discovered a tree covered in deep slashes, as if it had been scratched. I clearly remember the pair of us examining gouges cut right through the bark, then looking up to see all the trees along the lane covered in similar scratches. We ran that time, too. I can’t say for sure what really happened. Maybe there was one tree that someone had vandalised with a pocket-knife, and my overactive imagination filled in the gaps, in which case I must have terrified the living daylights out of the friend I was with. My four-year-old lives in a world that is indistinguishable from his imagination, and I suspect that this merging of reality and interior stories goes on for a lot longer in some children, and in the case of those who grow up to become writers of fiction, it never really subsides one hundred per cent.

So, Hidden Among Us was conceived in the mind of a child who lived in the countryside, reading myths and legends planted in modern landscapes by master storytellers. Maybe it was that creepy dark pool in my village, but by the time we reached 2009, and I began to pin down the plot for a new novel, I knew I wanted to re-work those old stories of sunken villages lost in floods let loose by divine retribution or the need for new reservoirs. I’d been to the Highlands of Scotland and driven past a man-made loch concealing such a village, which I think must have reignited my interest, and I also began researching odd places like the mysterious Bomere Pool in Shropshire, which reportedly houses the ghost of a Roman soldier in search of his lost love. As you will see, the plot of Hidden Among Us morphed – it was certainly one of those cases where the characters took matters into their own hands. Hidden Among Us is no longer the story of a sunken village, but of a lake which becomes a gateway into another world, and I suppose I have the tale of King Arthur to thank for that!

Thank you so much Katy for sharing your inspiration and research. I feel slightly ashamed that I don't know the Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd - I must find out!

Hidden Among Us will be published on March 7th 2013 by Walker Books. For more information about Katy or her books, you can find Katy on Twitter or on her website.

Don't forget to drop by Viv's blog next Friday for the second installment in Katy Moran's blog tour.


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