One of my favourite moments in Finding Granny wasn’t in the first draft. It wasn’t even part of the story when I pitched it to my publisher at the NSW Writers’ Centre’s Kids and YA Festival in 2016. “I won’t have time to read it if you send it to me now,” she told me. “Send it in a month.”
So I had a month. A month to wait and sweat. A month to read and re-read my manuscript, to wonder if it would be good enough. I had already worked through the manuscript with my critique group. When I took it to the festival, I thought it was as good as it could be. But in that month, I could see something was still missing. The climax was too quick. Granny’s character didn’t shine through. So I sat down and re-wrote it. Granny’s physiotherapy sessions became art therapy. At the climax, two spreads became five. And Granny began to sparkle.
Finding Granny is written unashamedly from the point of view of the child. When Granny has a stroke, Edie doesn’t stop to wonder what her grandmother is going through. She doesn’t ask herself how her mother is feeling. Her Granny was the centre of her world, and now, she isn’t there any more. At least, that’s how it seems to Edie.
I don’t regret this viewpoint. Edie responds just as a child would. But I am glad that I took a little time, fleshed out some scenes and gave Granny some agency that she didn’t have in the early drafts. And I am very grateful to the illustrator Gwynneth Jones, who has brought to life not only Granny, but also Edie’s poor, careworn mother, who scarcely gets a mention in the text, but who is there in the background, caring for everyone, without receiving any support herself.
Adults, especially good, kind adults, play second fiddle in children’s stories. That’s exactly as it should be. But supporting characters don’t need to be cardboard cut-outs. I’m very grateful that Anouska Jones from EK Books wasn’t able to look at my manuscript straight away. I’m glad that she gave me that month. Because that month allowed me to find Granny…
This article is published as part of Kate Simpson’s blog tour for Finding Granny, organised by Books On Tour.