I can't remember a time during my adult life when I wasn't just slightly in love with Stephen Maturin. For those of you who haven't come across him, he is one of the two main characters in Patrick O'Brien's eponymous Aubrey/Maturin novels, set in the years after 1801, mostly (though not exclusively) aboard a series of British men o'war. He is short, dark, ill-visaged, more than a little grubby, careless in dress and personal hygiene, indifferent to most civilised behaviours, and addicted to laudanum and to collecting wildlife both living and dead. He is also a revolutionary, a cello player, a brave, daring man and a hopeless romantic in the matters of unattainable women and lost causes. It may seem like a strange passion - Maturin is not entirely prepossessing - but I like his mind, and he makes me laugh out loud with his dry humour, his Irish wit and his habit of making grave errors in understanding the arcane ways of ships, which send his more stiff-necked naval confreres into apoplexies of horror.
This is the power of great historical fiction - to take the spirit of a place from 200 years ago and make it so real that the reader can, in the present day, walk the same paths her heroes did and still feel their ghosts at her shoulder. That power meant that every time I looked out at the Balearic Sea, I felt that something was missing - the sight of white studding sails and foretop jibs and great ships flying before the tramontana wind.
Lucy's latest picture book, Bear's Best Friend, has just been published by Bloomsbury.