Oh no! It is 9 days since I last blogged. I feel like I’m in the confessional.
It’s not entirely coincidence. I’ve been in one of those ‘head down’ moments. Book 3 is approaching 50,000 words (out of about 70,000), which is the ‘oh, just get on with it’ bit, before the joyous moments (I hope) of tying up all the loose ends that I’ve been carefully distributing and brilliantly rounding off the series. No pressure …
Believe me, even this is not exactly tough. When your worst problem is how to make your characters fit the plot and still be entertaining, true to themselves and age-appropriate, you know you have a pretty fabulous job. But nevertheless, it has its moments. At times like this, there is one thing, apart from my family, (oh, and Threads coming out in Norway, Holland and France this spring – go all of you!), that keeps me going.
Fans. And more to the point, fans who write.
When I was nine, I lived in Hong Kong and I lived for a writer called Anthony Buckeridge, who wrote the Jennings books. Imagine Harry Potter is a normal, tousle-headed boy with very much alive parents and no wizarding powers. That Hogwarts is in the Home Counties, Voldemort doesn’t exist and Hermione is a boy called Venables. And there you have it. The Jennings stories. They were addictive and inspirational. I waited with bated breath for each book. I would travel for two hours across twisting, mountainous roads to get to the only hotel bookshop in the territory that stocked the Jennings books, in the hope – only the hope – that the next one in the series might have arrived.
I was Anthony Buckeridge’s biggest possible fan. I haven’t read a Jennings book since I was about 11. Or at least I hadn’t until my 9 year-old picked up one of my old copies a few weeks ago. And I discovered that I can still remember some of the key scenes word for word. Word for word. I must have read them a million times. But it never, once, occurred to me to write to the man and tell him. I wouldn’t have known how.
(You can buy the books now, by the way. They’ve just started reappearing. I assume that parents like me, who adored them, are bringing them out for our pre-teenage children and the publishers have spotted something and are doing something about it. Hooray! Or, as Jennings would say, wizard! Did he know something? But don’t try and write to Anthony. He died in 2004.)
Today, things have changed. Today we have the internet. Very lucky authors, like me, have books that have websites, with ’email me’ buttons. And we have readers who are brave, chatty and curious. They hit the button. They fill out the form. They tell me what they think about Threads, how it has affected their lives, what they’re up to. They ask me how I came up with the idea, whether I’ve drawn Crow’s designs (which, sadly, I haven’t and never could), and all sorts of other questions that occur to them. So far, I reply to every one. If they don’t get a reply, it’s only because I couldn’t get their email address to work for some reason. Many of them assume I get thousands of emails. I don’t. It’s about one a day, but that’s more than enough.
So, if you’ve emailed me, thank you! You’ve made a tired (but basically happy) author, happier still. You’ve made it easier to write the next 10,000 words. You make a difference to us writer-types, and it’s truly wonderful to know that sometimes, we make a difference to you.