Song Beneath the Tides

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Ally arrives from England with her brothers to stay for a month in Africa – weeks of running wild on an unspoiled, untamed coast amid mangrove creeks, vast white sandy beaches, coral reefs and warm seas.

But on their first walk through the forest, Ally is swamped by a sense of an unseen presence..

Then local teenager, Leli enthusiastically sweeps her into the world of his village and their offshore island, Kisiri – the place of secrets. Swiftly, he becomes the centre of her life; but Kisiri is a place of legend, protected and feared: and when the island is threatened, everything and everyone, conspires to drive a wedge between them.

SONG BENEATH THE TIDES is published by Guppy Books www.guppybooks.co.uk

 


Guest blog for YLG

The Youth Libraris Group invited me to write about the background and inspirations to Song Beneath the Tides. Read it here:

Q & A with READINGZONE

I so enjoyed answering these questions from ReadingZone about the multiple strands and inspirations behind  Song Beneath the Tides.


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Rift

rift cover

In a vast African landscape four teenagers and a journalist vanish without trace from a camp below a steep rock ridge, ‘Chomlaya’.

 

Ella, the young sister of the journalist, helps Inspector Murothi piece together what’s happened as the search helicopters continue their constant hum over the rock ridge. But Ella and Murothi begin to wonder whether they are already too late …

 

 

 

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What inspired RIFT?

Firstly, a memory …

 

‘It’s night-time; I’m stepping into a dark tent. The only light is the beam from my torch. My feet touch something warm, soft and sticky. Swing the torchbeam down. Something’s squelching over my sandals – wet, glistening. It takes a moment to recognise the innards of a decapitated snake spewed across the groundsheet. …

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Secondly …

 

 

Fascination with the atmosphere of places. And with the search for human beginnings in Africa, skull-from-guidecropped-001-cwhere I grew up. I thought ‘what if people disappeared in peculiar, unexplained ways? What if it happened  in the place we think was the cradle of humankind?

Then there’s the raw wildness of mountains and plains, animals and birds … I imagined being lost there. Coming face to face with an elephant or rhino. Or a leopard …

 

 

Photos: © Nick Birch

 

 

[RIFT published by Egmont Press, audio by W.F. Howes, Film optioned by Hanthum Films]

Sea Hawk, Sea Moon

SEA-HAWK--SEA-MOON-for-webbc‘She drifts, bumping the rock. Seaweed laces her legs and her hair spreads thin on the tide. She rolls with the wave, and her face rises to look at him …’ 

 

Ben will never forget the summer with his uncle in the Scottish highlands. How it began: restoring an old wrecked boat, Sea Hawk. Wandering the lochs in a boat with the wonderfully mysterious girl, Iona. But then the frightening dreams begin. And Iona vanishes.

 

Is she the girl in his dream? Has she been snatched by the waves, drifting in seaweed below grim, dark crags?

Is she the key?

 

 

Inspirations

When I was ten I read a story about two children roaming a lake in a boat, among misty mountains. I lived in a hot, dry place in Africa, but I thought, one day I’ll go there and write my own story about it. Years later, I was on the edge of just such a loch, in the Scottish Highlands. I woke one morning and Ben’s story was in my head. So I wrote it. I’ve always been fascinated by how people and events of the past seem to leave a gleam, or a shadow, or a resonating murmur of sound in a place. In a way, that’s where this story begins. It’s about a secret that refuses to stay hidden. …

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fishing-boats-vertical 2-cPhotos: © Nick Birch

 

[Sea Hawk, Sea Moon published by Hodder Children’s Books]

The Night of the Fire Lilies

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‘The lights flickered, like red eyes mocking her from the darkness. They lurched, bobbed, weaving away down the track. She choked on the stench of dust – and a sudden, drenching shock at what she’d done.’

 

A holiday in Italy! The chance of a lifetime to Jennifer – except it’s with cousin Berny, five years older and fifty times cooler.

 

 

The mountain village is beautiful, the villagers friendly … particularly Paulo, their glamorous neighbor.  Berny thinks he’s wonderful.  Jennifer just doesn’t trust him – his invitations, his presents, his endless promises.

 

Berny says she’s  a fool, with no sense of fun. So now she’ll have to find courage and stand alone. But as the village carnival draws near – the Night of the Fire Lilies – Jennifer’s caught in a tangled web of shadowy strangers, deceit, intrigue … and death.

 

 

 

Inspirations

 

Photos: © Nick Birch

 

 

 

[The Night of the Fire Lilies published by The Bodley Head & Red Fox, Random House]

The Keeper of the Gate

KEEPER-OF-THE-GATE-for-webbc

“Sara listened. No birdsong. Even the flutter of monkeys had stopped. 

       Yet there was movement. A silent whispering. A gathering wind that had no sound. In that instant she felt the path around them thronged with people. Panic was in the air, and terror, and the silent sound of rushing feet. Yet around them, path and forest were empty.

       Muniri looked back at them. ‘Leave the path!’ he said urgently. There is great danger here! Leave the path,’ he looked towards the curve of the track where it turned out of sight. ‘Come!'”

 

Kenya is Sara’s home. But the mysterious Muniri shows her everything through fresh eyes. She’s never really seen and felt this place, its starling mixture of ancient history and custom jostling with modern life.

And when Muniri takes her to the ruined city of Kingwana, deep in the forest, he draws her into an ever-deepening mystery that she must pursue to the end to discover the truth.

Muniri holds the key …

 

inspirations …

The idea for this story came to me when I was about 11, walking with friends through an ancient forest. The darkness under the trees, the chattering monkeys and invisible creatures scuttling in the undergrowth was eerie and unsettling. We remembered stories about people vanishing in this place. Then, lit by a sudden ray of sun through the leaves, I saw a great fig tree. Its trunk had a slit, like a narrow doorway, and beyond, the forest glowed like flames. ‘That’s a gateway to somewhere strange,’ I thought.

Years later I started to write this story.

 

 

[The Keeper of the Gate published by The Bodley Head & Red Fox, Random House]