Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. P is for ... Prince.

I chose ‘Prince’ because I enjoyed writing the scenes between Emily and Mrs Bishop very much. They were often full of amusement as the knowing, mischievous old lady and her new teenage friend discuss her love life. Mrs Bishop is adamant that there is a special person waiting somewhere in the wings for Emily. She refers to him as Emily’s prince, which makes Emily cringe. Emily is a cynical young girl. She doesn’t have any beliefs, and she finds this soulmate talk ridiculous. Of course, Mrs Bishop is indeed correct, which only adds to the humour further down the line. Though, bless her, Mrs Bishop manages not to quite say I told you so.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy, the first time that Emily’s prince is referred to:

“You’re a pretty girl, you must get a lot of attention with all that long red hair.”
“All it brings me is ginger jokes,” I sighed.
“You haven’t met him yet then,” she said, more to herself than to me.
“Met who?” I asked, rather confused by the sudden turn in the conversation.
“Your prince,” she said, beaming.
I rolled my eyes.
“I don’t believe in fairy tales,” I stated.
“That’s because you haven’t met him. You’ll believe in them once you do.”
“I’m not really the gushing type. Most of the boys at school are utter morons.”
She laughed at that, tapping her knees and rocking back in her chair with amusement.
“What about all the tourist boys?”
“What’s the point? They’re gone after a week,” I scoffed.
“We’ll see,” she said with a wink.
I shook my head at her. She’d got me all wrong. I braced myself, bid her goodbye and finally returned home.

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. O is for ... Orphans.

It was such a sad theme to write about. To be a young orphan; to lose both of your parents before you are old enough to fully support yourself must be an unbelievably harrowing experience. To lose one parent, at any age, must be difficult enough. But, both of them. Such heartbreak. It’s strange. I wrote Black Eyed Boy and thought hard about how that must feel; to be so alone in this big wide world. In a way, I could feel the experience in a very real sense.

I just went to Wikipedia, to visit the page about orphans and I understand now, how I was able to sympathise and empathise with several of my orphaned characters.

Here is the Wikipedia definition:
An orphan (from the Greek ὀρφανός orfanos[1]) is a child whose parents are dead or have abandoned them permanently.

My parents are alive. But I don’t see them. They have never met my children. And this has been the case for a long, long time. According to Wikipedia, I am a sort of orphan too. No wonder I was able to climb into Emily’s mind (and those of Dylan and Nancy).

The character of Emily can’t fathom how this collection of poor, lonely orphaned souls appear to forge together. They are travellers; going where they wish to go, when they wish to go there. There are two adults: Siobhan and Warren. They look after a huge amount of young orphans, and a few older ones too who prefer to stay close to their large, adopted family.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

The woman went on ahead as Nancy and I held hands and walked slowly behind.
“Who’s that?” I asked her.
“That’s Siobhan. She’s the group mother.”
“Of all of you?” I asked, wondering how anyone could watch over so many children.
“Yes, and she makes the best stew in the whole wide world. Can you smell it?”
Nancy’s little nose sniffed the air and the homely smell wafted down to us from the camp fire, where many of the children had gathered. It did smell good. They all played a part; some handed around bowls and spoons, others cut chunks of crusty bread, others poured drinks into mismatched chipped mugs. There was a wonderful family feeling amongst them which I admired immensely. It was a cherished, wondrous thing that I had never personally experienced, even though my family were related to me by blood. These people had somehow found one another, joined together and had become something amazing. I felt happy that Dylan had this, especially after what he must have gone through after losing both his parents.

The fact that they are orphans is an integral part of the secrets and mysteries of the novel. If you want to know more, well, then you’ll just have to read the book.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. N is for ... Nancy.

Nancy is another important character in Black Eyed Boy. We meet her further along the story, once Emily and Dylan are enjoying the first days of their relationship. She is a little girl, one of the many orphan gypsy travellers. She takes a keen interest in Emily and they become incredibly fond of one another.

Another part of the mysterious puzzle presents itself when Emily learns that Nancy is a highly intuitive child; she appears to have the ability to dream about things just before they happen. Nancy has a huge role in the sequel, Green Eyed Girl. I don’t wish to give anything away at this stage, but much of the story revolves around the little girl and her capacity to know about events before they actually happen.

Nancy is a sweet child, partly made up of aspects of both of my daughters. She is a welcoming, sweet and friendly character; one that increases with importance as the trilogy continues.
Here is an excerpt, featuring Nancy:

I walked quickly with a determined long stride; I didn’t have the patience to admire the view or to amble along. I was almost on the verge of running. I saw Nancy playing on the grass, all alone, but quiet and content.
“I knew you’d come today,” she said, looking up at me.
“Did you?”
“Yes, come on,” she said, getting up and pulling me towards the camp site with her tiny hand.
There were a few of them congregated on the field.
“Dylan isn’t here yet,” said Nancy.
I was so disappointed that I thought my heart might crumble. I hadn’t seen him for a while and I loathed having to wait even one more second.
“When will he be back?” I asked, desperate.
“Soon,” answered Nancy.
I looked into her eyes, the same hypnotic dark ones as Dylan had. If I had to wait for Dylan then I supposed that she was a pretty good substitute. She was such a sweet little thing. I sensed the others watching me, but I didn’t have the confidence to go over and introduce myself; I barely had the energy to stand.
“Will you sit with me a while?” I asked, aware at what an odd request that was, asking a favour from such a young child.
“Of course,” she smiled sweetly. “I was sad too, when my mummy died.”
I couldn’t believe that she’d said that. I looked at her, scanning her face, waiting for more words, but they didn’t come. How did she know about Mum?

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. M is for ... Mrs Bishop.

Mrs Bishop. Everyone who has read Black Eyed Boy has loved this warm-hearted, benevolent character. She is Emily’s neighbour and she arrives in the story quickly.

Here are a couple of Amazon book reviews that mention the sweet old lady:

“A final note must be reserved for Emily's caring and insightful neighbour Mrs Bishop. I loved her so much! What a wonderful, warm periphery character and a reminder to all readers and writers of the importance of a varied cast to add depth to a novel.

“There is also a wonderful array of background characters, my personal fav, being Mrs Bishop.

I have to agree. There is just so much to love about her. I thought about all of the most compassionate and sincere people that I have ever met. Some people have a way of making you feel instantly better and at ease. It might be a gentle touch. It might be a nodding glance of sympathy, or a small but kindly act. Mrs Bishop offers all of these things to Emily; a young girl experiencing some of the most difficult and harrowing moments that life can throw at an individual. She comes to need Mrs Bishop and that’s a hard thing for Emily to even admit to herself as she has always been stubbornly independent.

One of the aspects of Mrs Bishop that I love the most is the language that she uses. She frequently refers to Emily as ‘poppet’, ‘petal’ and ‘dear’. Being from Yorkshire (we tend to use ‘love’ and ‘duck’ here), I find this way of speaking rather endearing and comforting. There is an immediate high level of friendliness and familiarity.

I also admire the way that she is determined to look after Emily, despite the young girl constantly attempting to refuse her care. There is always a cup of tea on the go and some food cooking whether she likes it or not.

There is a lot more to this loveable and comical (she has a wonderful sense of humour) woman than meets the eye though, and Emily knows this. There is a secret and Mrs Bishop knows what it is. This is a huge part of the book. Emily knows that there is something else happening and she won’t stop until she figures out what it is. When the story opens up and Emily discovers the truth, Mrs Bishop has a large and important role to play.

I can promise a lot more of Mrs Bishop in the sequel, Green Eyed Girl. More news on that when I have it.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

Mrs Bishop walked in with several shopping bags.
“I need to go home,” I said.
“At least have some breakfast first, just so I know you’ve eaten something, even if it’s just a slice of toast.” She was already busy, not taking no for an answer and pouring fruit juice into a tall glass.
“Thank you for last night,” I said.
“You can stay here whenever you like, my lovely. Would you like a nice fried egg?”
I was about to decline, but she cracked the egg and popped it into the frying pan before I had the chance. I smiled to myself and wished that I had taken the time to get to know her sooner. She was very sweet, and so very determined to take care of me. I must admit, the smell of the hot toast and the yolky egg stirred my appetite. I got up and helped her set the table. We ate in silence, but it was a comfortable silence. I watched the breeze outside swaying the treetops and the long grasses of the field.
“That was lovely,” I said, pushing away the now clean plate.
She stroked my long fringe out of my eyes and playfully nipped my cheek.
“You look better already, you’ve got a bit of colour back in your face. What are your plans for today?”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. L is for ... Loneliness.

Emily lives with her parents. All three of them inhabit the same house, but they are all so private and solitary. They stopped being a family long ago and have since retreated into their own self-contained bubbles. Emily talks of feeling like a ghost in her own home. And as we read on, we can understand why she feels this way. There is very little communication, especially between Emily and her mother. The only contact she has with her father are bursts of anger and recriminations. It’s a lonely world for Emily. She has her best friend, Billy, but she refuses to rely on him or let him help her most of the time.

I think this is partly why she truly comes alive when she meets Dylan. She has trouble believing that this remarkable, handsome and amusing boy wishes to spend time with her. She compares herself to the other local girls; deeming them probably more interesting and fun than she is. Emily is used to spending time alone, often hiding and avoiding her parents.

She often fantasises about what it would have been like to have been part of a different family, and this causes a painful knot of sadness and guilt inside her. Dylan changes her life so rapidly. She goes from haunting her house in silence to wanting to spend every waking moment with her new, mysterious boyfriend. He brings her hope and he makes her feel so much better about herself.

Here’s an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy:

There were plenty of people nearby taking photographs of the old historic church. I watched a cute family pose on a bench, three little blonde girls with curly hair, they all shared the same face as their mother. The father captured the moment with his camera and they descended the stairs with lively chatter.

I felt a little knot inside me. It was always there, but sometimes it got tighter and gave me a stomach ache. I didn’t like that about myself, that envy could stir so easily and that I let it get the better of me. I hated that I felt sorry for myself. I knew full well that so many people had it worse than I did. I just wished that I was one of those cherubic little girls with the mum and the dad and the siblings, with the communication and sense of family that they had.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. K is for ... Kissing.

I’m sure that our first kiss is something that we don’t ever forget. I loved writing Black Eyed Boy and being part of watching the teenage couple fall head-over-heels in love. It made me remember all of those times when I had a crush on someone and that intoxicating feeling of being in young love.

Emily, fifteen, has never been kissed. She falls hard for Dylan very quickly (I can’t say I blame her. Have you seen my cover?). And kissing his lips is all she can think about. She doesn’t have to daydream for too long though. I love their first kiss scene. I hope that you do too:

I never finished that sentence. Dylan cupped my face in his hands, turned my face towards his, and mid-way through my sentence he quite literally took the words from my mouth as he planted the softest kiss upon my lips. It was so soft that it was only just there at all. I felt his hot tongue slide in, so teasing, so slow, my body felt as though it was ablaze. I felt dizzy with my eyes closed but I didn’t dare to risk opening them and break the perfect spell. I was losing my head and all resolution, my name, and possibly my legs. I felt as if I was flying, soaring above myself in a cloud; I’d never known such intense delight. There was a pressure building inside me that I couldn’t contain even if I’d wanted to.
And with that, he pulled away.
And as I opened my eyes, he had gone.


Meet kissable Dylan

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. J is for ... Jet.

J is for Jet. A beautiful black gemstone frequently found in Whitby and the surrounding area. There are several jewellery boutiques dotted about the town, dedicated to the crafting of intricate items, all made using the black stone of Whitby Jet, the fossilised driftwood of the Monkey Puzzle tree from the Jurassic period, approximately 182 million years ago.

Whitby jet was a popular material for jewellery in Roman Britain from the third century onward. It was used in rings, hair pins, beads, bracelets, bangles, necklaces and pendants. It was later popularised by Queen Victoria, when she introduced the wearing of Jet into court circles, as she had searched for appropriate black mourning jewellery after the death of her husband, Albert, in 1861.

I couldn’t set a book in Whitby and not include Jet somewhere in there. It is, of course, also the same colour as Dylan’s eyes.

Here is an excerpt:

I let him take the lead and ambled along beside him. He spent a long time looking into the shop windows.
“Whitby Jet,” he mused, leaning in to take a look at the intricate jewellery through the glass.
I looked at what he was admiring. It was a set of delicate rings, each with a differently-shaped black jet stone.
“It reminds me of your eyes,” I said.
He looked down at my hand and saw that I was still wearing the butterfly ring that he had won for me in the arcades.
“It would be nice to replace that one with something like this,” he said, pointing to a pretty silver ring with an oval stone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. I is for ... Inspiration.

There were a few sources of inspiration that caused me to write Black Eyed Boy and helped to make it the story it is today.

Emily. The character of Emily was born in my mind a while ago. She would be loosely based on my cousin and she would have red hair. That was my starting point.

THE BOY. The mysterious gypsy stranger. I had a vague idea of what he would look like. I knew that he should have a dark secret and a remarkable story. It was the song by Texas that gave me the title. But what was in his clandestine history?

THE SECRET. I love horror. And I didn’t have to look very far. Once I had the vision of a boy with black eyes, I turned to Edgar Allan Poe.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. This was a no-brainer and I never considered setting the book anywhere but Whitby. The seaside town already has strong Gothic links with scenes in Bram Stoker’s Dracula taking place there. It is my favourite place; if I closed my eyes I could be there. The sights, the smells and the sounds were all at my fingertips.

LONELINESS. Emily had to need Dylan as well as just want him. Add dysfunctional parents and no surviving siblings and Emily was almost always alone. I may not have an alcoholic father or a terminally ill mother, but I do know about broken family relationships. A classic case of "writing what you know."

THE OTHER ONE. The love triangle. The male friend who yearns for more. Hardly unique, I grant you. I realised that I would need some essential romantic storyline ingredients to make this work. And along came Billy. I wanted him to be both cute and spiteful. A Jekyll and Hyde. I love him and I hate him.

A SHOULDER TO CRY ON. Sweet, knowing Mrs Bishop. I know that some readers have chosen her as their favourite character and I completely understand why. She is made up of fragments of all of the kindest and supportive people that I have met over the years. Yes, I love her too.

TISSUES ESSENTIAL. I wanted raw emotion all the way through. I tried to feel what Emily would feel. I imagined all of the worst things that could happen to people and I poured tears into Black Eyed Boy. And then I made it all okay again at the end. There is tragedy and loss and very real heartbreak. Then there is hope. Sometimes, that’s all we need.

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. H is for ... Hair.

Emily, fifteen, has gorgeous long red hair. She doesn’t think much of it but the new scrumptious boy in her life (Dylan) absolutely loves it. I knew immediately that the character of Emily would be a redhead; I wanted to show my cousin that red hair is beautiful. Because it is. It’s much more interesting than my boring brown.

Black Eyed Boy has the character of Dylan (yum) on the front cover. I have finished the sequel (Green Eyed Girl) and I am currently searching for a young redheaded beauty to adorn the cover for this book. I am looking for my Emily.

Here are a few excerpts from the book that show how differently they feel about Emily’s gorgeous red locks:

“You’re a pretty girl, you must get a lot of attention with all that long red hair.”
“All it brings me is ginger jokes,” I sighed.

I saw a few of the girls from school but they didn’t say anything; they didn’t smile or even notice me at all, but I didn’t care. With bright ginger hair and freckles, maybe I just wasn’t supposed to be in with the likes of them.

“You have beautiful eyes,” I said, instantly regretting how gushing and girly that sounded.
“As do you, and beautiful hair,” he said, stroking it.
“Now you must be joking,” I snorted. “Who wants to be a ginger?”
“But red hair is the best. You remind me of a fox with your red hair and your green eyes.”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. G is for ... Gulls.

Seagulls are a controversial (this is putting it mildly) topic in Whitby.

Seagulls in Whitby

They are frequently the subject of heated debate. Some people love them and think that they add to Whitby’s seaside charm. Some people loathe them; considering them to be overly aggressive at times. As soon as I had decided that Whitby was the setting of Black Eyed Boy, I knew that the book would heavily feature the divisive and contentious gulls. This also gave me the opportunity to imply, early on in the story, that something strange and foreboding might be about to happen. I have used the gulls, all the way through the book, to highlight the changes occurring within Emily’s life.

Here are a few examples:

When I woke, something was different. Something had changed, but I couldn’t put my finger on it during my first few sleepy morning moments. As I pulled my dress over my head, I realised it was the silence, so wrong to my seaside town ears. There were no hungry screams and manic squawks of the seagulls.

The full moon looked beautiful in the sky. It was a serene night, but perhaps a little too serene for my liking, as I missed the sound of the gulls.

I noticed that a few intrepid herring gulls had dared to return to the harbour and I felt pleased.

We chose a seat which overlooked the whole of the east side, which still looked old-fashioned with the collection of red pan-tiled rooftops. The lights shone on to the water and the seagulls soared, squawked and circled, waiting for that dropped chip. I still had Dylan’s jacket on and I could smell him on the fabric, musky, masculine and enticing.

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. F is for … Father.

Today is Father’s Day, here in the UK. And, as it is time for the letter ‘F’, Father seemed an obvious choice. Emily has an uneasy and difficult relationship with both of her parents, but her relationship with her dad is especially hostile. Black Eyed Boy starts with these words:
 “Where the hell have you been?” my dad barked.
Immediately, through Emily’s eyes, we learn that all is not well at home. She stays out of the house as long as she can, often alone, just so that she can avoid her parents. Emily’s dad, Jim, is an alcoholic. This isn’t a recent development. Emily is fifteen and he has been drunk for most of her life. His poison of choice is whisky. The drink frequently causes him to pass out or become angry and occasionally violent.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, I will try not to contain too many spoilers, but it’s safe to say that Emily’s father doesn’t get a happy ending. And if my book characters came to life today, Emily would be a sad girl this Father’s Day.

Some of us do have unhealthy or disappointing relationships with family members. On this particular subject, I happen to know what I’m writing about. Emily’s dismay and wishing that things could have been better are feelings from my own mind and heart. Some people have lost parents. Occasions like Father’s Day can be sad and bloody tough for those who no longer have their dad around to celebrate with. If this applies to you, you are in my thoughts today.

Here is an excerpt from Black Eyed Boy showing the tumultuous strains between father and daughter:
I heard a kerfuffle from down below, and stretched my head over to see what was going on. It was Dad. He was drunker than I’d seen him in a long time. He bashed and crashed into the rubbish bins. I heard him swear under his breath. He couldn’t stand still on the spot long enough to figure out which key was the right one. He stumbled on to the bench outside our living room window, clearly finding that as good a place as any to sleep. I sucked in my breath, irritated and angry with him. I wanted to leave him there. He could wake up in the morning and feel the shame of the judgemental glares from the holiday cottage dwellers as they walked by. I didn’t care what people thought. But, I thought of my mum. She did care; she would want to me to help him inside.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. E is for ... Eyes.

Eyes. Very important. They are what this trilogy is all about. Who is the black-eyed boy? He seems to have appeared from nowhere and why are his eyes so dark? Emily has an extensive list of questions as soon as she meets Dylan. And it’s a fair while until she starts to get any answers. I can’t say too much, in case you haven’t read the book, so here’s a few teasers.

Here are some excerpts from Black Eyed Boy, referring to the all-important mystery:

“Thank you,” I said, gazing into his eyes and thanking whatever had brought him into my life. A life that wouldn’t have been worth existing without him, now that there was barely anyone left in it.

I stared into the box and upon the white satin padding was an exquisite fine silver ring, adorned with a shiny perfect oval of black Whitby Jet. It looked so much like his eyes, both in shape and colour.

“Why are your eyes so dark?” I asked. “The others have the same eyes as you.”
Dylan didn’t move his gaze from the jewellery, but his back stiffened. I could tell that my question had made him uneasy.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. D is for ... Diagnosis.

Did you think that D might be for Dylan? I believe that I have covered the beautiful boy here: #MeetTheBoy

So, on to a different theme: the diagnosis. The story opens up quickly. In the very first chapter, Emily's mum is taken to hospital by ambulance after collapsing at home. In chapter two, her mum reveals the frightening truth, she tells Emily about her diagnosis:

“There’s no easy way to tell you.” Her voice was quiet.
I suddenly couldn’t breathe, not until she had told me what was going on.
“Just tell me,” I demanded.
“I’m dying, Emily.”
“What? No, you’re not. Don’t say things like that.”
“I have cancer. It has spread, and there’s nothing that they can do. It’s too far advanced.”

I could feel the bile climbing up my throat. I felt sick and lightheaded and almost as though I wasn’t really there. I heard someone sobbing hysterically, and then realised that it was me. I couldn’t see for the tears blurring my vision. My head hurt and my knees were trembling violently.

Emily's life changes dramatically after hearing those startling and distressing words. She has to quickly become older than her years and she struggles as she watches her mum weaken. I know that a couple of friends have read Black Eyed Boy, and they have also lost close family members to cancer. I warned them before they started the book as I hated to think that I may cause further upset. I can't imagine receiving that sort of diagnosis. Yet, I had to try and think about how that would feel. I only hope that my writing does such a crucifying situation some justice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. C is for ... Condition.

This theme is at the heart of the book. Dylan has a condition. He refers to it when Emily asks why his eyes are so dark. He’s very guarded and reluctant to properly explain it. This makes Emily uneasy, yet quietly determined to figure it all out for herself.

This is the biggest secret of the book and I kept it to myself for a long time, until the book was published. I didn’t want any spoilers escaping. I won’t even mention it here as I don’t wish to ruin the book for you if you haven’t read it yet. My lips are sealed.

Here’s an excerpt:

“How do you all have the condition?” I asked.
“It’s really complicated,” he said, turning away from me and letting go of my hand.
At once I regretted asking; again, he clearly didn’t want to talk about it. His defences shot up like a wall between us. I was sure that I had ruined the day with my non-stop questions, as he wasn’t ready to tell me everything yet.
“I’m going for a walk,” he said, leaping up and striding away, leaving me to sit there alone. That was the first time that he hadn’t invited me to go with him. He had shunned me, and that left me feeling bleak.
“He’ll be back,” said Siobhan, sitting beside me on the sand.
“There are a lot of things he won’t tell me,” I said.
“Yes, but you should trust that he has his reasons and that he will tell you in time.”


The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy. B is for ... Billy.

Billy. Emily’s best friend. Never before have I felt so utterly conflicted about a character that I have created. Sometimes I love him. Particularly when he’s helping Emily get through a hard time. Sometimes I hate him. Particularly when that darkness arrives and he shows signs of spite and malice.

They have been friends forever. The vast majority of Emily’s sweetest and happiest childhood memories revolve around Billy. Emily talks of their banter and easy silence. He understands the delicate intricacies of her dysfunctional home life. It all sounds so perfect on paper. And it would have been. If he hadn’t have developed a new set of romantic feelings towards her. And it is this fact that ruins everything between them.

Here’s an excerpt:

My earlier hopes of being friends with Billy had crashed and burned. I didn’t see a way back now; he had done an extraordinarily spiteful, nasty thing. I would never be able to trust him again, or be close to him. It was sad, but it was his fault, and I hoped that the vague platonic love which still, somehow, remained could be flushed down the River Esk, because I didn’t want it any more.

The A-Z of Black Eyed Boy: A is for ... Amusement Arcades.

Setting a novel in a seaside location means that there are a lot of fun places that can appear in your book. Is there anything more entertaining than the thrill of dropping in those two-pence coins and trying to win the crappy little prizes that may or may not eventually fall out of that machine? Not according to my children. They are absolutely addicted to this holiday pastime.

There is a scene in Black Eyed Boy, set inside an amusement arcade in Whitby and I love it because there is such a sense of merriment. Dylan wished to participate in all of the tourist rituals. This doesn’t apply to Emily. She isn’t a tourist. She lives there and she thinks that there’s nothing new or pleasurable for her to find. But she’s wrong.

Dylan is determined to win a plastic butterfly ring. Finally, it comes tumbling out and he gives it to Emily as a gift. I think that this is a rather special moment in the book. Teenagers don’t have an income and can’t afford much, and so the cheap ring takes on a new meaning and swiftly becomes a treasure. There is also humour in this scene and I enjoyed writing it because it gave me the opportunity to show a lighter side of Emily. Despite the turmoil and distress she is experiencing at the time, Dylan is able to make her smile, laugh and enjoy herself. Here is the scene I’m talking about:

I felt tearful, but I didn’t show it. I watched him drop his two-pence coins into the machine and I resolved to cheer up. So, it wouldn’t be permanent. But these days, what was? My life was changing so rapidly that I barely recognised it anyway. I could take pleasure in this time though; right now, I could stop overthinking and analysing every small detail. If the last week had taught me anything, it was that I had no power to change anything at all.
“How many coins?” I laughed as I heard the clank and clatter of copper change falling out of the machine. I bent down and scooped it all up for him. He immediately proceeded to put it all back in.
“We’re not leaving until I win that ring,” he said, pointing to a cheap-looking plastic ring with a butterfly attached.
“I can see why you want it so badly,” I mocked him, “it’s an intricate piece, it will look so pretty on you.”
“Ouch at the sarcasm. It’s for you. Not that you deserve it now, of course.”
“For me? I am honoured and touched and I will wear it forever,” I said, dramatically clutching my hand to my heart and fluttering my eyelashes.
His last coin brought about a massive tumble of coins, he reached down and looked really quite proud as he presented me with the ring.
“For you, my lady. Not exactly diamonds, I grant you, but here is a small token of my affection,” he said, going down on one knee, in front of everyone in the tiny amusement arcade. Once again, I knew I was blushing.
“Please stand up,” I whispered, “Everyone is looking.”
“So what? They’re just jealous of this magnificent treasure which I bestow upon you.”
I could see that people were watching us, but the comical charm of Dylan soon made me realise that I didn’t care either. I took the ring from his hand and placed it on my finger. I’d scoffed and ridiculed the ring, but I had half a mind to cherish it: already it was becoming a souvenir, a treasured memory of a much happier time. We left then, his appetite for the slot machines sated. Hand in hand, we sauntered along Pier Road.