Judith Rossell - author of Wormwood Mire

Author Q&As

Tell us about your book – what inspired you to write it?

I wanted to write an adventure story for kids, set in Victorian times, because I am a bit obsessed with Victorian history. Wormwood Mire is the second book about Stella Montgomery. After she returned home at the end of Withering-by-Sea, covered with mud and dressed as a boy, her dreadful Aunts send her away to live with two unknown cousins and their governess in an abandoned mansion in an overgrown garden, full of exotic plants and animals, and something mysterious lurking in the lake. A couple of years ago, I saw a documentary about old gardens, and under one garden in the Lake District in England, they found tunnels and heated pools, which had been used in Victorian times to keep crocodiles. I thought this was marvellous, and it gave me the idea for Wormwood Mire.


Do you have a lucky writing charm?

I was carrying around a Victorian penny. Every time I saw it in my wallet, it was supposed to make me feel guilty and go and write my book. It was more of a writing reminder than a lucky charm.


What was your favourite book as a child?

I was a big reader as a child, but it's hard to pick one favourite book. I remember loving Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Narnia books, Enid Blyton, the Mary Plain books by Gwynedd Rae (Mary Plain was a bear who lived in the bear pits in Berne, in Switzerland). I also loved  Ajax the Warrior, by Mary Elwyn Patchett. This was the story of a girl growing on a farm in Queensland with lots of animals, including a fabulous half-dingo called Ajax, who saved her from drowning, from a fire, from cattle thieves and from some escaped circus wolves. It was very exciting.


We know you are a talented writer, do you have any other hidden talents?

I like making models of things. I like to make tiny houses and furniture. Recently I built a tiny student house inside a VB carton.


Can you tell us what you are working on now?

There will be a third Stella Montgomery intrigue, and I am in the very early stages of planning the story. In the meantime, I'm working on A Garden of Lilies, which is the book that Stella is reading in Wormwood Mire. It is a book of Victorian morals, in which a series of children do the wrong thing and meet with disaster. I'm enjoying this, because there are lots of illustrations.