To find out more about ML Welsh or Heart of Stone, please do visit the following websites:
Happy endings - do you do them, do you like them, are they important?
by ML Welsh
This month sees the publication of my second children’s novel, Heart of Stone, the follow-up to Mistress of the Storm. Both books are adventure-mysteries, and both feature a young girl called Verity Gallant and her friends.
In Heart of Stone the central premise of the story is that a supernatural force is trying to create a world where nothing ends happily any more: with terrible consequences for everyone. And I stand by the idea that this world needs stories that end happily too.
Publishing is a very middle class industry. Nothing wrong with that, most of the time. But sometimes I think it can lead to a few collective truths that are based on limited personal experience, rather than fact. Like, for example, the idea that the most valuable children’s books are the ones that tackle difficult issues such as poverty or abuse: on the assumption that we all now live in such a privileged world our children need to experience hardship through stories.
Well I’m afraid there a lot of children in this country who already know what it’s like to go to bed hungry or cold. Four million families – that’s one in three – in this country now live below the poverty line. And that tidy little phrase, just to be really clear, means going without something that you need on a daily basis. Like food, or heating.
That is shameful. And while this next part is nowhere near as important, it still staggers me that these children, in our own country, have become so overlooked that our publishing industry doesn’t appear to consider what they might want to read about. Because, trust me, it’s probably not other children feeling cold and hungry too. They’d like stories that end happily.
And don’t even get me started on the estimated one in ten children who are being abused in the UK. Does it really take so much imagination to understand that often the only place they can escape to is inside their own minds? Where it must be nice sometimes to think about lives that end happily?
My childhood was fine, but it wasn’t all sunshine and flowers. So growing up, I was captivated by tales of girls who had adventures and generally were never troubled by things like whether their parents could afford to pay the gas bill. I lived for stories because they took my mind off things. And I have a lot of friends from similar backgrounds who tell me they did the same.
I’m not saying happy children don’t deserve stories too. And I’ve got no idea whether Heart of Stone is what children need to cheer themselves up.
But if Heart of Stone isn’t for them I really hope they find another book that gets them through a tough time. Because that’s what Mistress of the Storm and Heart of Stone were meant to be: stories for children who need something to brighten their day. And if you think that’s not valid, that’s ok. You obviously don’t need them, and I’m glad you don’t.
To find out more about Verity Gallant, Mistress of the Storm or Heart of Stone please go to www.veritygallant.co.uk for sample chapters and trailers (don’t worry, there won’t be any rants about happy endings there).