Our guest blogger is no stranger to GHB. It’s the lovely Emma Shevah. She here to talk about books, boys, girls and HUMANS! Thanks for joining us, Emma. Over to you..
I’ve just finished a book tour and one of the questions I was frequently asked was why I’ve written two books with girl protagonists, and whether I’m going to write ‘about boys’.
I wanted to launch into a whole gender/ book debate, and ask ‘And what’s wrong with writing for girls then, huh?’ but I didn’t.
Instead, I explained that in my debut novel, ‘Dream on, Amber’, Amber Miyamoto was initially a boy called Shilo. Eight months after I’d signed the contract and we were editing the book, the publishers suggested changing Shilo to a girl. I didn’t want to. I dug in my heels. I wanted to write a book for children, not a book for boys or a book for girls. But I considered it, then rewrote one of the chapters with Shilo as Amber to see if I liked her, and I did. Amber is tiny, lacks confidence and is afraid of everything, but she finds her inner warrior, and I think we need more books like that and more girls like that in the world.
When it came to writing my second book, I wanted to write about someone who was adopted from an orphanage in Asia. Asian orphanages are full of children, most of whom are not orphans, and the vast majority of them are girls. Those girls, merely by being born female, will never know what it is to have a family, an education or a glowing future, and because that situation bothers me so much, I wanted to write about it. The story had to be about a girl.
I considered a Chinese or Thai girl, but then I met the Fabrizi family in Rome who have an adopted Cambodian daughter. The Fabrizi’s told me their adoption story and showed me photos, and Dara Palmer was born. Dara was adopted from Cambodia by English parents when she was one and a half and brought to the UK, and her dream is to be a Hollywood star.
On the date ‘Dara Palmer’ was published this summer, I was in Cambodia with my twelve-year-old son. We didn’t visit an orphanage because that only makes the situation there worse, so instead we went to see projects set up by a Battambang children’s charity to keep children out of orphanages and with families. We saw the school they’d built to educate them, the nursery they’d started so children didn’t miss out on school because they had to look after their younger siblings, and the creative arts centre and library.
It was an amazing experience. When I do school visits, I show photos of the children we met and the projects we visited, and boys and girls are fascinated. ‘Dara Palmer’s Major Drama’ is a story that needs to be about a girl because of the circumstances of the story. It doesn’t necessarily make it a girls’ book. And if it is a book about a girl, that’s because it needs to be or I wanted it to be, and it doesn’t mean boys can’t or shouldn’t read it. When we read, we’re experiencing being human, and some humans go through certain experiences and others don’t. But it’s all interesting.
I’m writing another book. The protagonist is a human. Actually, it’s two humans. And some animals. And I’m happy to say that some of the animals are girls.
Dara Palmer’s Major Drama is available NOW from bookshops and on e-reader.