Today on Tishylou's World, I'm very excited to have the super-talented Tammy Cohen sharing her thoughts on writing about missing children, which is the theme of her new book, First One Missing.
Here is the blurb for First One Missing...
There are three things no one can prepare you for when your daughter is murdered:
1. You are haunted by her memory day and night.
2. Your friends and family fear you are going mad.
3. Only in a group with parents of other victims do you ever find comfort.
Welcome to the club no one wants to join.
It has been four years since seven-year-old Megan Purvis was found murdered on Hampstead Heath. Her mum has set up a self-help group for families who have been through the same ordeal.
The group provides solace for the families of Megan (who disappeared from the playground), Tilly Reid (who never returned from a trip to the shop), and Leila Botsford (who failed to meet her mum, after school).
Now, Poppy Glover is missing, after vanishing from the queue for the ice-cream van. Meanwhile, as the bereaved parents gather to comfort each other, a crack appears in their group that will change their lives forever.
Over to you, Tammy.
Writing about missing children
Anyone who hasn’t spent the last year living under a rock will be aware of the debate that’s been raging in the wake of successful TV series like The Fall and The Missing, about whether writers of crime fiction and crime dramas have fetishised violence against women and children, turning their readers and viewers into unwilling voyeurs.
This debate was very much in the forefront of my mind while I was writing First One Missing. When I told friends I was writing about a serial killer who preys on young girls there was much raising of eyebrows and hackles. How can you write a plot that hinges on the deaths of innocent children without it being exploitative, even if, as in my case, such violence as there is takes place entirely off the page? That question haunted me throughout the writing of the book. Only now I’ve had time to consider have I reached a conclusion. The only way of justifying the victims’ deaths is by bringing them back to life.
Confused? Stay with me.
The deaths of Megan Purvis, Tilly Reid, Leila Botsford and Poppy Glover aren’t the focal point of First One Missing. The reader isn’t encouraged to linger over them. What I was much more interested in as a writer was the effect of their deaths on their families and their communities. I wanted to show how they’d lived, the homes they’d inhabited, and the holes they’d left behind. I wanted to build a picture of them through the memories of their siblings and their parents. I realised that only by learning about their lives could the reader truly come to care about their deaths.
From the ancient Greeks onwards, people have always written about the deaths of children. The Bible is full of it, as are the traditional fairy stories we all know and love. In literature, there’s no more powerful symbol of the battle between good and evil, innocence and guilt, than a slain child. It’s our responsibility as writers to use that symbol with the utmost respect.
Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing that insight with me.
First One Missing was Published by Doubleday on 2nd July in Hardback.
Thanks to Sarah Harwood for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review (which will follow at a later date.)