Behind the Story: Call Yourself a Friend

Thursday 14th March 2013 by Support

A look at the process of writing the third story in the Jackie & Kev trilogy:

The third book in the Jackie & Kev series, Call Yourself a Friend? starts with a horrific drink-driving accident in which a teenage girl is seriously injured, suffering brain damage and memory loss. The book follows the effects of this disaster on the victim herself, and on her family and friends.

In researching this story, I needed to find out not just the medical effects and treatment required by someone who suffers such a serious accident, but also how it would actually have felt for her. Someone I found on the internet, who had been knocked off his bike and suffered a similar skull fracture, e-mailed me about his personal experience. For example: a nurse came into his room and asked if he recalled her name. When he said that he had never seen her before, she explained she had spoken to him the previous day and told him her name. This was his first realisation that he was suffering from partial amnesia (memory loss). This kind of detail was of great value in helping me to write realistically about the accident.

I also approached Mothers Against Drunken Drivers, members of which greatly approved of the subject of drink-driving being highlighted. Some of them described details of how they and their families coped with their terrible loss. This helped me to deal with the feelings and attitudes of family and friends -- including Jackie, who tells the story.

The reaction of Kev, the victim's brother in the fictional story, is one of anger and bitterness at what has happened to his sister. He takes the law into his own hands with disastrous results.

To write the scene in which Kev appears in court, I visited a local courthouse and listened to several cases. I had a long session with a probation officer, who told me what would be likely to happen to Kev in court, what sentence he would get, how the judge would treat him, and also what would happen to the drunken driver.

Despite this serious theme, there is also humour in Call Yourself a Friend? when Philip, Jackie's younger brother who is in trouble in all three books -- announces that he has been given a part in the school play, Robin Hood. But when his gran says encouragingly how good he would be as Robin, Philip has to admit that this is a play with a difference: the boys are playing the girls' parts, and vice versa. Philip in fact has to play Maid Marian, and the girl who plays Robin is a lot taller than him, and very bossy!

The idea for a play with reversed roles came from my friend Liz Morris, herself a teacher (who is also one of the organisers of this website). I had great fun in the story with the rehearsals for the play, the actual performance -- which comes at a crucial stage in the more serious story -- and also the surprising relationship that develops offstage between the actors playing Maid Marian and Robin.

I also had to suss out information for all sorts of other details of the story, such as what happens in the intensive care ward of a hospital; how someone learns to use crutches; and what kind of involvement school and individual teachers would have in such a crisis.

I hope those who read the book find interest in these glimpses 'behind the story'.

Marilyn Taylor