Freddie’s published story is special. But there’s another story – the story behind his story – which deserves to be told. It starts with another big change and another journey north. And it is filled with the same kind of surprising and lovely findings as the novel…
This is the story of how Freddie came to be.
It’s still about him of course. But it’s partly Liz’s story too…
The Finding of Freddie Perkins started life with another name, five fewer chapters and gift-wrapped. Because it was a Christmas present for a friend before it was ever a published novel.
Liz was an avid reader as a child – losing herself completely in the worlds of Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Narnia and the Noel Streatfield ‘shoes’ series…
It was this love of entering the land of make-believe that lay behind her decision to study English Literature. And it was this continued appreciation for the wonder of the worlds children’s authors create that meant she always continued to love their books more than adults’ fiction as she grew older.
In children’s fiction, cynicism can always conquered by love, justice, peace and hope. And there are no limits on wonder, mystery or strange but good creatures…
When Liz started working after University, writing rather than reading quickly became her main activity. However, rather than writing about other worlds, she used her passion for words to try and change this one. She mostly writes for charities trying to alleviate poverty and injustice. And most of her song-writing and creativity outside her paid work focuses on these aims too.
She still remembers a conversation over ‘Stop for coffee’ on a Friday morning at Christian Aid when she half surprised herself with her answer to the question, ‘What would you be doing if you weren’t trying to change the world and you could do something that you don’t have time for now – just for yourself?’
‘I think I’d write children’s books,’ she said.
In 2010 Liz left Christian Aid after five and a half years. Not to write children’s fiction, but to move forward with the next step in the same journey she’d been on since graduating.
That journey led her to co-found a project called the Sanctuary. And as a result to move to freelance writing to open up more of time and flexibility for this voluntary work.
It also led her to move north to a more central part of the UK – Ilkley, in West Yorkshire.
These two things meant that when it came to December 2010, Liz faced three new realities: more time (because she was somewhere new and didn’t know as many people); more inspiration (because she was already creatively stimulated by her beautiful new surroundings); and less money (because she had given up her job to freelance part-time).
This led to a Christmas of making everyone’s presents. Cushions; journals and… for one friend – a story based on an idea they had once chatted about on a long walk.
It was supposed to be a short story but Freddie came to life beneath Liz’s fingers as she typed, and with a free weekend at her disposal, she decided to keep telling his story. It turned out to be a wonderful experience immersing herself in his world as it unfolded sentence by sentence.
That Christmas a number of different sets of friends and family exchanged watching films for reading Freddie’s story by the fire. And most of them seemed strangely hooked. A few began to mention trying to get the book published. Liz knew the chances were incredibly slim and wasn’t sure about investing a huge amount of time in trying to do something that seemed so unlikely.
But she decided to push one door.
She found one publishing house – A&C Black (which are now part of Bloomsbury) – which she knew of and respected highly. But which still took unsolicited manuscripts. And she knew one person working in publishing who was able to get her the name of the children’s fiction editor so she could email directly.
So she sent one copy in one word document attached to one email to one editor.
Then there was a lot of waiting.
But that editor turned out to be just the right one. Under Kate Paice’s skilled guidance there were some name changes, improvements to detail and a few extra chapters added to expand the story.
More importantly though, Freddie gained a firm friend. She understood him completely, helped him become fully himself and took him first to the editorial board, then all the way through production and on to your bookshelf.
Freddie had been found.
It had taken a lot of hope, faith and prayer but somehow, in a sort of behind the scenes kind of way, one of Liz’s dreams had come true – one that she hadn’t thought she’d ever have the time to prioritise pursuing.
After all this, Liz is of course making space to find her next story.
And Freddie? Well, he’s ready to tell his to anyone who will listen. So are you sitting comfortably?