Frequently Asked Questions
Let's start with Wendington. Where did she come from?
Well like most things, she probably came from a thousand things all colliding together. But the more palatable answer is that she came from a bet over a name and a fond appreciation of adventure stories. And while adventure is still the same, the demands of those sorts of tales have changed over time. So I wanted to put my spin on it. As for Wendington herself, she came out almost fully formed. Bold, isolated, well-read if not always well-informed. I've worked in shows, films, environments and worlds designed for young people for many years. The thing we too often forget is that most experiences, especially in adolescence, are the first time young people are living through them. And the first time of massive changes, of traumatic emotional consequences, is super tough. Especially when you haven't developed the life tools yet to get through them. So I wanted Wendington to be someone that had a bag of tools at her disposal, but just not necessarily the knowledge of how to use them. Both practically and emotionally.
Which brings us on to The Missing Tree. Did that come out fully formed?
No. The central conceit was always there. A young woman whose mother dies and then goes on a journey, both actual and metaphorical, to deal with her death. I didn't want her to bring her mother back. I wanted her to deal with her grief. Some of the action ideas started the same, as did some of the characters. But stuff always changes. It's the nature of the beast. But it was always a tale of grief and both avoiding and then dealing with it. The adventure aspect was always the fun thrill ride on the top of it all. But anyone can come up with an exciting sequence. It's wanting to care that's the tough part, and where most of the work came.
Oh, Perceval was also there from the start. Because I wanted Wendington to talk as much as possible, but the story was always going to be about her isolation in grief. Which by its nature has her on her own a lot. So she needed someone to talk to, but crucially someone who couldn't talk back and someone who couldn't help out. Then Perceval waltzed in.
Given it's an adventure story and Wendington's name...
No. Not directly. Happy accident at first, and by that time she was her own person in her own right. But I can't deny the links and references, so my subconscious has to take some responsibility and the rest goes to a thematic link and nothing more.
Given it all, are you adventurous as well?
Gosh no. I mean I was in the scouts and learnt my fair share of knots and slept on a number of thin dirt floors. But that was about as far as it went. I developed type 1 diabetes at the age of 5 and then developed a well toned sense of fear soon afterwards. It's taken me this long to live an unadventurous life. But I sat at too many a desk and bed reading of the exploits of Hal and Roger Hunt, Jim Hawkins, Jane Eyre, the Baudelaire orphans, the March Sisters and collected works of Dahl, Hinton and Pratchett, to say that I never went on any adventures at all. I'm not sure I would have been as brave as Wendington was, but thankfully I was never in the position that she was. Bravery can not come without adversity first. And I was too afraid of adversity to ever get the chance to be brave.
So what are these many other worlds that you've been in?
The time spent writing for young people?
I've worked for many things some of which you'll have heard of, some of which you won't. I'll specifically say that I worked for a number of years in British soaps, especially a lot of time learning story and producing. Soaps get a a raw deal in the UK. But try putting out a socially conscious, entertaining show 260 times a year on a budget that others spend on ten episodes. It's a marvel. I'm also immensely thankful for soaps for showing me many worlds, and introducing me to many people, that I may never have done from my quiet reading nook at home. Not just telling stories about many sorts of people, but also telling stories alongside them. When you do that in a world where you're constantly reminded just how hard things can be when you're young, it's a stark reminder that while losing love is tough, losing it for the first time is devastating. It is why we keep going back to stories like Romeo and Juliet, even though they only knew each other for a week. Every emotion is not only turned up well past what can be dealt with, but it's also with people that haven't been told where the dial is at all. What young people need more than anything is patience, and then an ear. Every generation think that young have it easy, but that's because they've forgotten how hard it is.
Some big hitters now. Where'd you grow up?
Manchester. South Manchester to be more specific and yet still extremely vague. I lived there the vast majority of my life aside from a four year period at University in Wendington's city, and then one year in the city of Gladstone. But I'm proudly from the city of Pankhurst and Gaskell. I'll take that.
Can you tell us a little about about the dedication of the book?
Of course. My own dad died a few months before the publication of The Missing Tree. He was a great dad. Kind and funny and the most supportive soul you could ever hope to meet. And while he never got to fully read Wendington's adventure - he was waiting for the book - it would have never got to where it is without him. Like Penni for Wendington, he truly was my safety net. In every way. Emotionally, organisationally and also, perhaps inevitably, finacially while I tried to find my feet with everything. So though he didn't get to hold the book in his hands, he still manged to help make it. So the first thing you'll read from me, is the dedication to him in helping Wendington come to be.
I should also say that before his passing, there was another dedication. That was to my mum who, at the time of Wendington's publication, is still with me. I think it's important that that dedication still exists somewhere to mark the effect that she's had on me as well. Like Wendington I'm a result of both of them, with many of my own mistakes thrown in. That dedication read:
For my own mum.
Who also changed my life with a book.
Should we all be so lucky.
My mum fed my mind when I was young. It was a mind that was always hungry, but it never, ever went without. I will always be thankful for that.
What was the book that changed your life?
Many, many have. But the one in original dedication was Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. It's an excellent tale for younger readers, that walks the reader through the history of Western philosophy. It changed my teenage focus from medicine to philosophy and everything changed after that.
Is that what you studied?
At university I read Mathematics and Philosophy which is pretty much most writers way into the world. But I also studied Chemistry and Mechanics for A levels, alongside History. So, just like Wendington, I liked a lot of things. But mostly I liked learning.
Are there any other influences or references hidden into The Missing Tree?
Of course. Many. Some more obvious than others. But as above, I grew up in so many others' worlds it would be hard not to have names, places and references threaded through my thoughts. So if you've spotted one, it might be one. It might even be one I didn't know was there. If so, jot it down.
Can you give an example?
Of jotting something down?
Of one of the references
Grandmamma's names are a collected influence of an author I met when fourteen when he came to my school to give a talk. I was working in the school bookshop at the time so got to meet him all so briefly. He was exceptionally kind and generous with both his time and his thoughts. His name is listed earlier on the page.
Can we contact you?
Inevitably. There are socials on the pages and a contact form on my page specifically. Just be kind if you can, even it's about a disagreement. For more professional enquiries, the information you need is also on my page. I can't do everything for you.
Will Wendington return?
Gosh I hope so. You'll hear when I do.
Though probably not immediately. We all have to sleep.