I got the idea for the book in October 2001, during a 20-minute walk home in the rain. As I trudged along, carrying heavy shopping and with the rain dripping down my neck, I took my mind off the dreariness of it all by thinking about fantasy books. And it suddenly occurred to me that an awful lot of fantasies feature heroic wizards battling against evil. I wondered whether it would be interesting to turn this upside-down and instead make the human magicians the villains.
I walked on, thinking. Next question: who would the hero be? Well, a lot of fantasies feature wicked demons and monsters, who pop up with leathery wings and horns etc to do battle with the good-guy wizards. Perhaps I could turn this round too. I could make a demon the hero… He has been enslaved by one of the magicians, and it is his voice that narrates the story.
By now I no longer noticed the rain. I decided that my book would be set in a recognisable modern London ruled by the magicians. The Prime Minister and all his government would be using the magic of enslaved demons to retain power, and keep ordinary people under their thumb.
I was so excited by these ideas that as soon as I got home from my walk, I threw my shopping in a corner, sat down at my desk and scribbled everything down before I forgot it. I decided that my book would feature a confrontation between my demon (sarcastic, world-weary) and his master, a young, cold-hearted kid-magician.
A few weeks later I decided to write a bit and see how it went. Within minutes, Bartimaeus’s voice burst out on the page. In two days I wrote the first 4 chapters of Amulet, pretty much as they are now. A lot of the key ideas (the pentacles, the summonings, the planes, Bart’s transformations, the footnotes) and central characters (Bart, Nat, Faquarl, Jabor, Lovelace) were invented in these two days.
I knew that this was the beginning of a great story, but I hadn’t yet got a clue what that story was going to be. I didn’t know what the Amulet was, what it did, why the kid wanted it, or anything else about where things were going. But I carried on for a while, writing the bits with Bart in Trafalgar Square, and him being attacked by a mysterious girl and her gang of children. Then I grew interested in this girl (whom I called Kitty) and started work on some chapters about her background. But now I began to run out of steam.
It was time to sit back and think about the book’s plot and structure.