As with both Pearl Verses the World and Toppling, I’d like to share a bit about the process behind the writing of Roses are Blue. While the first two came out within a year of each other, Roses are Blue came four years after Toppling – which seemed an age at the time. Little did I know that it would six years after Roses came out before my next verse novel would be published. Now THAT has seemed an interminable age.
Back to Roses are Blue – the four year gap is representative of the struggle to write my third verse novel. The first two were really successful – winning awards and critical acclaim, and selling well, which was amazing, but also did lead to some (mostly self-imposed) pressure to keep producing work of that quality. Additionally, I had found writing and talking about such difficult topics emotionally draining, and I was really keen that my next verse novel would be lighter and, dare I say it, fluffier. So I tried to write a verse novel from a cat’s perspective (literally fluffier). I really liked that story (and still do), but my publisher didn’t, and it is languishing in my metaphorical bottom drawer.
But I was still determined to keep writing verse novels, and was keen, because the mothers in my novels are often key figures, to write a story about mothers and daughters. The daughter character, who later revealed her name to be Amber, started talking to me very quickly – wanting me to write all about her different mum. But when I started writing I had no idea just what it was about her mum that would be different. When I realised what it would be – that Mum is not just different from other mums, but that, as the result of a terrible accident, she is really different than she was a year ago – I knew I had a story. But what I didn’t know as whether I could tell it. I had been looking for a lighter topic and had, somehow, found myself writing one that was anything but light.
But I listened to Amber and I wrote the story and thought that, although it was sad, it was an important story. But my publisher was not keen – because it was too sad. This surprised me – I was, after all, known for writing sad stories. My previous two sad stories had won awards. I was not impressed. But they were right (publishers usually are!). The story I had written was lacking the most important ingredient – hope. I knew in my heart that there was hope for Amber (and her mum) at the end of the story – but somehow it was not there on the page. Those who read that first manuscript were left unsatisfied.
It took a lot of rewriting to find a way to put that hope there for the reader – and Amber – to find. One of the threads that was strengthened to give that hope was the story of Leroy, a minor character initially, who because more important in subsequent drafts, and who, I think, helps to demonstrate why Amber has some of the feelings she does.
The story went back and forth a bit before it was finally accepted but eventually I got it right and it was accepted and then published. One of the bonuses of this delay was that, by the time it was accepted, the up and coming illustrator Gabriel Evans (pictured with left) was available, and given the task of bringing Amber and her world to life, which he did so beautifully.
Roses are Blue was published in 2014, and is still in print. Little did I know then that it would be SIX years till my next verse novel was released – but now, that six years is just days away from being up. I’m excited!