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) 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.