Names, advice

Sally Odgers sodgers at
Tue Mar 14 20:38:10 EST 2006

Jon said, and Margaret replied;

>You mean your phone disc didn't come with a fiction
section? with the names, addresses and phone numbers
for fictional characters? How do you get in touch with
them if you need them to appear in another book?

>We don't get in touch with them, Jon, they call us....and sometimes it's a long wait.

I add -

And sometimes, they've become historical novel characters in the meantime...

It's particularly bad when you write for children... my 1980s teens should by now be in their 30s, so how can I pick them up at still 15? Either I have to set the story in the 80s - making it retro, if not exactly historical, or else drag them into the Noughties, where they, their attitudes and ideas don't fit...

Recently, I had cause to revisit a book I wrote in the early 1990s when it was the subject of an on-line discussion group. Below, for anyone interested, are the authors notes I supplied along with an e-copy of the novel... acknowledging the passing of time and the changing of attitudes in a dozen years.


Just for the interested, who might like to know how this book came about, and how it has dated, and why I could never revisit my teenaged characters.


In the late 1980s, I was hired by a local high school to help a group of Year 9 students write an original musical play. We were given a book to adapt - the story of Cole, a Victorian shopkeeper who started "Cole's Variety Stores". Cole spent time in the goldfields, had a photography business, produced Funny Picture Books and then began his cheap and cheerful shopping arcades.

The five kids I was assigned were cheerful, intelligent and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, they were also busy. Apart from the first session, I never did manage to get them all together at the one time. They had Library Duty, Sport, Music etc... it was very disappointing. Eventually, I wrote 95% of the script myself, and the words and melody to all but one of the songs. I thought then, and think now, the school should have made more of an effort to release the team for proper sessions, or else chosen people without so many other commitments.

So - I did what I tend to do in such circumstances. I put it right in a book! 

Robin Herrick is based loosely on one of the teens I met, but the others are made up. In fact, Dominic Grant and Amber Dale were existing characters from my earlier books. Dominic had appeared in The Magician's Box and Amber in Down River, Winter-Spring Garden, and The Suitcase.

So, there's the story behind the story. As for the story behind the play, there really was a case where someone committed a crime especially to get transported to Van Diemens Land... however, it was a young man who wanted to join his uncle.

The book has dated in some ways. Herrick's boot-sneakers are a thing of the past, computers no longer behave as Underwood's did and these days the teens would probably be more computer literate than their teacher. The film Crocodile Dundee, which Herrick imitated, is hardly cool enough for today's kids, buses run much more frequently and kids use them much more often. They no longer check with their parents before going off for the day. Boys and girls begin to go out together much earlier. Really, it's amazing how much things have changed in a bare dozen years. 

Some of the book was keyed in by hand, most of it was scanned. Errors may have sneaked in, especially in punctuation. I did (heroically) refrain from making improvements. If I were writing it in 2001, I would definitely lose some of the adverbs...

If you have enjoyed ANOTHER GOOD FRIEND, I hope you'll go on and read the sequel, ALL THE SEA BETWEEN, in which the Team reunites to produce and perform the play.


By Sally Odgers By Request - visit my new project at and have your say.

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