The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is known in my former home of Flanders as Stille Zaterdag ("Silent Saturday"). On Silent Saturday, no church bells are rung; Flemish children are told that the bells have flown away to Rome to collect Easter eggs from the Pope. I first heard about this tradition in 2009, when we had not long been living in Flanders. I was attending first year Dutch classes, and as well as learning the language, we learnt all about Flemish customs. The story of the bells flying away instantly intrigued me. I imagined how I would have reacted if I had been told a similar tale when I was a child. I would have been desperate to get into the bell-tower and see whether it was true or not!
The class moved on to other topics but the image stayed with me, of a little girl climbing a church tower to see whether the bells had really gone. Great oaks from little acorns grow, runs the old saw; in this case that one idea grew into a whole book, the first of a trilogy. As a child, my heroine and her friend Kris climb the tower of their local church to see whether the bells have flown away. Having satisfied their curiosity, they decide to look out of the window at the village below - and they see something truly terrible happening, the repercussions of which echo down the years to the present day.
The first book of the trilogy, aptly named Silent Saturday, will be published in 2013 by RHCB under the Bodley Head imprint.