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Interview with an Author: Rachel Coverdale

Rachel Coverdale is author of several children's books, including The Boy who Couldn't and The Boy Who Dared, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Here is what she has to say about The Boy who Couldn't:

What was the spark that started The Boy Who Couldn't?

My son came back from the park one day, distressed because he’d had to fight a boy. He tried to avoid the fight, but the lad was absolutely determined and hit him three times before my son finally fought back. As he was a karate black belt first dan, he gave the lad quite a pasting. I was proud of my son and had an instant hatred for the “horrible boy” without thinking for a moment why the boy would have stormed into a park and tried to fight a stranger for no apparent reason. It wasn’t until several months later that a mutual friend told me that the date coincided with the boy’s abusive father returning from prison. I was mortified that I had judged him and worried about what on earth had happened to that poor child to cause him to lose control so badly he needed to hit out at anyone. I wanted to spread the message that children are not born bad and we should always strive to understand and be kind.

Name one thing you’re proud of having achieved with The Boy Who Couldn't.

I am utterly proud that I produced the book at all. It takes a lot of self-doubt, self-belief and perseverance to reach the end of a story and therefore I am very proud. I am also proud that several schools have bought the book to use for teaching, spreading the messages far and wide. I realise that is two things, but maths has never been my strong point.

Please tell us a little about your writing style. What/who has influenced you?

I struggle to be able to name just one author who has influenced me. I read a lot of books for tweens and teens and I feel it is a combination of all of those who have influenced me. The author who I would most like to be able to emulate is Neil Gaiman. I wish I could read “The Graveyard Book” for the first time again.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for The Boy Who Couldn't?

I discovered that badgers mark their territory by making a fence of poo, called latrines around their area. Just little poo dots in a large circle. Who knew!

Share something about your main character(s) that is super important to you and why that is.

Greg has anger issues stemming from an abusive father and alcoholic mother. He has basically written himself off and has no aspirations. It is the kindness of an unrelated family that helps him to find himself and his inner strength. It is super important to me that people are kind and forgiving to others – not just their own family. Every child deserves a chance.

Is there something from your own life or experience that has found its way into The Boy Who Couldn't?

Several times I recognised myself in things that the characters did. James’ dad is a terrible cook – I’m afraid that’s me. Worse, when Greg’s younger brother falls off a horse and lands open mouthed in horse-muck, I was able to describe that from first-hand experience.

What’s next for you and your writing?

I have finally completed the sequel to “The Boy Who Couldn’t”. It is called “The Boy Who Dared” and focuses more evenly on all three characters. I can’t tell you too much, but if you love dogs, you need to read this book! It will be published sometime in 2021.

What book(s) changed your life?

Oh my goodness, I still develop a little with each book I read. During my teens and that awkward discovery of sexuality, “The Clan of the Cave Bears” was enlightening. On a very practical level, “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof Steve Peters helped me to understand many of my idiosyncrasies and how to control them, or at least live with them.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

I can’t bear animal cruelty. In “The Boy Who Couldn’t” it was important to me that I helped readers understand that badgers are wonderful creatures that deserve respect and the protection that the law gives them and should not be callously culled. In “The Boy Who Dared”, readers will see that I am passionate about protecting dogs from cruelty.

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