I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for The Race by Roy Peachey. The Race is a brilliant, very cleverly told story about running, family, perseverance and being true to yourself. With the Olympics in full flow, it is the perfect book to read between watching the Games. This morning Roy has shared his thoughts about the challenges of writing a dual narrative. Have a read and be sure to get your copy of this fantastic, original and inspiring story.
‘The Race is a dual narrative, middle grade novel, featuring Lili, a young Chinese-British sprinter in the modern day, and Eric “Chariots of Fire” Liddell, star of the 1924 Olympics. Lili and Eric have many things in common: they were both born in China and grew up in Britain; they both love running fast; and they both believe in doing the right thing even when put under great pressure.
However, the challenge in writing The Race was not finding similarities between the two protagonists, but ensuring that they had their own distinctive voices. Lili had to sound like a twelve-year old girl and Eric had to grow through the book. When we first meet him, he is only five-years old and when we leave him he is in his forties.
It was also vital that the historical sections sounded right. Period dramas often pay great attention to tiny details of clothing and food, while serving up horrid anachronisms in the script. I have a history degree, so maybe this bugs me more than it does most people, but I wanted to ensure that Eric genuinely sounded like someone who lived in the first half of the twentieth century.
However, getting his voice right caused problems of its own because I also had to remember my audience. My first novel, Between Darkness and Light, was written for adults. I spent many months, if not years, doing my research and I was able to use the full resources of the English language when doing so (as well as a little Chinese, French and Breton!) But I was writing The Race for a different readership and so I had to adapt.
That wasn’t quite as difficult as it might sound for three reasons. Firstly, my own children are the age of my target audience, so I tried out The Race on them. Secondly, my day job is teaching in a secondary school, so I had my students in mind when trying to pitch the book at the right level. And, thirdly, I tapped into my own inner child. We lose our child-like qualities at our peril, especially if we are children’s authors, and can sometimes be too grown up for our own good.
What does this mean in practice? It means that I laughed at my own jokes quite a lot. I figured that I might as well enjoy my book, even if no one else did. Fortunately, The Race has been well reviewed, so it seems as though my sense of humour isn’t as quirky as I had feared. Maybe Lili – if she really existed – might have enjoyed the book. I sometimes even dare to hope that Eric Liddell might have approved as well. Which makes me wonder if liking your own characters is, in the end, the key to writing a good dual narrative. I certainly like and admire Lili and Eric, and I hope you will too. ‘
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