Your book is a quintessential child-sent-to stay-with-grandmother-in-country-mansion
story. Are the house and surrounding grounds based on anywhere
Parts of the house and the grounds are based on
real places: I once visited a country house belonging to a friend
of the family, which was very isolated and had dressers crammed
with stuffed game and a creepy cellar. That place made an impression
on me. The servants’ staircase in the story is based on
one that’s exactly the same as I’ve described, in
an Essex pub called The Boar’s Head. As soon as I saw it
I was intrigued about why it had been blocked off. Finally, the
forest in the story, Hangman’s Wood, with its deneholes,
is inspired by an area of woodland of the same name that I grew
up near to, although the real-life wood is much smaller than the
one in the book.
Is the fairy ‘lore’ included in the novel entirely
fabricated or based on research into fairies?
It’s a mixture of both. Many things in the
story are based on real beliefs people used to have about fairies,
such as wearing red and the other deterrents Tanya uses to try
and keep the fairies at bay, although I’ve slightly tweaked
some of them. The Thirteen Treasures is part of an old Arthurian
legend, though I did read about it first in a fairy folklore book.
There are many references available in books and online, although
the list of treasures differs in each. I invented my own list
of items, and the back-story involving the faerie courts to this
To what extent was the content of each chapter predetermined.
For example, the amazingly unsettling chapter about the unstoppably
growing hair – did this arise out of a sudden instance of
inspiration, or did you always know that this scene would be part
of the story?
I tend to plan a few chapters in advance, just with
a few bullet points about what I want the chapter to contain,
so the hair-growing scene was planned. In the first draft though,
it didn’t happen to Tanya, but to another character who
never made it into the final version of the book. Most of the
things that occur in the book were planned, but I don’t
like to plan too rigidly as ideas will often arise as I’m
What was the hardest sequence of the book to write?
The revision process was probably the hardest part
of writing the book. The middle section didn’t work as well
at first, and so I ended up re-writing it quite drastically about
three times. The biggest change was when I cut out the character
mentioned in the previous answer, and replaced her with another
character – Red – who was the last character to make
it into the story. I had been saving Red for another book, but
in the end felt the story needed a stronger middle section, which
is why I introduced her. It was this change that got me an agent.
Your chapter opener illustrations are exquisite [click the
examples for fullsize view]. Was there ever any discussion about
having more substantial illustrations of the narrative in the
book. Would you have liked there to have been?
Thank you. There was never any discussion about
the level of illustration in the book, no. I always envisaged
the book having illustrated chapter openers, although I didn’t
produce the images until I’d spoken to my agent about it
and shown her some samples, and so that was how it was submitted
to the publishers. I’m happy with the level of illustration
in this story, but am hoping to discuss stepping it up in the
You are currently writing a sequel to The 13
Treasures. Do you foresee that the fairy world will be your ‘thing’
for a little while?
Up until the sequel is released, yes. And it’s highly possible
that I’ll return to the fairy world for more stories, but
I have an idea in mind which I’m excited about, and it’s
quite different. There are no fairies involved but it does have
a supernatural edge.
When do you do your writing and how much do you normally write
in one sitting?
I work full-time so my writing is done in the evenings and at
weekends, and sometimes even in the library on my lunch break.
The amount I get done varies – it’s normally between
a few hundred words to about 2000. I’m not a very fast writer,
although I’ve been more prolific recently. I probably stop
too often for cups of tea.
How does working as an ‘editiorial assistant’
impact on your writing? Does it make you more or less open to
editorial input from your own publisher?
It definitely makes me more open. If an editor raises a point
about something within a story, whether it’s large or small,
it’s always for a reason. It can be a little disheartening
at first, to see queries about the story you think you’ve
knitted so tightly, but it all goes towards making it so much
better in the end.
How did you react to winning the Waterstone’s
Award and what impact do you think it will have on your career
as an author.
I am really, really happy - and surprised - to have won. I didn’t
think a story about fairies would win, and had tried not to get
my hopes up. In terms of career impact I think it has already
served to raise my profile and created a lot of publicity surrounding
the book, which is brilliant.
Recently, Michelle has been...
Knife by R.J. Anderson
Shameless (currently on series 3)
Moon Safari by Air
Numbers by Rachel Ward
Skins – series 1 & 2
The Second Coming by the Stone Roses
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Lost – series 4
All About Eve by All About Eve