Posted by kirstyes
Today is my stop on the Return to the Secret Garden Blog Tour. I asked author Holly Webb to share her thoughts on writing with existing characters. Here’s what she had to say:
I dithered about the idea of writing a sequel to The Secret Garden for ages. It was suggested to me by my then editor at Scholastic, the lovely Zoe Griffiths, when we were discussing favourite books from childhood. That was a good five years before the equally lovely Lucy Rogers nudged me into thinking about it again! Apart from it just not being the right time, I think it was the idea of taking someone else’s characters that worried me.
If you know The Secret Garden, you’ll remember that Mary Lennox is fabulous. Grumpy and friendless, she arrives in England to find the whole place is wet and miserable and wuthering. She only goes out into the wintry gardens because she’s bored and there’s nothing for her to do and hardly anyone for her to talk to. But Frances Hodgson Burnett makes this unlikable child in a grim old house fascinating. For me it was the way the house, and especially the secret garden itself changed Mary that was the wonderful part of the book, and I wanted to recreate that feeling. So I cheated – even though Return to the Secret Garden is a sequel, and many of the characters from the original book reappear, it’s not a direct continuation of Mary’s story. It’s set just under thirty years later, at the outbreak of the Second World War, and another lonely child arrives at Misselthwaite.
I loved introducing Emmie to the garden – and those parts of the book were very easy to write. The gardens and the house are almost characters themselves in The Secret Garden, and I loved working with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s landscape (although I had to draw several maps to try and work out the geography of the gardens, and I still don’t think I’ve got it right…)
It felt very difficult, though, to make decisions about Mary, Colin and Dickon and what had happened to them. But one thing seemed obvious – The Secret Garden was published in 1911 (though it first appeared in 1910 as a serial in The American Magazine, which is really interesting, as it wasn’t meant to be a children’s book). Mary and Colin are 10, and Dickon is 12 – so towards the end of the First World War, Dickon at least would have had to fight. What would that have done to such a happy, friendly child, whose life was shaped by loving nature and his Yorkshire landscape? And even if they survived the First World War, those children would have been in their late thirties, possibly raising their own families, when the Second World War broke out.
So many opportunities to take their story on…
I’m really looking forward to re-reading the original and seeing how Holly has moved things on in her follow up. I really love the idea of the landscape as a character too – I wonder how the environment grows up too? Thanks to Scholastic for sending me a copy and to Faye Rogers for organising the tour.
There is a tour wide giveaway that ends today for a copy of both books (UK and Ireland only). Unfortunately I can’t embed the rafflecopter in my blog so just follow this link to enter.
If you can’t wait – ‘Return to the Secret Garden’ is available from book retailers now.
Check out today’s other blog tour post over at YA Under My Skin and catch up with the rest of the tour by following the links on the banner.
Coming Thursday 22nd October – Out of Orbit Blog Tour with author Chele Cooke’s Top Ten Series.