Hodder Children’s ISBN 0 340 73699 2
Each year the Lammas Fair draws musicians and story-tellers to the grounds of the 17th-century house where Mick’s father is manager. This year a woman comes to sell herbs and candles – and offer Mick help with his music. His flute-playing blossoms, yet he is consumed by it, fading as the music swells. Grotesque incidents mar the Fair. In horror, Mick’s friend Katie understands the woman is drawing Mick into the Otherworld, to cross the boundary for ever. A compelling evocation of ancient folklore: the luring of a young man by a faery woman, and the rites of the Corn King, nurtured to full growth, then cut down.
I was rather lucky in that I went to an ordinary school but it was in an extraordinary place. Tredegar House is a large Jacobean house just outside Newport in Gwent; it’s open to the public now, but then it was part of our school, though new buildings were going up around it. By the time I was in the sixth form, we were the only year group left in the house, about forty of us in all these corridors and kitchens and halls and attics. There were also gardens and big grounds with a lake that I remember freezing over one winter.
A great place for a story, and I’ve used it several times but most closely here, in The Lammas Field, my first book for Hodder. A boy called Mick longs to be a musician, but his father wants him to get a proper job. They live in the attics of a great country house which his father looks after, and every year around Lammas Day, August 1st, a big festival is held in the grounds, with musicians and storytellers and many other people, including Mick’s friend Lizzie, and this year, a strange woman called Rowan. Rowan promises Mick the gift of being able to play any sort of music, brilliantly, but of course there is a price he has to pay. A terrible one.
I based the books on the legends of Thomas the Rhymer and the ballad of Tam Lin, two stories of a boy who gets mixed up with the dangerous, unpredictable world of faerie, and the beings that live there. It’s a very folkloric book, with snatches of songs, and age old rituals, an eerie morris, and even crop circles. It has a particular blue and gold flavour, and I still like it a lot. And the bit about Alex and Lizzie climbing over the wall into the estate is true, and happened to me, on Anglesey once.