The idea of writing my first novel, Piggy Monk Square emerged long before I actually wrote it and it was at the forefront of my mind when I returned to college as a mature student to study film and television.
I had to take a bus to college and it was a long hour and a half journey there and back. That meant three hours a day stuck on that very slow bus.
I was bored stiff so I began using this ‘down’ time to write Piggy Monk Square. I remember I wrote in some cheap yellow notebooks I got free every time I spent more than £5 in the local supermarket!
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize
A policeman goes missing in 1970s Liverpool. Two little girls could help but they’re good at keeping secrets.
At the time I was a very broke single mother and had no computer at home so I used the college computer to type it up at break times. But I wasn’t happy with the results. I couldn’t get the central spine of the story right and I knew I needed more time to focus on it.
I was very busy trying to juggle my college work with free-lance writing jobs and sometimes having to resort to door-to-door selling to get the money to pay the electric bills. (Worst job ever – although I did sell a magazine to ‘The Edge’ from U2 one time.) In the end I had to leave the book aside and get on with everything else.
THE ONE THAT WOULDN’T GO AWAY
Eventually I got round to doing it, and in keeping with the atmosphere of the book, I re-wrote and typed up the story in a damp bare-brick shed at the back of my house in County Wicklow.
Although it is a work of pure fiction, there was a specific incident that inspired the book. Like the book, it all happened in a derelict house in Toxteth in Liverpool. I was around nine or ten years old. My little friends and I had made a hiding place so we could play hide and seek, eat sweets, and swap comics away from adults.
One day, we were engrossed in reading our comics and eating sweets when two policemen marched in to the building – they found us, searched us and threatened dire consequences if they found us there again.
These two grown men were rough as they searched us, and verbally intimidating. They treated us small children like we were hardened criminals.
JUST LIKE SPARRA
Just like my fictional character, Sparra, we were absolutely terrified. Even worse, the police men also confiscated our sweets. Unbelievable now but sadly true. They were bad times for that area of Liverpool.
I had nightmares about these men for weeks. Like Sparra, I could never tell my Mum because she would have been annoyed that I was playing in the derelict house.
Although the behavior of these two policemen was outrageous I have to thank them – without that unforgettable incident I might never have written Piggy Monk Square. (To read reviews click here.)
Piggy Monk Square went on to be published by Tindal Street Press and was optioned by Willy Russell’s film company on the same day as the launch. It was also adapted for Radio by RTE’s ‘The Book On One.’
‘Piggy Monk Square’ was shortlisted for the ‘Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and was on BBC’s recommended ‘Raw Reads’ list.
Later, Willy Russell commissioned me to adapt and write a full-length feature film script of Piggy Monk Square.
Like many optioned books it never did get made into a film. I wasn’t too disappointed because my own experience in the film world had already taught me that very few scripts get made. Still, it’s always nice to dream.
As years went by the book gradually disappeared from the shelves as most books do. But the advent of the eBook heralded a whole new lease of life for books and when the publishing rights reverted to me I decided to republish it as an eBook with a new cover.
PIGGY MONK SQUARE – RENEWED
Bringing out the new version of Piggy Monk Square brought forth old memories. Like all memories some are good, some not so. But it’s all okay, memories are what makes a writer want to write but it’s up to us how the story ends.
PIGGY MONK SQUARE IS ALSO AVAILABLE AT ALL GOOD ONLINE RETAIL OUTLETS