Want to hear a story? Okay. Here’s how it starts. Two kids, a boy and a girl, walk up to the front door of a large house in
It’s a late November afternoon. Fog swirls around the dark trees of the garden.
The boy is tall, thin, well-dressed. He has a long, sharp sword hanging at his
belt. The girl wears one too. They carry heavy bags filled with magnesium
flares and iron chains. They make a few jokes as they wait on the doorstep, but
they can’t conceal their tension. They’ve come to the house to deal with a
dangerous ghost that lurks there, and they know they may not leave the place
That’s the beginning of The Screaming Staircase, and I wrote it a couple of years ago. Just two or three pages. Then I stopped. Why? Because I didn’t have a clue what happened next. What I DID know for sure was that I loved ghost stories, and I loved adventure stories, and I wanted to combine the two things into something great.
Books often start like that for me – just a little scene, with lots of possibilities. The thing to do is let the idea take shape. So I let the scene sit in my head for a while until, like a dark figure slowly materialising out of the fog, the rest of the set-up came into focus. We’re in modern
Britain and there’s an epidemic of
ghosts. No one knows why, but more and more of them are appearing after dark,
and they’re causing big trouble. Some are fairly harmless, but others are
ravenously hungry for contact with the living – and if they touch you, watch out.
So who’s in the front line of the ongoing battle against the phantoms? Kids are. They’re the only ones who have the ability to clearly see (or hear) the supernatural enemy. Adults are hopeless at it. They get ghost-touched before they can figure out where the danger’s coming from. Only children are sharp-eyed and quick enough to survive.
The Screaming Staircase follows the early history of Lockwood & Co, a small, rather ramshackle Psychic Investigation Agency in
It’s got three employees, all of them in their early teens: Anthony Lockwood
(the leader), George Cubbins (his sidekick) and Lucy Carlyle, their newest
recruit. They’re talented, but not so lucky, and when one of their cases ends
in disaster, they have a single chance of redemption left. Unfortunately this
involves spending a night in the most haunted house in England, and trying to escape
Let’s face it: ghosts, scares, conspiracies, jokes, kids with big swords… Who could ask for anything more? I’ve had a lot of fun developing Lockwood’s world, and I hope you love it too when it comes out late this summer. Meanwhile, I’ve got to start writing the sequel, where things get even deeper, darker and stranger than before. The fog’s drawing in, the shadows are lengthening, and Lockwood & Co are about to step away from the light… Stay tuned!