Frances Hardinge was brought up in a sequence of small, sinister English villages, and spent a number of formative years living in a Gothic-looking, mouse-infested hilltop house in Kent.

She studied English Language and Literature at Oxford, fell in love with the city’s crazed archaic beauty, and lived there for many years.

Whilst working full time as a technical author for a software company she started writing her first children’s novel, “Fly by Night”, and was with difficulty persuaded by a good friend to submit the manuscript to Macmillan.  “Fly by Night” went on to win the Branford Boase Award, and was also shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. Her subsequent books, “Verdigris Deep,” “Gullstruck Island”, “Twilight Robbery”, “A Face Like Glass” and “Cuckoo Song” are also aimed at children and young adults.

Frances is seldom seen without her hat and is addicted to volcanoes.

Cuckoo Song

The first things to shift were the doll’s eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss’s face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

‘What are you doing here?’ It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. ‘Who do you think you are? This is my family.’

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late.


A Face Like Glass

In the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare – wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear – at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed.


Twilight Robbery

Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent are in trouble again. Escaping disaster by the skin of their teeth, they find refuge in Toll, the strange gateway town where visitors may neither enter nor leave without paying a price. By day, the city is well-mannered and orderly; by night, it’s the haunt of rogues and villains. Wherever there’s a plot, there’s sure to be treachery, and wherever there’s treachery, there’s sure to be trouble – and where there’s trouble, Clent, Mosca and the web-footed apocalypse Saracen can’t be far behind. But as past deeds catch up with them and old enemies appear, it looks as if this time there’s no way out.


Gullstruck Island

On Gullstruck Island the volcanoes quarrel, beetles sing danger and occasionally a Lost is born . . . In the village of the Hollow Beasts live two sisters. Arilou is a Lost – a child with the power to depart her body and mind-fly with the winds – and Hathin is her helper. Together they hide a dangerous secret. Until sinister events threaten to uncover it. With a blue-skinned hunter on their trail and a dreadlocked warrior beside them, they must escape. Can the fate of two children decide the future of Gullstruck Island?


The Lost Conspiracy

On an island of sandy beaches dense jungles and slumbering volcanoes colonists seek to apply archaic Hurtado De Notaris to a new land bounty hunters stalk the living for the ashes of their funerary pyres, and a smiling tribe is despised by all as traitorous murderers. It is here, in the midst of ancient tensions and new calamity, that two sisters are caught in a deadly web of deceits. Arilou is proclaimed a beautiful prophetess – one of the island’s precious oracles: a Lost. Hathin, her junior, is her nearly invisible attendant. But neither Arilou nor Hathin is exactly what she seems, and they live a lie that is carefully constructed and jealously guarded. When the sisters are unknowingly drawn into a sinister, island-wide conspiracy, quiet, unobtrusive Hathin must journey beyond all she has ever known of her.


Verdigris Deep

Verdigris n. a blue-green rust that tarnishes ageing and forgotten copper coins, altering them entirely . . .

One evening, Ryan and his friends steal some coins from a well. Soon after, strange things begin to happen. Peculiar marks burn on Ryan’s knuckles and light bulbs mysteriously explode. Then the well witch appears, with her fountains for eyes and gargled demands. From now on the children must serve her – and the wishes rotting at the bottom of her well.

 

Very enjoyable, helpful and interesting. The atmosphere was excellent, very warm and mutually supportive. An extremely useful and encouraging course that left me with lots of new exercises and strategies to try out.

- Frances Hardinge