The Flood Child by Emily Randall
‘It's exciting and original, warm and funny and gothic – and goes to some really interesting dark places. I loved the puzzles, all those questions that need to be answered’ KIRAN MILLWOOD HARDGRAVE, NOVELIST
‘A really cracking adventure with some refreshing angles and lots of quirks that take you by surprise. I found myself entirely immersed in its warmth and humour, and captivated by that wonderful cast of characters’ JOANNA MOULT, LITERARY AGENT
Excerpt from the winning manuscript
Normality was overrated, although sometimes, Autumn thought, it would be quite nice.
She was standing in the middle of a tube station platform with a gentleman in a top hat on one side of her and a woman in overalls on the other. They were talking at the same time, because neither had any idea that the other was there.
Anyone alive watching Autumn would’ve seen a small 13-year-old girl with wild dark hair stuffed under a mustard beret, reading a book intently. In fact, Autumn had read the same sentence of Rebecca 43 times because Overalls Ghost was singing ‘We’ll meet again’ in her ear and Top Hat Ghost was moaning about the state of the British government.
A guttural roar and a flash of lights and the tube rumbled through the tunnel. The carriage doors swept open with a beep and Autumn dashed nimbly inside, squeezing herself into a corner. The ghosts, unable to leave their platform, chased the train as it left the station, swooshing through waiting commuters and stone pillars until they disappeared underneath an advert for skin cream. They couldn’t go any further, of course. But Autumn wasn’t sure if they knew that.
She breathed a sigh of relief. There were too many businessmen squashed together with bulky coats and bags for a ghost to reach her here. She briefly considered just going round on the tube all day instead of going to school, but they’d call Mum – again – and she’d have to make up a reason – again – and quite frankly it was easier just to show up and hope nobody noticed her.
She put Rebecca in her school bag and pulled out a pen and a purple notebook. Even though she couldn’t fully extend her elbows, she scribbled as best she could as the tube juddered.
Top Hat Ghost: Tube Station, Westbound Platform. About 50? Beard and hairy cheeks. Victorian, I think. Appeared from behind the tube map. Asked me to write to the Prime Minister about the state of the drains
Overalls Ghost: Tube Station, Westbound Platform. Pretty, young. Nice accent. I think she was from the war. Worked in a factory. Was waiting for me. Wanted me to find her sister.
She closed the notebook and put it back in her bag before anyone could peer over her shoulder and have a nosy. She’d have to avoid this tube platform for a while. In the past six months she’d had to stop walking to school because of the park ghost, stop getting the bus because of the conductor that kept asking for her ticket, and had to use a different tube station because Matthew the tube station ghost had been particularly noisy about the upcoming apocalypse. Granted, he was one of her usuals, but he was a lot more chatty than normal.
But it wouldn’t get to her today. Today was special. She would go through anything to get to the evening, because finally Dad was coming home. She hugged that thought to her chest like a hot water bottle.
The train pulled to a halt and Autumn scurried out before any more dead could waylay her. She was small and fast, like a tube mouse, and skittered through gaps in the crowd easily. Once in the open air, she leant on a wall to catch her breath, buttoned her corduroy coat, and walked in the direction of school, curly head down against the wind.
How I did it
I’ve always written but I didn’t take it seriously until two years ago, when my daughter was born. I thought, ‘If I’m going to be a writer I have to do it now’. Before then I’d trained as an actor and toured with a group of actors, with all our equipment in a horsebox, performing adaptations of classic novels. The writing started as part of my National Trust job, creating exhibitions and leaflets, and games and events for children. I invented this big interactive murder mystery for kids aged eight-plus – very dark, with illegitimacy, murder and gore, and lots of codes and puzzles. They absolutely loved it and I thought, ‘Wow, kids really like darkness!’ That was the kind of novel I decided to write.
I wanted my hero to be quiet, maybe a bit awkward. As a child I’d read novels and think, ‘I could never be that brave’. My mother says I used to talk to a ghost when I was little – though I don’t remember it now. I though that a girl who saw ghosts would learn quickly to conceal that part of herself.
When I was on holiday in Boscastle, I read about a terrible flood there, and local folklore about a witch who carries the moon across the sky. In my mind those ideas combined with the girl I was imagining, and an abandoned ghost town on Salisbury Plain, where they used to do experiments.
I signed up for a three-month Curtis Brown Creative course, and used it to work on the novel’s structure, but more important was meeting other writers working in MG and YA. We called ourselves the Pinklngs and still share work.
I don’t plot but I do create puzzles and lay clues, some of which are conscious red herrings and some of which just go nowhere, so I have to go back and delete them.
EMILY RANDALL has worked as an actor and a Development Officer for heritage organisations including the National Trust. She is mother to a toddler and a new baby and has never been published.
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