This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
When I was six, my mother read Heidi to me. Of course, she’d read other books, but Johanna Spyri’s story about a little girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps is the one that has lodged in my brain. Perhaps, this is because it seemed so much more grown-up than other books. Perhaps, it’s because the descriptions of Heidi’s mountain home were so enchanting. But, more likely, it’s because I then read it by myself. It was my first ‘proper’ book.
My copy – and I still have it – originally belonged to my mum. It was published in 1955, and I think that ‘much loved’ would be the kindest way to describe its condition. There remains something beautiful about it, though. It's illustrated with black and white sketches and the occasional full-colour picture: here a rosy-cheeked Peter, there a wan and sad-eyed Clara.To say that a book changed your life is a big statement, but all these years later I can remember the thrill of reading Heidi. I can remember wanting to be part of her world.
Heidi’s story encouraged me to discover other books – from Just William and his friends to Patricia Lynch’s tales about Brogeen the Leprechaun; from Little Women to Noel Streatfeild. I’m indebted to my mum who fostered that love of reading. It’s not just that a fondness for words has enabled me to have a career as a journalist and – more recently – to write books of my own. I know what it’s like to find solace or entertainment in a novel. Or to be challenged by one.
When I was writing my new book, Each and Every One, I got to a point where I wanted to show that a character’s experiences were turning him into a more likeable person. Needless to say, I did a great deal of head-scratching, coffee-drinking and Twitter-reading. And then it came to me; I would show him reading a bed-time story to his son. What better way is there to say, ‘Hey he’s not such a bad guy, really’?
Each and Every One by Rachael English is out now.