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  • Writer's pictureMike Gould

The Storm-chasers’ Daughter

When you create a story, the characters take on a life of their own. How many times have we heard this said? But what does it mean? No writer surely believes the character lives in the physical sense of the word. There is no flesh and blood being who sits in the room next to you as you type. And yet.....

Leila and Bear, the teenage protagonists of my unpublished YA novel The Storm-chasers' Daughter live in a sort of limbo. Part of this is the nature of writing fiction, the way these nascent, then half-formed and finally fully-fledged beings hover in the consciousness of their creator. But also the way they already exist outside of him or her. Because once you commit their names to print, you also invent another reader. Not you, but a nascent audience who, unlike Leila and Bear, are not yet fledged. They only really appear once you share the work, launch it into the sea of imagined faces, the titled head of a child reading by a window, or a fellow writer or editor critiquing it in their study, on a train, or next to the slush pile.

My novel has not yet been adopted by an agent. In many ways, I'm a lucky person. I don't depend on the success of this work to keep the wolf from the door. My other writing - educational stuff mostly - does that. So, why is it I feel so frustrated? I guess it's partly pride: I'm widely-published in other forms (even short novels for international students) so how come I can't get over the line with this work? But it is also to do with Leila and Bear and their story. To say I care about them as if they were my own children would be a lie. But I do feel that out there is an audience who may get something out of making their acquaintance, these two fierce female friends, struggling with an adult world which is making all the wrong decisions. I think they might recognise themselves in 'my girls'. Releasing them from the limbo of the finished but unpublished work.

At one point in the novel, they swim across a filthy lake, escaping men on the other shore, helping each other to cross to the safety of the other side. Finally, they make it...

'Slowly, first on their knees and then staggering upright, like drunken sailors, they pulled themselves out of the water and collapsed on the shore, lying on their backs, sucking in air. Leila looked across at Bear, lying beside her. All she could see was the tangled mass of brown hair which obscured Bear’s cheek, and her chest rising and falling beneath her sodden t-shirt. She felt for Bear's hand and Bear let her take it, gripping it fiercely, as the little girl had gripped her neck before she'd slipped away. She wouldn't let Bear go, she told herself.'

I'd be happy to let both of them go now. So, agents, if you're reading this, help them fledge.

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