Murkmere had been somewhere in my subconscious for a long time before I wrote it. But I didn’t realise this. When I was ten I had written a thriller (in six exercise books!) called Danger by Dark Water, about some children who uncover evil deeds in a house by a lake, called Dark Water.
I had forgotten all about that early writing until one day a story leapt into my head, about swans on dark water, with a dilapidated house nearby. Although the names were so similar (Murkmere: Dark Water) this story was very different from my first one. But all I had at first was the image of a girl, painstakingly sewing a swanskin back together. I had to find out why. Who was the girl, and why was the swanskin in pieces? One of my favourite fairytales as a child had been Andersen’s The Wild Swans, so there was that early influence on my thoughts.
Murkmere Hall itself is based on a large house in Suffolk that you can see from the A12. It has ancient oaks in its parkland and even a small lake by its gates. The countryside round the estate of Murkmere – particularly the Wasteland – is very much the flat, gorse-covered heaths and marshland of East Anglia. For the bird religion and Table of Significance in the story I looked up ancient superstitions about birds. I didn’t have to invent anything.