Eva Ibbotson, author of seventeen novels for children including The Great Ghost Rescue, The Secret of Platform 13 and The Journey to the River Sea, died in October 2010 aged 85.  Eva lived in Newcastle and was a longstanding friend of Seven Stories. She donated her archive to our Collection in 2004.

The Writer

Eva didn’t start writing until the youngest of her four children had started school - her first novel, The Great Ghost Rescue, was not published until she was nearly fifty. It tells the story of a family of ghosts who are expelled from their castle home when the owners decide to turn it into a holiday resort. Eva often wrote about ghosts and other supernatural creature. She said, "I write about ghosts and witches and vampires because I find them interesting. They’re like us but more so."

In The Secret of Platform 13, Eva built the story around a ‘gump’, a passageway through to another world, at King's Cross station, which opens for just nine days, once every nine years. Through the gump comes Odge Gribble, a young hag, in search of a boy who was stolen nine years previously. Eva’s Platform 13 predates platform 9¾ in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but inevitably the book has subsequently been re-branded as being suitable for Harry Potter fans.

Eva’s quirky humour, natural empathy with the underdog, and devotion to happy endings, make her stories irresistible. Her books are full of eccentric, exotic and romantic characters – ghosts, orphans, wizards and ogres.

Creative Process

Eva's typescripts provide a fascinating insight into how she works, and the process involved in writing and revising her stories. There is often a lot of sellotape in evidence on the typescripts! She would literally cut and paste pages as she revised the text, to create the final story which she was entirely happy with.

In her own words…

Eva described the writing process as being quite a challenge: "For me, getting the words right is very difficult. I'll write one page five or six or seven times before I'm happy with it, and at the end of the day there's a huge basket full of scrumpled up pieces of paper, and often I sight and groan and stomp about."


Eva was born in Vienna in 1925. Her parents separated when she was very young and she had an unsettled childhood. When Hitler rose to power, she came to England, where she had to adjust to a new country and learn a new language. She was sent away to a progressive boarding school, and then went to Cambridge University to study physiology. After an unpromising early career as a scientist, Eva married ecologist Alan Ibbotson and moved to Newcastle, where she lived until her death in 2010.