Fears and tears in tale of fatherless boy

By Linda Hall


This is an extraordinary read. It's one of those books that you think about while you are at work or play wondering what's going to happen next, Then when you have finished it keeps popping back into your head.

Told through the eyes of 10-year-old Alex, The Boy Who Can See Demons, by Carolyn Jess-Cooke, is captivating and haunting.

Alex's mother has mental health issues and the day she tells Alex his father is dead, demons appear in his life.

The little family has reached a crisis so in steps Anya, a child psychiatrist who knows what it's like to live with a child with problems.

The Boy Who can see Demons is emotional and a little bit scary at times. This novel is outstanding. Beware readers: you may need a tissue or two.

I asked the author some questions about her book.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU CAME TO BE AN AUTHOR?

I'm a 33-year-old mother of three (with a fourth child due very soon) from Northern Ireland now based in the lovely northeast of England. I've had a variety of career paths, including photography, piano tuition and was a film academic for some years, but I've been writing since the age of around 6 and so that's always been my primary occupation. I guess, like many writers, I have always had a compulsion to write. I wrote six novels and a short story collection between the ages of 7 and 14 and then fell in love with poetry. I never thought I'd write another novel again, but then I had the idea for The Guardian Angel's Journal and it couldn't be anything else but a novel.

WHICH DO YOU ENJOY WRITING THE MOST ... FICTION OR NON-FICTION?

Fiction, definitely - it's way more fun. You get to combine non-fiction with your imagination and it's much more creatively satisfying.

TELL US WHY YOU CHOSE THIS STORYLINE?

It kind of evolved from the character of Alex. I knew there was a demon somewhere in the picture and a peculiar little boy, and one night I wrote the opening chapter and that was it. I didn't plan much else.

ALEX IS A FANTASTIC CHARACTER. HOW DID HE EVOLVE?

From his voice, if that makes sense. I didn't do any character interviews or anything majorly deep in preparation; he just revealed himself and his own story. I knew there was an issue with his father and it took several drafts before it became clear what that was and how it was related to the storyline.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SECRET IS TO BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS?

I think they need to be both consistent AND contradictory. Essentially they need to be flawed to be believable; a novel doesn't work for me when I feel a character is taking a trajectory that I feel is imposed and serves the plot.

WHAT COMES FIRST, THE PLOT OR THE CHARACTERS?

Definitely the characters.

WHAT DID YOU DO TO RESEARCH THIS BOOK?

I did a fair bit of research into schizophrenia and particularly child mental health services in Northern Ireland. I interviewed a number of top child psychiatrists and visited an inpatient unit in London. I could have spent years and years researching this area but eventually I had to draw a line and stop.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO UNWIND AT THE END OF A DAY'S WORK?

Writing is unwinding for me. It's the one time I feel justified in not tending to my children, though I usually write when they're asleep. I also like restoring vintage furniture and baking chocolate cake.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?

I have a poetry collection coming out around 2014 and am working on my third novel, which is really different for me and terrific fun to write.

 

WIN!

We have a copy of Carolyn Jess-Cooke's The Boy Who Can See Demons to give away.

Send your name and contact details to regionalfeatures@apn.co.nz by May 10.

- Hamilton News

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