This month I asked my very lovely and very talented writer friend, Caroline Busher, to write a guest post about her debut novel for young readers, The Ghosts of Magnificent Children which has just been published. Take it away, Caroline!
People often ask me what inspired me to write a ghost story for children. I smile politely and explain to them that it is my love of classic literature and Gothic Fiction such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracular.
When pressed further on the subject, I tentatively add that I grew up in the North West of England and I am intrigued by the Pendle Witch trials, the most famous witch trials in England and some of the best recorded of the 17th century, which took place in 1612 around Pendle Hill in Lancashire.
But if I am completely honest the inspiration for my novel “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children” is far more personal than that.
I grew up as an only child in an old Victorian House on the outskirts of Manchester. The house was built in the 1800s, and to me it was as alive as any human being. The stairs creaked and moaned like an elderly relative and on cold winter nights, of which there were many, I thought I could hear my name being whispered by the wind.
The cellar was the one place in the house that I was forbidden to enter. Being of an inquisitive nature, I was determined to venture into the room below our Victorian House to see what was down there.
The opportunity came one morning in December when I was eight years old, my mother was outside in the garden and the cellar door had been left open. I walked over and peered down into the darkness. I tugged on a cord that was suspended from the ceiling and a light blinked on and revealed a steep staircase. The walls were crumbling and there was a musty smell like clay. I walked down the stairs and found myself in a small room. The ceiling was low, much lower than every other room in our house, which appeared to have been made to accommodate giants. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a family hiding there as bombs were dropped overhead.
At the far end of the cellar there was a small hole, through which I could see daylight and hear the sound of traffic whizzing by on the street overhead. To the left hand side there was a narrow passage way, it was filled with junk and old toys that I had grown too old for, a pink bicycle and a doll’s house.
An adult would have been too big to crawl along the passageway, but it was the perfect size for a child. I knew that I didn’t have long as my mother would be looking for me soon.
Although it sounds strange I felt as though I was looking for something, although I had no idea what it was. It was dark and difficult to see at the end of the passageway but I noticed a red brick jutting out of the wall, it looked as though it had been placed there to cover something up. When I removed the brick dozens of tiny spiders crawled out of a silk web. I gasped as I noticed three objects hidden in the hollow of the wall and then it occurred to me that the objects must have been placed there long ago. I was half afraid to place my hand inside, for fear of what I might find. But something told me that I must be brave.
Out of the hole in the wall I retrieved a pair of Victorian Spectacles in a velvet lined coffin case, a Victorian medicine bottle with the cork inside and a green Victorian beer bottle.
It seems nonsensical to think that the objects were put there for me to find, although that is exactly how it felt at the time. They had not been touched by a human hand for over one hundred years, until I discovered them.
As an eight year old child, it made perfect sense to me that the house had been trying to tell me something all along, it was like a ghostly presence. Every creaking floorboard, and every whisper in the wind had led to this discovery.
Now as I sit at my desk and write books for children, I think of that little girl and her willingness to accept that maybe there are ghosts hidden beneath the floorboards and of the Victorian time-capsule that she found there. And I hope that just a spark of her imagination and has entered my work and will bring “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children” to life.
About The Ghosts of Magnificent Children: The year is 1848. It is a time when magic and ghosts exist. Four Magnificent Children are captured by Badblood’s Circus. Theo can look into your eyes and reveal your secret thoughts, which come out of his mouth like a swarm of bees. Ginny has a bird called Blue living inside her. Her ribs are woven together to form a birdcage. Blue perches on a swing made from one of her ribs. And the Thought-reading Twins, Archie and Millie Luxbridge, have an extraordinary ability to read each other’s minds. They become stars of the circus but are unaware that Badblood has a dark and secret plan. One hundred years later the children’s ghosts appear on an island off the coast of Ireland where a boy called Rua befriends them. Rua discovers that a terrible fate awaits them and, in a desperate race against time, he struggles to learn how they may be saved.
About Caroline Busher: Caroline Busher graduated with a first Class Honours MA in Creative Writing (UCD) and is represented by Trace Literary Agency (USA). She is an award-winning author and was recently appointed the Reader in Residence with Wexford County Council Library Services. Caroline is a curator for Wexford Literary Festival. Her debut novel “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children” (Poolbeg Press) has been selected for a major project called “Battle Of The Book” by the Dublin Airport Authority and Fingal County Council Library Services. You can learn more about Caroline on her website.