Don’t Breathe a Word was inspired by a dream I had. In the dream, I met a little boy on a bicycle and he told me his sister had been taken away by fairies. He took me into the dark, tangled woods behind his house and showed me a hole in the ground she’d disappeared into. It was terrifying and horribly sad.
When I woke up, I couldn’t shake the image of that dark hole or the idea of how horrific it would be to lose someone in such a way. I began thinking about the Cottingley fairies – the two young girls who claimed to see fairies in the garden and took all those famous (obviously fake) photos and had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believing them. They admitted years later to faking the pictures, but both continued to insist that they’d really seen fairies.
I began to envision a story about children telling people there were fairies in the woods behind their house. Me being me, I had to have something awful happen. So I decided that the girl who most believed would go missing; that there would be this possibility of her being stolen by fairies.
I began doing some research into the darker side of fairies – the old folklore about fairies stealing babies and children and leaving changelings in their place; taking women to nurse fairy children; making human women pregnant; fairy queens seducing young men then imprisoning them in fairy land. I was hooked.
As a mom who reads her daughter the very dark Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I’m also really interested in how the stories our parents tell us as kids, and the stories we ourselves invent and come to believe, shape our vision of the world around us – an important theme in Don’t Breathe a Word.