Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Secret Serendipity Seven with Frances Hardinge

As part of the Cuckoo Song blog tour, I am so pleased to welcome Frances Hardinge onto the blog for the very first time. Frances has written a wonderful piece, telling us seven secrets!
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1) The Grim Mere
The Grimmer (the sinister, willow-draped pond encountered by the heroine near the start of Cuckoo Song) actually does exist. It's in Wickham Skeith, the village where my mother's mother lived as a child. It was originally called 'the grim mere', and they really did used to duck witches in it once upon a time. The name 'Grimmer' was so beautifully eerie, I couldn't resist using it in my book. I even went to see the real Grimmer, so that I could describe it better.
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2) Changelings vs Pirates
When I first explained my idea for Cuckoo Song, my editor wasn't that keen. (I don't blame her - it was very different from anything I'd written before.) She was much more interested in another book idea of mine, a bizarre story about pirates sailing through a world made of memories. Since I was really keen to write Cuckoo Song, I suggested that I try writing both books at the same time! She agreed, and when I was halfway through both books, she asked to see the unfinished manuscripts. Fortunately, once she actually started to read Cuckoo Song, she became enthusiastic too, and agreed that I should concentrate on finishing it. Maybe I'll return to those pirates some other day...
3) The Other Changeling
Cuckoo Song isn't the only changeling tale I've ever written. Many years ago, I wrote a changeling short story called Every Little Girl Would Like To Be. It has never been published, but I did once read it out during a Halloween event in a darkened library. Apparently I scared a few people with that one...
4) Tram Chase
I don't want to give too much away, but one really important scene in Cuckoo Song takes place on a... very unusual tram journey. I wanted to get the description of the trams right, so I spent time in the London Transport Museum, clambering about on their trams and taking notes. I even wrote to the Museum, with questions that started out fairly sane-sounding (“Did trams have electric lights inside? Were they all double-decker?”) but quickly descended into weirdness (“So... could you open any of the windows wide enough to push someone out through them?”) The Museum people were kind, patient and not easily scared. They answered all my crazy questions.
5) Dark Mirrors
Changelings, doubles, doppelgangers, evil twins, shape-shifters, imposters... when I was little these terrified me. As a child, my very worst nightmares were the ones where I suddenly realised that someone dear to me had been replaced by something else disguised as them. I also hated the idea that I might have an evil twin of my own, who might take my place, or do terrible things and put the blame on me.
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6) Tailor Made
Poor Mr Grace changed quite a lot while I was revising the book. In the first version he was younger and rather more chipper. By the time the book went to print I had aged him, changed his hair colour, and heartlessly given him a war wound. In the first draft I had only hinted at his back story, but in the final version I pulled it out of the shadows, in all its twisted glory.
7) Wickedness on Wheels
Violet's motorbike is partly inspired by my mother's tales of her mother, who sadly died long before I was born. My grandmother was sent to work in London when she was in her early teens, but instead of moping she made a life for herself in the big city. She used to ride a motorbike, which was decidedly racy for a young woman back then (1930s) and whenever she rode home to visit her sleepy home village, everyone was rather shocked by it!
I wish I'd known my grandmother. She sounds fun.
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What a lovely post. Thank you Frances for taking the time to write it.
To find out more about Frances Hardinge:

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