So this is it – the last date on my blog tour! Blog Tour makes me sound so rock and roll, doesn’t it? Like I’ve been playing to sell-out arenas, biting heads off birds live on stage, throwing TVs out of hotel windows and hanging out with groupies at wild after-show parties. But I’m telling you, this blog tour lark isn’t all sex, drugs and rock and roll, you know (actually, it’s none of the above!) – it’s flipping hard work! And since embarking on this epic tour, I have gained new respect for bloggers the world over. Blogging is no cake walk (although I have eaten a lot of cakes along the way – for inspiration purposes, you understand!). Writing blogs is an art form – like haiku, and origami and ice-dancing and hula-hooping and lots of other brilliant, clever things that I’ve always wanted to be able to do. So, bloggers of the world – I salute you!
Anyway, I was trying to think what to say in my final blog. I mean, what do all the rock-stars say on the last nights of their tours? Well, I saw The Spice Girls do their last ever gig in 2000 (Posh sang one line – bless her!). Oh, and I recently saw the closing night of the Glee UK tour at the O2 ( and OMG – The Warblers singing Teenage Dream and Kurt putting a ring on it: life don’t get much better than that!) Now I’m not sure either qualifies as strictly rock and roll but they were closing tour dates, and they both seemed to involve a lot of waving mobile phones in the air and the performers blubbing, ‘You’ve been a beautiful audience. We love you!’ and stuff like that.
So, I figured in the spirit of closing night schmaltz, I’d use my last blog to pay tribute to all the amazing people who inspired We Can be Heroes which is a bit icky and not very rock and roll, but there you have it.
So, first up have to be the three American teenagers who I featured in The Times article I wrote in 2008 about kids who had lost a parent in the 2001 Terrorist attacks http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article4706754.ece the spoke so movingly about answer phone messages, not being able to remember a parent’s face anymore, anger at the media and 9/11 fatigue, but they also offered a message of hope which seems like a good place to end on. ‘After 9/11 happened, I remember saying: How am I ever gonna be happy?’ said Bridget whose father, a security guard in the World Trade Centre ran back into the building when he heard the explosion go off. ‘But I figured it’s by making other people happy. It’s by doing good deeds for other people. That’s how—that’s what makes me happy!’
Then there’s Martin Hart, the British boy whose father was killed in the 7 July London bombings and who I interviewed for the same article. ‘I still really struggle to forgive the people who killed my dad,’ he told me. ‘But those of us who have suffered at the hands of terrorists can play a really important role in shaping the future of the world and helping to overcome terrorism. We have to be better than the terrorists – it’s as simple as that.’
Those kids really inspired me and I had them in my mind the whole time I wrote We Can be Heroes. No novel could hope to do justice to the terrible events that have shaped their lives and sometimes I am troubled and wonder if any novelist even has the right to use real-life events as a springboard for fiction. But We Can be Heroes is intended as a tribute to the strength, fortitude and honesty of those kids and I really hope they might read it one day and maybe even tell me what they think.
But, like Ben says at the start of the book, We Can be Heroes is not just a story about 9/11, and a couple of other articles I wrote also fed into it. I wrote another piece for The Times on mothers who were separated from their children http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article4052406.ece
It’s also about kids suffering from I interviewed some incredibly brave women who told heartbreaking stories of estrangement from their kids and Parental Alienation Syndrome (which is a controversial term but basically means that one parent brainwashes a child until they believe they hate the other parent.. They inspired Jed’s storyline in the book and my heart goes out to them every day because I can imagine nothing worse than losing my children (rascally monkey-nuts that they are!) – nothing in the world.
Oh, and to the Grandparents Association. Cos I wrote another article on why grandparents are so important for a child’s psychological well-being which also inspired the novel http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article4098822.ece We can be Heroes is kind of a novel about grannies and granddads (and Gobbas, Gramps, Poppas and Nanas, Nannies, Oumas and the rest) and how fab they are! Lord love you all!
And finally to the amazing people from the Childhood Bereavement Trust and Winston’s wish who helped me with another article on grieving children, and to the families who I interviewed in the course of writing it.
Then it’s thanks to Chadders – Ollie Chadwick – a pesky home-work shy Year 11 who once told me, ‘You know, Miss, after 9/11 I used to draw cartoons of planes flying into towers’. Right there and then I had a classic light-bulb moment (I swear if you’d looked closely you’d have seen a little surge on the national grid just above my forehead). Chadders is the reason why my main character Ben doodles his way through the novel, seeing everything in terms of cartoon narrative, making comic strip versions of himself and his pals and dramatising their story-line in a manga cartoon strip that appears at the back of the book. So, Chadders, you are forgiven for all those late homeworks and may henceforth consider yourself an inspiration!!!
And while I’m at it, ta very much to the Year 9 manga boys who spent their time doodling in the back of my class last year and to 7J (promised I’d mention you, didn’t I, guys!) – muses, each and every one of you!
Big thanks too to the original Priti who was a little girl in my first ever form group. I was only 22 – a mere whippersnapper of a teacher – and Upper 4A were the sweetest bunch of mad little bonkers girls ever known and they took me to their hearts. The character of Priti is a mixture of all of you – Kezia, Apekshah, Miriam, Priti and the rest, in fond memory of Shaun the sheep and magic pebbles. She’s also inspired by numerous other weird, wonderful and wacky little girls I’ve had the very great pleasure of teaching over the years; and my childhood pal Kit, who was Priti in Disney socks; and my little girl Elsie who is only six but is already more bling than Beyonce and could take on Kurt from ‘Glee’ in a jazz hands/spirit fingers contest –and trounce him!
Now that’s enough of all the schmaltzy nonsense! My final thank yous go to Alex Rider (I know he’s not real but Alex Pettyfer is and in my fantasy – you know the one when I lose 20 years and 10lbs and marry Robert Pattenden? – yeah, well in that Alex Pettyfer is my spare rainy-day lover!) And We Can be Heroes is massively influenced by the whole teen spy genre (Young Bond, Alex Rider, Cherub etc) which my eight year old son has introduced me to and to which I am now totally addicted.
And while I’m at it I guess I’d better thank High School Musical and Hannah Montana and Glee and Dawson’s Creek and all the other cheesy American High School movie/ mini series which I love unashamedly and irredeemably. Especially Veronica Mars whose ghost echoes through my novel – or so I like to think! I love you, Logan!
And to Sally Nicholls from whose brilliant book Ways to Live Forever I shamelessly stole the idea of the lists. And Son of Rambow and Juno – films that do in celluloid what I am trying do in print (and on the big screen if anybody fancies optioning my novel!!!) And to the Muhammed family of Elm Grove who took me and baby Joe in during the power cut, taught me that Islam is an act of love and proved it when they invited all the neighbours (even the crack den dwellers, the ladies-of-the-night, the stoned squatters and the tramp who slept in Holly Grove park) to their street party wedding.
Flipping ‘eck! It’s turning into an Oscar acceptance speech. I’ll be blubbing like Gwynnie next – and whilst I’m fond of the Gwn-ster as Holly Holliday, I don’t want to catch that holier-than-thou hippiness and naming-my-kids-after-fruits disease – plus, I don’t have a thing to wear on the red carpet – so best stop there, methinks.
So that’s it – the end of my blog-fest. Might actually have to go off and write another novel now! Oh, yes – must mention next novel or publishers will never forgive me. It’s called Pop! tagline: ‘Never mess with the rules of Talent TV’ (or something like that) and it’s about these kids from oop North (like me) who decide to enter a TV talent contest as a way to escape the from credit-crunch crapness, picket-lines, walkabout mams, pushy parents with Olympic dreams and a celeb-gossip obsession. It’s Billy Elliot meets Slumdog Millionaire via Britain’s got Talent and it comes out next summer (if I ever get round to finishing it!).
So final thanks to all of you who’ve followed me on my blog tour. I still can’t believe anybody would be remotely interested in anything I’ve got to say and am therefore terribly touched. If you want to keep hearing me wittering on then you can follow me on Twitter @catherinebruton or at my website www.catherinebruton.com where I will be spouting a whole lot more nonsense and will keep you up to date with all the latest news and reviews.
So, that’s it. You’ve been a beautiful audience. I love you all! I’ll always be grateful for the kindness of strangers (sorry, Blanche!) Thank you and goodnight!