It’s tough out there for a young book. There are aggressive other books, ready to elbow it in the face. Bullies lurk in the shadows of the book pages, not to mention in the pitiless internet jungle. There is the possibility – let’s be truthful, the likelihood – of it simply and devastatingly remaining unnoticed as it goes on its way.
I am used to all this but, even so, it remains an odd moment when a book which has meant a lot to you and has been part of your daily life for months and years is finally gone. In the case of The Twyning, a further confusion is added by the fact that I am still revising the American edition which is to be published in 2014.
Once a book is through the door, it is probably best to let it toddle off without fussing around it with explanations, boasts or excuses. I’ll just say that this is a story unlike anything I have written before, being about a 13 year-old boy and an 11 year-old girl, abandoned on the streets of a city very like London about 150 years ago. It is also about the rats who live under the city streets and how become involved in a bitter war with humankind.
There are villains aplenty, and most of them are of the adult, human variety: an ambitious scientist, a corrupt MP, a bewhiskered predator known as ‘Champagne Charlie’. Some of the scenes which crept on me as I wrote I found – and find - rather startling.
And I still think of my heroes, Dogboy and Caz, and the rats, Efren and Malaika every day. I wish them luck out there.
The opening scenes of The Twyning can be read, courtesy of my brilliant publishers Head of Zeus, here.