With Harper, the sky of her world is a thick swirling darkness. This idea began when I was living in Manchester with my then three year old daughter and we used to love trying to count clouds. One day when she was beyond reluctant to leave the house, I told her it was an honour to live in a place where it rained every day, a place called the City of Clouds. It got my daughter out of the house for about two minutes, but somehow in the naming of this strange grey city I had discovered Harper’s home. I kept picturing a child blowing around in the wind with a bright umbrella. A child who was very much alone. I couldn’t explain why I just felt that this was how her story began, alone in the rain with a colourful umbrella.
The image of the umbrella became very significant. Soon enough I knew it was magical, it had to shield Harper not just from rain, but from danger or sadness. The sadness seemed to come in the form of a long tall shadow- which developed into The Wild Conductor. Then one evening we had some friends round for dinner that began telling my daughter about their two beloved cats Memphis and Tallulah. They described them in such a vibrant character-full way, and I loved their names so much that the cats just sort of prowled into the City of Clouds. Not just two, but thousands of cats all belonging to different households, all loved by someone, all following the little girl with the bright umbrella. Harpers cat was very special, a cat that the Wild Conductor wanted, hence the story began to form.
So what began as a cloud-spotting game on a rainy day became a daydream then a story set to music and then a series of books!
Harper and the Night Forest by Cerrie Burnell, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson is published by Scholastic. You can follow Cerrie on Twitter @cerrieburnell. You can follow Laura Ellen Anderson on Twitter @Lillustrator.