This is an unusual blog post, but a story I want to share because of how powerfully it has affected me.
The fifth book I’m writing is called LION. People often ask where the ideas for my stories come from. With LION, the protagonist himself appeared, fully formed inside my head. Lion talked incessantly to me all about his theories on life, his family and his dog, Patch. This has never happened to me before and is quite a difficult thing to explain. At the time I was still working on Darna’s Sky and had to tell Lion to be quiet and wait his turn! When I was ready to listen, Lion came back and I began to realise he had ‘chosen me’ to talk to and that he was unable to talk to anyone else outside his family.
This made me remember a documentary I had watched, many years ago, about children who were mute. I started reading up on something called Selective Mutism (SM) and realised that this is what Lion had. It is best described as a 'phobia of talking.'
Lion, by the way, is his nickname, given to him by his sister, Brianne who describes his hair like a dandelion clock. His real name is Leroy. This, I now know, is a French name, Le Roi - meaning The King.
The book formed and I redrafted, but having no personal experience of SM, I set about seeking some sensitivity readers by contacting SMiRA. Through this Donna Redrup got in touch, telling me all about her son, James, who was a huge animal fan, but particularly fond of lions.
James had struggled with SM all through his childhood and sadly died very unexpectedly from Sudden Onset Leukaemia just before his 25th birthday. James had bought tickets for his whole family to see The Lion King for his birthday, which was on the day after he died. James had started to write a children’s book about SM. Writing a book to increase understanding and awareness of SM was something he talked about wanting to do for many years.
I’m not religious, but my mind is not closed. There are many things in this wondrous world that I cannot explain but I still feel. Donna believes that James is helping me make LION into something that will help bring the understanding of SM to a wider audience. After reading the current draft of the book she saw many comparisons between her son and Lion. I’m humbled that Donna and her family have gained comfort and support knowing that this book is being created, particularly as they approach the anniversary of James’ death.
I don’t know what I believe, all I can do is write the story to the best of my ability, dedicate it to James and hope that it helps others.
James Redrup 4 November 1989 - 3 November 2014
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