I thought I should read some of the current novels out there for the age group I am writing for. I normally write Picture Books so I am dipping my toes into a land of pink I haven’t encountered for many years. I enter my realm/bookshop and head towards the sign for 9-12 readers. As if sensing my ‘first time’ in this section for over 20 years, the purple sign glares down at me. I take a few steps forward and start to read the book spines, moving my head at an angle that makes me look like my trapped nerve has come back. I wait patiently for something to catch my eye that might be useful for my latest WIP. I felt the need to see what my target audience likes to read and after much humming and hawing I go with my gut instinct. My brain points me in the right direction to Cathy Cassidy and her fabulous Chocolate Girls.
Picking up the ‘Coco Caramel’ hard back novel in Waterstones with my was-ill-but-now-fine-and-not-allowed-back-to-school-yet son, I smooth my hand over the cool, glittery cover. The sheer marshmallow pink-ness of the book glistened in the bright lights of the quiet shop blinding me with all its girly, frilly might. Turning the book over to read the back blurb, I found myself transported back to the days I spent reading as a 9-year-old. Lying on my front on the bottom bunk while my sister, above me, listened to Wham (I was a Duran Duran fan) I would wile away the hours engrossed in a great book that I just couldn’t put down. Things haven’t really changed, although I like to think my music taste has grown somewhat.
I have vivid memories of the first book I ever bought. It was at primary school, I think I was 7 and we were allowed to select a book TO BUY from a brand new collection the school had just received. As a bonus we were also allowed to pay it up over a few weeks. I was thrilled. My own book! To keep. Forever.
Being the youngest of 5 and the era I was living in, I didn’t really want to ask my Mum for money for a book when Mrs T was in full strike flow and Dad was out fighting the cause as a shop steward. Times were indeed hard and a book was out of the question with seven mouths to feed. I reasoned with myself (yeah, some habits don’t die) and I came to the conclusion that I could pay it off 10p each week, ALL of my pocket-money was going on this fantastic book. If I remember rightly, the book cost 60p and I just knew I had to have it. Six weeks of no chocolate or crisps was easy to cope with. Piece of cake!
What was the book? Why it was ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’. A tale of mischief and mayhem caused by two boys from completely different backgrounds that just so happened to look like each other. As a twin, this had me enthralled from the first page – the devious side of me was wondering what we could get up to!
I remember the smell of the books as they sat staring back at the class from their sparkly new book-case, daring anyone to come forward and touch them never mind pick one up. The newly pressed paper smell wafted around the room, drawing us closer to them like the bisto kids in the advert for gravy. The short advert began with two children walking with noses turned up as they became mesmerized by the stream of smoke-like flavour that lured them to the dinner table. That’s what I was, and still am, like with books. Drawn in a trance to the nearest book shelf. Never to leave empty-handed.
Being the only female (oh wait, one of our cats is female too) in my house, there is very rarely the chance for me to be near anything that remotely resembles girls, fluffy colours or cute knick knacks. For those who have met me in person, you will know that my wardrobe and choice of clothing would make Lily Munster weep with pride. My love for black knows no boundaries and I salute the Gothic underworld of my teenage youth for showing me the way. It also hides copious stains made by said family and makes me look slightly taller than an elf. Quite handy really.
Living with four ‘men’ (a loose term I shall use for the masculine entities I share my home with – apparently, so I am told by said entities, that being 42, 9 and 7 years old (male cat doesn’t count) means that there really is no need to aim for the big porcelain hole in the bathroom when the sides, seat or floor is fine. I may beg to differ but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m a third of the way through this lovely book and I look forward to its conclusion and shall embrace my inner princess for the sake of my WIP. Oh and cake, Cathy – it was sold on the title alone.