Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

This week, it’s all been about covers and copy edits, which have both been exciting, if in different ways. They mark a real staging point on the publication journey: it’s not about a pile of manuscript pages any more. Before long, now, I’ll have a proper book…

Talking about the edits led to one of my favourite threads ever on Facebook, with writer friends sharing the overused words they’d had to cut out pre-publication. We all had our own: my characters are always ‘looking’, and spend a lot of time pushing themselves up on to their elbows. (nb. see how I now know that it’s ‘on to’ and not ‘onto’…). Everyone’s pet words were different: some that came up were ‘only’ and ‘smile’, ‘leaning on door frames’, ‘starting’ to do something. It was a genuine relief to know it wasn’t just me!

Then, after I shared the cover for The Summer of Secrets on Twitter, I had a message through my website from the mother of one of the girls in the picture that had been used, saying how much they were looking forward to reading it, and could I sign some for their family. Social media can be so brilliant!

But today is my birthday, so I’m having a little break from book-related work. My daughter asked me this morning what the earliest birthday I could remember was. There was one where I got furniture for my doll’s house. And then the one when my grandma made me a cake with a zoo on the top. I don’t think that counts, though, because I only really know about that because of the photo in the family album. Then I remembered Rosemary Higgs.

We were in the same class at Wanborough Primary School and shared a birthday. As I remember it, this made us practically blood sisters. I told Mrs Adams, who taught one of the older classes, that we were twins because our parties were on the same day, and was crushed by her kind explanation about the difference between parties and birth dates. She didn’t let me explain that I’d just got the wrong word by mistake. But it didn’t matter. At Rosemary’s party, I sat next to her, and had one of the special birthday cake ornaments on my slice. We were friends forever, bound by that magical date. But Rosemary’s family moved away. They came back once for a visit, to some event at the village hall. I was crippled with shyness, broken only when she came up and whispered, ‘Let’s pretend we’re sisters.’

Birthday Twin

On a later birthday, I think my tenth, another friend came round for the afternoon, and we tried chamomile tea in my Peter Rabbit tea-set. Neither of us liked it much (my mum didn’t know about the need for honey) and I think we both wished we’d got the bread and milk and blackberries option, like the good bunnies. Then, to mark it being a special birthday, Mum suggested we talked to Rosemary on the phone. It wasn’t a success. Looking back, I suspect that she’d kind of forgotten who I was. In fact, I have the feeling that our whole, special, significant friendship probably lasted no more than a few weeks, brought into being by a coincidence of timing and staying in my memory because she left whilst it was at its height.

When I first started writing The Summer of Secrets, one of my triggers was the ability we now have to come across, or search for, old acquaintances on-line. I can remember how much fun it was to rummage around on Friends Reunited, and I love being in contact on Facebook with all sorts of friends from the many staging posts of my life. Helen, my main character, originally found Victoria, the friend who had so major an impact on her life, through social media. This didn’t make its way into the final edit. Instead, she stumbles across her at a gallery, where Victoria has an exhibition. But what did remain was the importance of remembered friendship, the imbalance when the friendship turns out to have been more significant on one side, and what happens when you actually meet up again.

If anyone does know Rosemary, tell her I said hi 🙂


The Summer of Secrets is now available for pre-order here, and will be published in the UK on August 13th. Yippee!!

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