Taking tea with the author, Eva Ibbotson

April 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of my very first book, SPILLING THE MAGIC. A fantasy adventure for older children I’m still rather fond of, full of flying pigs and floating mountains and, of course, spilt magic…

I’m lucky. Being an author has given me many happy memories. This particular anniversary brings to mind one of my favourites and concerns an author friend of mine. (I’m certain, Eva Ibbotson, would not mind me repeating it.) The year was 1996. SPILLING THE MAGIC was just about to be published, and the now late, great Eva Ibbotson graciously agreed to endorse it. I was overwhelmed, and so proud. I still am.

What’s more, as we both lived in the North of England, she agreed to meet me. So, one fine autumn afternoon, we met for tea, in the old cafe of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. I remember, as we had never met before, we each agreed to arrive carrying a copy of our latest book so that we might recognise each other… I can still see her: a small, refined, slightly built old lady, with fine grey hair, and sharp, inquisitive, not to say mischievous, eyes. She seemed to relish our meeting, and thought it was great fun to meet up with a – comparatively – young stranger! She spoke with great warmth and kindness, and together we happily shared our thoughts about our writing, and about our hopes and future aspirations. Though she was, of course, by far the more senior talent!

At that time Eva Ibbotson was already a successful author, writing both for children and adults, and there was much more to come from her. I recall, she confided in me – most modestly – that she still had one great unfulfilled wish, and that was to write a book that might be considered a timeless classic, perhaps in the way of, THE SECRET GARDEN. Well, we drank our tea, signed and exchanged our books, wished each other well and went our separate ways. Over the next few months we wrote to each other occasionally and met up again briefly when she attended a bookshop event for SPILLING THE MAGIC.

It was in 2001 that Eva’s children’s book, JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA was published. From the moment I picked it up off the bookshelf and began to read I was enthralled and knew I was reading something special. I remembered back to our conversation over tea, and I realised… Eva’s wish had at last been granted: she had written her classic children’s novel. (Indeed, it was not to be her last.) I wrote to her and I told her so, and received a gracious and typically modest reply.

JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA went on to be a huge success, and an award winning children’s book. Today, rightly acknowledged by many as a modern classic.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Sadly, Eva Ibbotson is no longer with us, but her books live on. If you do not know them, you must go and take a look. As for SPILLING THE MAGIC, I’m pleased to say, in its own quiet way, twenty years on, it too is still around…

Spilling the Magic by Stephen Moore

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