Hodder’s Children ISBN 0 340 74383
It is 1900, and Sarah Trevelyan is desperate to reclaim Darkwater hall, lost in a bet. Its present owner, John Azrael, offers fufillment of her dream in exchange for her soul. In 2000 it is a school, and Tom Hughes gets caught up in the deadly deal between Sarah and a new teacher, Azrael.
When I was in school we read Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, about a man who makes a deal with the devil, and I later saw a brilliant production of it with Ian McKellan and the late Emrys James. Darkwater Hall uses the same idea, but when Sarah Trevelyan makes her deal with Azrael, in the year 1990, it’s because her father is ill and she needs her family’s money back, and the creepy clifftop house in Cornwall, Darkwater Hall. Azrael promises her a hundred years to live, never ageing, and all the money she needs. But she has to sign a document in blood, and at the last stroke of the clock in the year 2000 he will come for her.
This was my millennium book I suppose. And I had a problem, because you can’t write the events of a hundred years. So the second half of the book jumps forward to 2000 when the house is a school and a boy called Tom wants to go to it, because he is being bullied where he is. His mum cleans there, and he and his dead twin brother Simon, who no one else can see, meet a strange girl who says she’s a hundred years old. And she has a big problem.
This is a book where I feel I took a lot of chances. Simon is presented as real. So the reader has to come to realise he may not be, and also I had to assume the readers would know something about angels and devils and the story of the Fall. Not everyone does, so it has to be explained a little inside the book. I learned a lot from doing this. And I really, really like the dandruffy, sarcastic, beetle-like servant Scrab.