Ridley: I was feeling nostalgic this week. I was trying to think back on where my love of books began. I’ve always been encouraged to read. In my earliest memories, I was read to by my parents, a lot of it was Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin) and Enid Blyton (Famous Five and The Secret Seven!)
Then after them I also had Teddy Ruxpin.
He was my favourite toy. You slotted a tape into his back and you could read along with him. His little mouth and eyes would move as he spoke. For some reason, the story I remember most is the journey to the centre of the earth. I was enraptured as noises emerged from him as we ‘travelled’ downwards and we began our adventure. If I ever had children, I’d definitely buy one for them. I’d probably end up like the woman in this video (where supposedly they released Teddy R again in 2006? Hadn’t heard about that!)
I might mention here that some of my childhood was spent in America, so not a lot of my friends can relate to my Teddy Ruxpin experiences, never mind my Puffalump, Cabbage Patch kids, playdough (marla here, its harder to work with and the colours are darker) and books about Clifford the Big Red Dog. (Though I did love Bosco as much as every other Irish child did. Latimer can tell us about her early memories at some point, we can see how much we differ in our early years! We’ve had these conversations before, it always ends up descending into sweet discussions. Where I had buggals, twinkies and chewing gum with fake tattoos wrapped around them, she had penny sweets, macaroon bars, fruit salads, Kimberley and Mikado biscuits, Taytos-mind I ended up having all of these too-eventually!)
Anyway, slipping back on to this particular memory lane and away from the food one, I progressed onto reading books by Tom McCaughren such as ‘Run Swift Run Free’, ‘Run to Earth’, ‘Run with the Wind’. These were stories all about foxes and their lives in the woods (Hop-along and Old Sage Brush) One of the best Christmas presents I ever got as a child was an autographed book of ‘Run to the Wild Wood’. These books were a definite follow on from Beatrix Potter’s tales! And watching The Animals of Farthing Woods! They were all set in Ireland. I think I did start reading Irish authors after that, though not by any particular design or need to be patriotic. The primary school I attended was fantastic for bringing in authors to speak with us, who of course were Irish, there weren’t many writers from other countries touring around after all!
I got a few more books autographed after that, including Gordon Snell (Maeve Binchey’s husband) and Marita Conlon McKenna (Under the Hawthorn Tree-was her first book in a trilogy about the Great Irish famine and the survival of three children). I read her books when I was around 12 years old or so. They were great. I was lucky enough to meet Marita not long afterwards due to one of these school visits, I had a little stack of books for her to sign. She was absolutely lovely, even laughed when
she saw me coming. In the final autograph she has ‘Another bookworm, lots of luck!’ It was then my desire to become an author really crystallised, to have people read my work and love it like we loved her books. We’d always written short stories in English class and I’d started to write numerous ‘novels’ at home. I’d always enjoyed it.
There were numerous other fantastic authors that caught my interest as a young teen including Mark O’Sullivan (‘Melody for Nora’-about a girl living during the civil war in
Ireland), Siobhan Parkinson (‘Amelia’-also during the same time of civil unrest), Gerard Whelan (‘Out of Nowhere’-a boy wakes up with no memory in a monastery and all life outside its stone walls has disappeared) and Orla Melling (‘The Druid’s tune’-wouldn’t you want a gorgeous Celtic war chieftain falling in love with you? and ‘The Hunter’s Moon’-how about the High King of Fairie after you? Yes please!).
From then on, I was sucked into the massive world of Point fiction, Point horror, Point Romance for many a year. It was through Point that I discovered
Philip Pullman as well. I could go on and on about what else I’ve read or would like to but I’ve limited myself to just discussing my childhood, otherwise you might get bored (more so than you are already perhaps!).
These days, I have tried to honed my skills at finding the best fantasy stories with great plots interwoven with an exciting love story. It’s why I love the Young Adult genre, it often has this, along with there being numerous options within it and they’re imaginative!
So I just leave you with a question or two, when did your desire to become a writer spark? And what books do you remember as a child?
(Instantly, does anyone else have this version of Twilight? I bought it long before Stephenie Meyer had written any sequels and I remember thinking if she wrote any more books they’d probably be quite good! This version was before the black covers! It’s kind of a strange picture really.)