I get asked all the time how much my books are inspired by my own life. While none of my stories is fully autobiographical, and I don’t like to embarrass my family by putting them directly into my stories, I know that things and people around me do influence my work, and even sneak into my books, sometimes unintentionally.
One thing I have noticed is the number of teachers in my books. One reason for this is that I write children’s books – and in most kids’ lives there are teachers. But, on top of that I was (am?) a teacher myself for so many years, that they sneak into my books even when I don’t plan on them being there. And, if I’m honest there’s a bit of me reflected in those teachers – either in the teacher I was, or the teacher I wish I was.
So, who are my teachers, and why are they there? In this series of posts, I’m going to introduce you to some of my teacher characters. First up, I’m going to talk about my most recent teacher characters.
Who is My Teacher Character? Stanley Moore, and his twin sister Elizabeth.
What Book do they appear in?
Australia’s Great War: 1915 (that’s Stanley, with the amazing eyes, on the front cover).
Why are they there?
When I was planning 1915, I needed a soldier character who young readers could relate to. I thought about an older brother, a teen who had put his age up, a parent, lots of things. But then I read about the impact of the Great War on school communities, and realised that Stanley could be a teacher, which would connect him with children back home. When I wondered who could be teaching his old students, I decided it could be his sister. This again would strengthen his links with the home front, which was a side of the war I really wanted to explore.
What role do they play?
Stanley is the book’s main character, and Elizabeth plays a strong supporting role. Stanley has left his teaching job behind to enlist in Word War 1 (also called the Great War), and Elizabeth is now teaching his former class. Stanley writes letters and poems for his students, and Elizabeth has them write back, helping them to understand what is happening at Gallipoli. Both show great compassion to their students, even at times when their own lives are difficult.
What did I learn writing about them?
1915 is my longest published novel, and so I learnt a lot about character development as I put myself into Stanley’s shoes, and then Elizabeth’s. I also learnt about the impact that having a teacher at war could have on the children back home, and on the whole school community. And, as a teacher, I was reminded that stuff that happens outside the classroom can have a big impact on what happens inside the classroom. I wish as a teacher that I could be as intuitive as this pair.
Favourite Stanley moment?
Spoiler alert. One of Stanley’s friends, Miles, is also the father of two of his students. When Miles is killed, Stanley takes the time to write to the boys and let them know their dad was a hero.
Do you have a favourite teacher character in a book you’ve read? I’d love to hear about him or her. And I’ll be back in a few days to talk about another of my teacher characters, Miss Bruff.
Australia’s Great War: 1915, published by Scholastic Australia, is available in all good bookstores.