When I was in my early teens, the time in your life when you think you know everything, when in fact you know nothing, I was in the car, with my father and mother, and my mother was talking about something that had happened, in the past. And I said, ‘The past! What’s the past? It’s only the future that matters.’
My parents, particularly my mother, were furious. But it took many years for me to understand the clumsiness of my comment and why it angered, and upset, my mother so much.
My grandfather, on my father’s side, fought in France during the First World War. He was badly wounded and shipped back to England. It was on a hospital train, rattling its way through France, he met my grandmother, Bertha – it was she who nursed him. After the war ended, they married – theirs was a happy ending.
My mother’s father, my grandfather, also left home and went away to fight in the First World War. But he came back a shadow of himself. He was someone, and I have a very dim memory of him, who you weren’t allowed to touch or talk to – because if you did, he would explode, physically and verbally.
My mother grew up, in London, during the Second World War. She had a bomb shelter at the end of the garden – which I used to play in when I was very little. And she married a man, my father, who had been called up to fight, and who at the very tender age of 24 was the acting commander of a tank regiment – he only got that position because everyone else before him had been killed. He came back reasonably unscathed but I was warned, as a child, never to go up to him when he was asleep – because, like my grandfather, he would explode.
It has taken me years and years to understand and appreciate all this. So, I wanted to write a book which showed the link between now, the present, and the past – which tried to explain, show, that we wouldn’t be living the lives we have now without the sacrifices our parents, grandparents and, perhaps, even great grandparents made for us during their lives. Because they, in their own way, have been our angels, looking after us, fighting for us, even dying for us, guiding us through, to where we are today.
I also wanted to write a book which would say to its reader something along the lines of, ‘stop thinking and living small, start thinking and living big’. So what if you were born in the wrong sized house on the wrong side of the wrong sort of town? Someone, even many people, worked hard to get you there. So rather than be embarrassed, dragging this chip around with you for the rest of your life, say thank you. Celebrate. And, if you’ve got a gift that non-one else has, whatever it is, then use it. And, if that means being different to everyone else, being a bit weird, even eccentric, you should still use it, even more so.
Differences should be encouraged, explored and shared, rather than hidden away.
Hidden away …
It’s the old skeleton, the one we, and the society we live in, hide in a cupboard. We lock it in and throw away the key in the hope that it will never get out. But, of course it will. Because the day we are born, is the day we die. And that’s the one thing, whoever we are, wherever we live, man, woman, rich and poor, we all share – death.
In WE’VE COME TO TAKE YOU HOME, Sam can only conquer death if she overcomes her fear. I wanted to write a book which would, even in just a small way, get that skeleton out of that cupboard and shake it around a bit. Try and make it into something we could actually accept, even talk about, be just a little less afraid of, rather than something we run away from.
Lastly, we have two wonderful god-daughters, Livvy and Alice. Livvy adored Harry Potter. She read every book, however long. But Alice, the other god-daughter, hated Harry Potter. The characters were pretty much all male and she was less than impressed with the wizards. She pronounced it silly. And asked me one day, if I might write a book, specifically for girls, with female protagonists, which didn’t have any wizards, and wasn’t silly. So this is Alice’s book. And I’m hoping Livvy might like it too. Because, yes, there is just a little magic. But don’t tell Alice …