Hello there to all you wonderful readers and writers!
I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your lovely letters. I'm also sorry I can't reply to every one of them individually, but my life is so busy at the moment that answering just a few questions was the best I could promise to do.
I am so thrilled that you have been reading Buddy as a class, and have enjoyed it so much. Let me tell you a little about how I came to write it, and some other bits and pieces I hope you will find interesting. Hopefully I will answer some of your questions in the process!
Writing has always been a hugely important part of my life. When I was at school English and particularly Creative Writing were by far my favourite subjects, and since then all my jobs have involved some kind of writing, to a greater of lesser extent. For some reason it never occurred to me to actually become an author until a few years ago ... but thinking back I believe it was always in my destiny. I think that for me it was important to live first ... certainly I could never have written the books I have without having had my two boys, watched them grow up, and learn all over again what it means to be a child (and to learn for the first time what it means to be a boy!)
You ask what inspires me to write. The answer is simple: life! I believe that ideas for stories are floating in the air all round us, like those dandelion seeds my sons used to call ‘fairies’ when they were younger – things that happen, remarks you overhear, people’s interesting faces, stories your kids tell you about what happened at school – and sometimes one of those seeds taken root and grows into a book. Though all my stories are imaginary, they do have a seed of reality at their heart - even if it's just the reality of an idea or concept I find interesting or believe in passionately.
The plot of Buddy was mostly made up, though I do remember my grandmother telling us about a friend of hers with one ‘normal’ child and one disabled one who lived in a special home … that was years and years ago, when I was about 6 or so. As an author, you find lots of ideas unexpectedly resurfacing from your past – things you thought you’d forgotten completely. Maybe the seed for Buddy came from that. More immediately, though, when I decided to write a book I thought I’d write about an apparently very ordinary boy who had a hidden secret he’d do anything to prevent anyone from finding out. I gave Josh not one secret, but two – Buddy, and his fear of water. Finding a link between them, and exploring what happened next, led to the plot of the book.
I think part of what inspired me was wondering how it would feel to be Josh and have a brother like Buddy, and how I personally would respond. That is fortunately impossible to answer; all I do know is that the emotions involved would be very complex.
I'm often asked whether Buddy has a moral to it. I think in many ways it’s important to write books that make people think about difficult issues, and whose characters grow and develop – hopefully in a positive way. Travelling through a book with the characters makes the reader learn and grow too, and I guess that’s what is meant by a ‘moral’. If you think about all that Josh learns about himself and various aspects of life – such as the importance of family, honesty, courage, love, and what it really means to win – you will be getting pretty close to what I regard as the heart of the novel. Shane also grows and develops in much the same way - he is a different person at the end of the book than at the beginning, but that is partly because Josh has matured and sees him differently. Maybe Shane was really nice all along!
No, there won’t be a sequel to Buddy. Some books, like another of my books, Juggling with Mandarins, almost demand to be explored further – as the writer, you have a compelling sense that there is more to be told. With Buddy, I felt that the characters had reached a stage where they were ready to be left in peace to get on with their lives without my intervention!
Chantal reminds me a little of myself when I was a little girl, so perhaps parts of her are based on me!
Buddy as a nickname came from an imaginary game one of my sisters and I played when we were children. We pretended we were two friends at a boarding school who had all sorts of adventures together. We could never decide on names for ourselves, so we called each other 'Friend'. The name of the game was 'Friends'. The idea of twins who called each other Budddy came from that.
Lastly, what do I like best about my story 'Buddy'? The answer is the characters, who came alive for me while I was writing the book and who I like to think come alive in their own way for every single person who reads it. And my favourite character, of course, is Josh.
Thank you again for reading and enjoying Buddy, and for taking the time to write to me. Read lots, write lots, and above all: have fun!
Lots of love