‘One cold winter morning, Dad gets sick – and goes into hospital. It’s there I meet Harry, with his scruffy hair and firefly eyes. From his window we watch a wild swan on the frozen lake outside. There’s something different about her, truly different. Almost magical.’
“Will tug at your heartstrings.”
“Heart-warming and rather lovely.”
“Quiet but compelling. Sensitive.”
This is a story about Isla, who is trying to hold her fracturing family together as well as rescue an injured wild whooper swan. While visiting her father in hospital, Isla meets Harry, the first boy to understand her and her love of the outdoors. But Harry is ill, and as his health fails, Isla is determined to help him in the only way she knows how.
Together they watch a lone swan struggling to fly on the lake outside Harry’s window. Isla believes that if she can help the damaged swan, somehow she can help Harry and maybe even her dad too.
I wrote a version of this story for my MA in Creative Writing. Back then the story was called The Long Flight and it was about an eleven year old boy called Adam. It was good enough to get me noticed by my publishers, Chicken House, for which I’m always grateful.
However, it still needed a lot of work. I rewrote this book ten times before I was happy with it – I changed it from Adam’s perspective to Isla’s perspective, I changed the tense from past to present, and I changed it from third person to first person; I even introduced a love story. At one stage, this book was even firmly in the magical realism genre.
I really learnt to write through the process of developing this novel – I learnt about how long it takes to get something right and the patience and courage you need to keep on going. I’m really proud of this book now. When I get asked about what my favourite novel is, I often say it’s this one.
You can read some questions I’m often asked about Flyaway on my FAQ Page.
Every year, Dad waits for them. He says it means the start of winter, when they arrive . . . the start of Christmas. The start of everything brilliant.
When he was a boy, he would sit with Nan and Granddad in a field near the lake behind their house . . . and wait. It was usually cold, and dark, and he says they even sat through a snowstorm once. Even then, Granddad knew when they’d arrive. Dad used to think Granddad was magical for knowing that. I can remember waiting beside that lake too, but the memory is more like a dream than something real.
The last time we all waited there together was six years ago: the winter before Nan died. The last winter the wild swans ever went to Granddad’s lake. All of us were huddled by the edge of the water, and the blankets wrapped around my shoulders smelt like dusty drawers.