Skip to Content

The Dark is Rising

6 June 2005

Susan Cooper is the latest author to be acclaimed as the ‘new Rowling’. Her The Dark is Rising sequence of children’s novels, published mostly in the 70s, is been taken up by Hollywood in a deal worth £2 million.

But Cooper is far from the usual stereotype of new writer makes good. About to celebrate her 70th birthday, she is an Englishwoman who has spent most of her adult life living in the States. As well as the quintet of children’s fantasy novels, she has written fiction and non-fiction for adults, with her late husband Hume Cronyn, TV screenplays such as The Dollmaker and a number of children’s picture books, including Danny and the Kings, Frog and the Magician’s Boy.

The Dark is Rising is set in rural Buckinghamshire – and still will be in the films – and is about the battle between Dark and Light, introducing Celtic and Arthurian legends into the mix. Susan Cooper did not intend to write a sequence when she produced the first book:

‘The first of the five, I suddenly realized, was Over Sea, Under Stone, which I had written without knowing it would ever have a sequel, and now there would be four more. I sat down, on this astonishing idea-filled day, and wrote an outline of the sequence and the last page of the very last book. And then, over a period of six and a half years, I wrote The Dark Is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree.

This prolific and talented author is still writing, mostly for children, and she has strong views, as expressed on her website, about children and books, views which apply equally to child and adult writers:

‘Read, read, read, read, read. Of course you must learn English grammar, and something about the way stories are put together - but reading, endless general reading, is the only way to develop the sense of rhythm and language which enables a writer to 'hear' good prose inside his or her head and write it down. For writers under the age of about 16, reading is more important than writing. And the great peril, to be treated as if it were a drug, is television. Although I write for television, I feel passionately that children should watch it very seldom; that they should be encouraged whenever possible to turn off the set (or not to turn it on in the first place) and instead read a book.’

Once in a while fame and success goes to writers who seem most particularly to deserve it. Susan Cooper is one of those authors. We can look forward to a splendid sequence of films – and to the chance to read the books which have now been plucked from the obscurity of the backlist.

Susan Cooper's site is at: