Many years ago in the days when Corona was a beer, a virus was an annoyance, and no one believed Brexit would really happen, I used to travel from Portugal to the UK in my campervan with Leo. My mother lives not far from the M25 so, inevitably, we would spend several days a year glued to the motorway. One rainy day, we went to visit some friends in Cambridge and we snailed along the M25 and then the M11. I spent many hours while accelerating and breaking redesigning the UK travel infrastructure by creating covered raised tracks above the motorways for electric bikes (just in case any road planners read this) while Leo flew aeroplanes on his iPad. It should have taken us one hour and forty-five minutes. It took us five hours and forty-five minutes. For a journey of 82 miles, we were achieving about 13 miles an hour. A bike (electric or not) would have been quicker.
But then I had a better idea. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the campervan could fly! Just up and go and say goodbye to all these thousands of cars lined up bumper to bumper.
‘Hey, Leo! Imagine we could fly off?’ I said, excitedly
‘Can we?’ said Leo, crashing one of his planes.
‘No,’ I said, breaking hard.
And so began the idea of The Magic Campervan.
I decided there and then that my characters would be from non-traditional families. I had IVF and being an older mum is amazing but also, at times, difficult. I began to think about different characters, different nationalities, different genders, different cultures. I wanted a wide representation. I would write a series of maybe six books, each one an adventure, a journey, connected somehow by the campervan. I have travelled to the tips of Africa and Asia and lived in many countries from Japan to Russia and, of course, Portugal, and I wanted to include a slice from all. Then I realised I needed to be a little bit realistic and crossed out most of the map. I would stay mainly in Europe.
I like my fiction to have its toes in reality but for it to jump high. My campervan would fly but also have its wheels on the ground.
‘A helicopter, Leo, like a chinook.’
I’m intrigued by extraordinary events that happen to us. I believe that everyone is special. Little ones especially so. They are still forming themselves/being formed, busy absorbing all the good and bad we give them, intentionally or not. I wanted my books to be positive, but realistic. Many kids have a hard time at school, at home. Many adults have a hard time being parents. Some kids (and adults) have a hard time writing, reading, concentrating, communicating, drawing… Some kids (and adults) are explosive. These are all issues about growing (adults) and growing up (kids) that interest me and that I wanted to include. Of course, these days many kids (and adults) are diagnosed with ADHD, ODD or ASD and we are learning more about the differences in how our brains are wired. But on a personal note, I learned much from Edward Seymour about how we have been passed down imperfect behaviours from our parents, who, in turn, had received similar treatment and how we do the same. He helped me see things that I hadn’t seen before and understand that we can rewire our brains. That was ten years ago.
The Forbidden Slide is my first fictional work in ten years and my first attempt at younger fiction. It has taken more than five years from the M25 to publication. Of course, You-Know-What hit us in the meantime and I was busy teaching both university and primary school students. I attempted to find a publisher in the UK but no luck. I almost forgot about the manuscript but then, stuck for something to read earlier this year, I remembered it and read it to Leo, my heart thumping. He normally stops me after the first chapter of any book, but this time didn’t. ‘Read more!’ he said excitedly. Then a Portuguese publisher offered to publish it in Portuguese so I finally decided to publish the English version myself.
The English version is out and available online or through me. The ebook and the Portuguese version (printed and electronic) will be out at the beginning of 2022. Book 2, The Enteldont’s Skull, is on its way. If anyone has any feedback I would love to hear from you.