‘He had been part of my everyday life. I hadn’t liked him much, nobody had liked him much, but he’d been there. Now, I’d never see him again.’
Annie Skjaerstad had been searching for her identity since being uprooted from her native country of Norway. With a spiky personality winning her no friends, and family members suddenly torn out of her life, she is left seeking comfort from a growing intrigue into the stories of fallen war heroes.
But one day, a boy from her school unexpectedly commits suicide, changing things forever. Confused by the tragic tale of someone she knew, Annie soon finds herself conducting her own investigation into his death.
What she uncovers will bring her to a dark and dangerous place, as suddenly – her own life is put at risk.
Carol Hedges has written 11 novels for teens and YA. She has one daughter, now left home. She lives in the UK with her husband, two cats and a pink vintage car.
Take it away, Carol!
First off, can I say a big British "thank you" to Kelly for generously hosting me on her lovely blog.
"Write about what you know" is the advice given to all writers, and it's definitely the reason I write about strong women, and not giant spiders on Mars. It's also why, at the beginning of Jigsaw Pieces, my first YA ebook on Amazon Kindle, there is a sentence that says: "Not all the events and characters are fictitious". Some people have asked me about this, because it isn't the usual thing you read. So I'd like to share a couple of events that prompted me to write the story.
I was on my first teaching practice. I was retraining as a teacher so that I could fund my daughter through uni. One Monday, I arrived in the staffroom, lesson plans clutched nervously in shaky hand, to discover a strange silence. Nobody was speaking, or making eye contact. Curious, I asked my mentor what was going on, to be told that over the weekend, a student had committed suicide. Nobody knew why.
I remember exactly how it felt as the news ripped round the school. And something inside me said: one day, you have to write about this; it is important. Thus "Grant Penney's" death became the central plot line for the book. As you read the initial chapters, you are seeing and hearing exactly what I experienced.
But I didn't want Jigsaw Pieces to be a totally tragic story. And so I gave the narrative to Annie Skaerstad, a feisty Norwegian 19 year old - a kind of teenaged Lisbeth Salander. She is based on a couple of girls I taught in my first job. Streetwise, sassy, and full of attitude, they gave me and everyone else a hard time!
They had a big thing about 'respect' - something they felt teachers never gave them, which was why they did not give it back. I struggled to connect with them, was sure I'd failed. But then, unexpectedly, at the end of the last lesson before study leave, they dropped a card on my desk as they left. Inside was a single word: Respect.
And so a book was born.
What about you? Do you write what you know?