Writing the next book – Billy’s Blitz

Posted on by Barbara Mitchelhill

  • When I read an account of a dramatic episode which had happened in 1940 in Balham, near London, it gave me the idea to write book set in World War 2. (I’d already written Run Rabbit Run which was set in that period.)
  •  I knew that many children had been evacuated from London to the safety of the countryside – but, as I researched, I found that some, for different reasons, had stayed behind.  There were children with no parents to care for them who managed to survive among the ruins of houses. I am always surprised how children adapt to difficult circumstance and often find fun, even adventure, in the blackest, most difficult times.

With these things in mind, I started to plan Billy’s Blitz.

Even after researching, planning and plotting, writing a book takes a good deal of hard work and it’s not finished when I type THE END, though you might think it is.  It’s a question of going back to the beginning.  Re-reading, re-writing and deleting.  The first draft won’t do.  Maybe it will take two or three or four.  After that, I try to put the book out of my mind for a few weeks and then I come back to it ‘fresh’ and work again.  Eventually, when I’m exhausted by it and think I’ve made the story as good as I possibly can, I send it off to my editor.  At first it’s a relief and I feel a sense of freedom – but this lasts for little more than twenty-four hours.  Then I begin to worry.  ‘Why haven’t I heard from my editor?’  ‘What if she doesn’t like it?’  And when, at last, an email arrives, she doesn’t say, ‘That’s perfect!’ She sends me her comments and suggestions on my work.  Lots of them.  Because she’s a very experienced and talented editor, her suggestions are always helpful.  She’s there to help me improve my book – a bit like a singing teacher who encourages you to sing better than ever.   So I begin to write again taking her comments and suggestions into account.

  • The book is now finished (April 2014).  I’ve seen the cover which shows Billy with his sister Rose playing on a bomb site.  His dog, Sheba, is on the back cover – but their mate All-Off, isn’t there as he doesn’t appear until almost half way through the book.  Last week, I checked the printer’s proofs for mistakes and now I have nothing left to do except wait until July when copies go into the shops and I start visiting schools to talk about it.

It’s like being on holiday!  Hurray!

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