I’m so dumb. I never thought I’d say that about myself, but after what I’ve just done I deserve it. How could I have messed up my first day here so totally and completely?
This has always been a special book for me, for a couple of reasons. It was the first time I discovered how much a story, while you’re writing it, can be affected by experiences you’re having at the time. Sounds obvious, I know, but it really caught me by surprise. (I can be a bit slow sometimes.)
The year I wrote Blabber Mouth my wife and I decided to have an adventure and take our kids to live in France. We lived in a small house in a tiny village in Provence, and I started writing a book about a girl with a very loving but very embarrassing dad. (Yes, you’re right. When my daughter and son eventually read the book, they both told me they knew exactly where I’d got that idea from.)
But the possibility that I might, just sometimes, be a slightly embarrassing dad wasn’t what caught me by surprise. It was another part of the story that did that.
Each morning I’d go to one of the local markets to buy provisions, using my very poor French. Even saying simple things was a struggle. Much of the time I had to use sign language. Then each afternoon I’d sit down in one of the bedrooms in our small village house and write a chapter of the book that became Blabber Mouth.
After a couple of chapters, something very unexpected happened. I discovered that Rowena, the main character, couldn’t speak. Literally couldn’t make any speaking sounds. So she had to communicate using a whole range of other ways, including pointing and giving pleading looks, which was something I was becoming expert at while I tried to do my French shopping.
I didn’t even realise the connection until after I’d finished the book and we were back in Australia. (Yes, you’re right. Der.)
Something else a bit jaw-dropping happened when we got back to Australia. I discovered that while we’d been away, my other books (I’d written four at that stage) had started to sell well enough that I was able to give up writing for TV and movies, and just write books.
Which goes to show that dreams can come true even for people who are a bit slow. Thanks Rowena. Thanks Blabber Mouth.
Blabber Mouth is available in bookshops and libraries in Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere, and online everywhere.