Had you read that one book you might also have known
How the world can be changed in just one burst of light
And what was right seems wrong, and what was wrong seems right…
Okay, I’m paraphrasing Les Mis. Always a good start to a post, right? (Do not feel free to disagree.)
Given that I’m hosting this months Teens Can Write Too! blog chain, it’s just as well I checked last night to see whether my post date was today or tomorrow, or I might have missed it, and that would have been embarrassing. I asked you all to write about a book that changed your life — why you originally picked it up, what it changed for you, and the like. Now I’m going to tell you about the book that changed my life.
I actually had to think about this. There were a couple that came to mind, but the one that I was thinking of when I came up with this prompt (way back in about November) was a book called The New Policeman by Kate Thompson.
I’ve looked for a good blurb online, but couldn’t find one, so I wrote my own.
There is never enough time. The old people know it, the young people know it … and JJ Liddy knows it. But he’s got other things to worry about, what with the rumours his friends are spreading about his family’s history. When his mother asks for ‘time’ for her birthday, he’s determined to get it for her. In doing so, he will uncover a whole world he thought was a story — and the truth about his own past.
I was given this book by my grandma shortly after it came out, because she read a review in the Times and she thought I might like it. It was my first real experience of Celtic mythology — fairies play a significant role in the story and as you’ll know from my blog, I am very interested in fairies.
At the time I was a musician, too, beginning to get bored of Classical music but with nowhere else to turn because I didn’t know anything about any other types of violin playing.
And then I read The New Policeman. Suddenly, I was immersed in another world, where music was dance music, folk music, music played for fun and without the fancy concert halls and suits of orchestral playing. People danced and there were still fairy mounds and people believed in the sidhe. Between each chapter, there was notation for a tune, so if you played an instrument you could learn some of the music yourself (most of it relevant to what had happened in the chapter).
So, I started playing folk music. I watched videos of Irish musicians on YouTube. I copied their style. A few years later, I took up Irish dancing.
And the Celtic mythology stuck with me.
I was obsessed. I read every book with a mention of ‘fairies’ — from Holly Black’s Tithe to Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament and Ballad to Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl … I read them all. And I was amazed at how different they all were, and how many little similarities just ran through each presentation of the sidhe, as though there was some truth in all of them.
I bought some books on mythology. I started reading them. And slowly and surely I realised that this, actually, was what I wanted to write novels about (so I did).
I can’t even count how many times I read The New Policeman. There was a time when I could quote large sections from memory. Even now, if you tell me a phrase I can tell you what’s going on in that chapter. I recommended it to each and every person I spoke to, even going as far as to lend it out to at least three people.
I read book two. I read book three. I have all of them on my shelf.
But the real reason that The New Policeman was special to me was Kate Thompson. After reading it I was so amazed by it, and so fascinated by it, that I found her email address online and emailed her. She emailed back. In fact, we had an exchange. Later, she read the first few pages of a story I wrote. I was about ten, but she encouraged me and she read it and she said it was good — and while I never went back to that particular story, her encouragement stayed with me.
I told her about Niall of the Nine Hostages, hoping she’d write a book about him, because she’d written other things based on Celtic mythology. She said, “Yes, one of us should definitely write a book about Niall some time.” One of us. I was probably eleven or twelve by then, but I was ‘one of them’. I was a writer. And that, I think, was one of the reasons I kept going — because a writer believed in me and encouraged me and didn’t patronise me, even though they knew I was so young and I wasn’t very good at writing.
A couple of years ago I emailed Kate Thompson again and asked her if she was writing anything else. She wasn’t. She’d gone over to making and restoring violins and had given up writing — temporarily.
“Don’t make it permanent,” I remember writing, “or I’ll have to come to Ireland and talk at you until you write another book.”
I’m still waiting. Perhaps it’s time to start planning a trip.
Want a book that probably won’t but might just change your life? Shameless self promotion here, but St Mallory’s Forever came out today on Kindle UK and Kindle US — and it’ll be filtering through to other platforms soon ;) Go on, buy it. You know you want to… and Charley and I would be so very obliged. Teen writers REPRESENT!
Other participants in this month’s blog chain:
January 5th – http://fida-islaih.blogspot.co.uk – Muslim Spirit by Fida
January 6th – http://theteenagewriter.wordpress.com – The Teenage Writer
January 7th – http://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com – Miss Alexandrina
January 8th – http://cinderscoria.blogspot.co.uk – Between The Lines
January 9th – http://avonsbabbles.wordpress.com – Avon’s Babbles
January 10th – http://www.nonconformistwriter.blogspot.co.uk – Life.
January 11th – http://weirdalocity.wordpress.com – Inside The Junk Drawer
January 12th – http://notebooksisters.blogspot.co.uk – Notebook Sisters
January 13th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com – Musings From Neville’s Navel
January 14th – http://theloonyteenwriter.wordpress.com – The Loony Teen Writer
January 15th – http://mirrormadeofwords.wordpress.com – A Mirror Made Of Words
January 16th – http://epistolarygirl.wordpress.com – Epistolary Girl
January 17th – http://www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.co.uk – Inklined
January 18th – http://zarahoffman.tumblr.com – Zara Hoffman’s Blog
January 19th – http://sydneyjoto.wordpress.com – SydneyJoTo
January 20th – http://realityisimaginary.blogspot.com – Reality Is Imaginary
January 21st – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com – The Little Engine That Couldn’t
January 22nd – http://www.katrinakennedy3.wordpress.com – Writers Response
January 23rd – http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com – John Hansen Writes
January 24th – http://miriamjoywrites.wordpress.com – Miriam Joy Writes <- You are here!
January 25th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write, Too! (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain)