How it started
I started writing BOYS FOR BEGINNERS when I was 11. My best friend Kate was feeling down so I thought I would write her a story to cheer her up. I called it Gwynnie Goes Girlie, wrote it in pencil and did drawings to illustrate it too.
Writing a book takes a lot of hard work and discipline. I’m finding that now as an adult, and definitely found that as a girl. Unfortunately I never finished that original version; it was 41 pages and only made it as far as chapter 8.
But I never forgot the story. Years later I mentioned it to my agent she said I should try writing it. I went over to my parents’ house, searched long and hard in their cobwebby attic, and found a brightly coloured Velcro file which contained the original manuscript!
The spelling was atrocious but it was so much more than I remembered. Everything that is in BFB comes from that original manuscript, it’s just spelled correctly now… I hope.
A lot of the characters are a jigsaw of people I’ve known: from back when I was 11 and people in my life now.
Gwynnie was based on my best friend Kate. Kate was skinny, a tomboy who played football with the boys (we both were) and she never ever wore skirts. There was eventually a time when she “went girlie”. However, I would say that now Gwynnie is more based on my own experiences at that age – learning to behave in a new way and getting it wrong. A lot!
Kate is still my best friend.
Paul is Gwynnie’s best friend in the book. Back then he was based on a boy who I was friends with at school, called Paul. Paul supported Tottenham Hotspur and that’s why Gwynnie supports Tottenham Hotspur. I met up with the real Paul recently – he hasn’t changed a bit – except he’s married with three children.
But Paul’s personality is based on my close friend Tom. Being friends with a boy is very different from being friends with a girl; both are rewarding, but in their own way.
Gwynnie’s Dad is sort of based on my dad: his hair is ginger but not frizzy; my dad doesn’t like football that much; and he doesn’t work in a sports shop. But he is as nice as Gwynnie’s dad and he can be a bit gormless sometimes. The character is who my dad would be if my mum had died when my siblings and I were young. I think he would have got a lot of stuff wrong, but his heart would always have been in the right place.
Jenny is a girlie girl and a bit of a bitch. I think she was based on a girl at school who I was jealous of because she used to be a geek but then she grew boobs and her hair became longer and blonder and prettier and all the boys fancied her.
But I’m ashamed to say that Jenny is also based on me too – my worst side. I channel all my mean thoughts into the character of Jenny and she takes it from there. It’s probably quite healthy.