Tag Archives: BUS STOP BABY

In Real Time.

Just before Christmas I was aware that I was living through the days that take place in MURDER IN MIDWINTER. There was no snow though. And no murder and no actual thrill. Life was the adult whirl of Christmas preparation with just a hint of Christmas magic but rather too much shopping.

Now we’re on the other side, and I’m about to live through the real time of Bus Stop Baby, and this time, the weather’s obliging with frosty nights, too cold to leave a baby in a bus shelter and the promise of spring and days getting longer to follow.

I’m hoping, that given time, I can fill the whole year with stories.  DEAR SCARLETT, soon to be re-issued, is end of summer term.  THE YOGHURT PLOT is late spring. SAVING SOPHIA is the summer holidays, SHRUNK is Halloween.

Perhaps I need to think about September next.

Happy New Year.

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Writing from the heart…

busstopsignJust about a year ago, when the world seemed a more innocent place than it does now, I had a conversation with my editor at Piccadilly Press, Tilda Johnson.  It wasn’t the first conversation we’d had.  In fact it was probably the last in six months of conversations by phone and email that had been circling around what kind of book I would write next.

Before Tilda, I’d been having that conversation with Sara O’Connor, about the same book.

It had been going on for the best part of a year and it felt like the third wish. The last book in a contract, what was is going to be? It needed to be good, heartfelt, emotionally true, compelling, funny in parts, sad in parts.  I needed to believe in it, Tilda needed to believe in it.

The date was 16th July, and I started, once again to put down an idea on paper. But this idea was different, it came from somewhere else, definitely not my head. It came too fast to ram into a synopsis, it was running out of me like sand and I felt the need to tell Tilda really quickly before it disappeared.

I spewed out Amy’s story, Zelda’s story, the book’s story – and Tilda listened.  At the end there was a silence and she said: “I sense that you really want to write this?”

I realised that I was going to write it anyway, whether or not she liked it.

“Yes,” I said. “I really do.”

It had to go to various channels, editorial meetings, sales chats in which an incomplete synopsis and a hasty first chapter stood their ground. It was called Phone Box Baby.

By 29th July it had a new title. Bus Stop Baby.

I promised it would be written by the end of September – ” Hurrah!” replied Tilda, “I knew this was special as soon as you started pitching it on the phone – it feels very real already somehow.”

I began writing on 3rd of August and by the 19th August, there was a first draft.

Even for me that’s fast.

It wasn’t the end of drafting – that went on for months, and backwards and forwards it went, some parts getting bigger, others smaller, but a remarkable amount of it went through just as it was written – straight from the heart.

Bus Stop Baby is published today.  £5.99 Piccadilly Press.

 

 

Finding the Foundling.

busstopbabycover

Foundlings have always fascinated me.  I think, as a small child, I confused them with Changelings, and thought that they had something to do with the fairies.  Children who arrived on doorsteps from nowhere.  Often at night, often only found by the sound of their cry. I thought it was romantic.

I was much older when I realized that the word hid a world of sadness.  That to be “found” you had to be abandoned.  That the story of Moses in the bullrushes had been cleaned up and sanitized for us at school. That the Importance of Being Earnest was more than just a comedy.

When I had my own children, I started to collect the stories. I visited the Foundling Museum, I read Kate Adie’s book, Nobody’s child.  I reread Tom Jones with a new attention to detail.

I remembered that a man I knew claimed to have been found on the doorstep of the village policeman on Christmas day.  The policeman and his wife went on to bring him up.  I have no idea if it was true, but it captured my imagination.

I cut out the moving story of a baby found in a phone box, that was published in The Guardian, again, at Christmas. (read it here)

More recently, my eye was caught by the increase in the numbers of babies abandoned across central Europe as the refugee crisis grew.

I became a bit of an expert on the awful statistics surrounding abandoned infant mortality.

What I noticed was that with the exception of the Lewes story, the foundlings themselves, tended to have the voice.  They were pictured with their cardboard boxes or the hand knitted cardigan they’d been left with. They’d mostly be seeking information about their origins.   Sometimes, there were happy stories about being re-united, but often not.

But just occasionally, there’d be a picture of the person that found the baby.  Usually looking bemused, with very little information to offer, but they universally expressed a sort of almost parental love for the grown up baby.

And it occured to me that the story I was reaching for was not the tale of the foundling, but instead, it would be about the person who found the foundling.

And so Amy came along.

Bus Stop Baby is published July 28th by Piccadilly Press

 

 

You mean it has to have chapters?

 

 

 

chapter

When you ‘re a child, and someone’s reading to you,  there’s always that hope that they might read you another chapter; and as an adult, you ponder, as you approach the end of that chapter, whether you can stand reading another one, or will your own voice send you to sleep.

At this point, the chapter seems relevant, useful, essential.

They’re often about 1000 words apart and they help to regulate the story, like a heartbeat, or a pendulum.

But as the readership gets older and the story perhaps more about inner dialogue and less about action, so the placing of the chapter break becomes more difficult.

I’ve just finished the almost final draft of Bus Stop Baby, a book about Amy, a twelve year old who finds an abandoned baby in a cardboard box in the village bus shelter.  I wrote the book in a single splurge in sixteen days last summer.  It had been boiling up for a while and came out like a geyser, faster and faster until I abandoned the spelling, the punctuation, the names, all of it in favour of getting it out before I forgot the initial intensity of Amy and her character.

The result, a rope of a manuscript with no regulation. No formal breaks. No chapters. I put in the punctuation. The spelling was done by my computer – but the chapters…

Well, I’m still struggling with those.

 

BUS STOP BABY will be published in July of this year.