Just after Leaving Poppy was published, I went back to the old house that I had in mind when I was writing it. It was dark, and I climbed up to the attics, wondering if I'd still find them as creepy as I did when I was young. An eery illumination came through the skylight; shrouded objects loomed at me. And suddenly I couldn't stay there any longer. I sensed there was someone or something there in the attic with me - I was so freaked I hared downstairs again.
In recent years, cinema has got so clever with special effects that horror has meant heads being ripped off, spouting blood, werewolves changing in front of your eyes ...we've forgotten the horror that's subtle, creeping, inside your head. No one's really going to have a vampire crash through their window, but they might smell a strange smell that shouldn't be there, or hear footsteps when the house is empty, or cruel, gloating laughter, or see a weird shadow pass ...
Leaving Poppy is a true Gothic novel, but it's very much rooted in reality and real teenagers' lives. The horrors are a mirror image of the turmoil and fear that's going on inside Amber's head as she tries to break with her damaging past. I know many teenagers love Gothic horror and I reckon that's because it reflects all the turmoil churning away inside them!
I scared myself silly writing this book. I hope you enjoy it!
Leaving Poppy won the 2007 Southern Schools Book Award, the 2008 Renfrewshire Teenage Book Award and the 2008 Angus Award. Yippee!!!
It was short listed for:
2007 Booktrust Teenage Prize
2008 Coventry Inspiration Book Awards
Ottakar's bookshop selected Leaving Poppy as a Teenage Book of the Month. "An absolute page turner that was at times so creepy I was looking over my shoulder ... a haunting thriller that will stay in your mind long after you've turned out the lights."
The Telegraph chose Leaving Poppy as one of its three Best Books for Teens, calling it 'a thrilling, all-engrossing read'.
Carousel: 'A compelling Gothic tale of light and darkness, good and evil, with utterly real characters and a satisfyingly believable ending. Watch out for its appearance on award shortlists.'
Publishing News included it in its teen recommended titles, with a great review: 'Chilling psychological thriller with some genuinely scary moments...'
It's on The Bookseller's recommended list too: 'Taut psychological thriller ....dark and dramatic.'
Funday Times, What's Hot: 'This page-turning thriller stokes up the tension to breaking point .'
And from my mate N.M. Browne, author of the excellent Basilisk and Hunted: 'Just read the book and LOVED it. I think the warped real life relationship was even more powerful than the supernatural element, though both played off each other really well. I found the ghost scenes suitably scary, especially when Amber was alone in her room too scared to move but for me the most powerful moment came when she discovered that Poppy was to move in: great stuff! I think you handled that horrible claustrophobia, guilt, fear and fury beautifully.'
From the author of the brilliant MARK II, Chris Farnell, 'The ghost story elements creeped me the frick out. I know my ghost stories, and most of the tricks and tools you can use to scare people without actually bringing out the guy in the rubber mask, but there were a lot of lunchbreaks last week that ended with me just putting the book away in my bag and sitting very quietly for a while... So yeah, I'd call it a success.'
Poppy needs you. She's always needed you. She'll never let you go. It's time to leave home, escape your sister, get out of her clutches.
But what if your new life isn't a safe place?
Someone is waiting for you there.
Waiting for Poppy.