The Troubled Young Russian
The first draft of It’s Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella was actually called
A Maze. It was about the maze of corridors inside Autumn Days Care Home, and it was about the maze inside Gran’s poor, befuddled head.
There were many differences between that first draft and the final book. For example: Louis, the fireman took Billy to a Spurs match (I’m still not sure if I should have taken it out – I might use it in the next book), Pasqual, the French ballerina was Doris, and Manya didn’t exist.
I was fairly happy with the first draft and put it on one side for a few months in order to come back to it fresh for editing. When I re-read it I realised there was something not quite right. It fulfilled my wish to show dementia in a more positive light. Gran and the other Oldies were great. I felt I knew them all rather well. But if young people were going to be excited about my story, I needed something more. Something mysterious. Something thrilling.
And that’s when Manya jumped into my head. She was as real as if she had been standing right in front of me singing and dancing. It was as though she was actually speaking to me, telling me her life-story, explaining how her very difficult childhood had shaped her, why she was so troubled and why she did that terrible thing…oops, you might not have read it – no spoilers!
I really like Manya. Since beginning the sequel to, It’s Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella I have got to know her even better. She’s just had a big shock, and she’s really got her work cut out to achieve what she has set out to do, but I think she’s going to be strong enough. (this information is purely for those lovely people who have read the first book!)
When I was doing my research for Manya, I had to learn a lot about Russia, especially Moscow (where it’s raining, of course!) and Russian education. There are similarities with our British education, but also differences. Russian military history and patriotism are both high on the agenda. One YouTube video put up by a Russian schoolgirl was particularly intriguing. She spoke about how much the students are encouraged to ‘do their bit’ for Russia. This aspect is reflected in Manya’s behaviour. Paradoxically she is a rebel who desperately wants to make her country proud of her.
Manya wasn’t interested in the other pupils. She didn’t care what they thought or whether they were jealous. She deserved to win. She looked over to the only person who was genuinely pleased about her prize, her father. Mr Molchalin was ecstatic. He had always known Manya would do well and she had surpassed all expectations. He glanced over at his wife with her stony face barely concealing that ever-present, unforgiving expression. He sighed. He would not let her ruin this moment. He looked back at his daughter.
The relationship between Manya and her father was always going to be an interesting one. As I neared the completion of the book I had a big surprise. I had to completely change my ending because of Mr Molchalin. He was not the man I thought he was…
…but that’s for another time. If you’ve read the book you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, (and he has another surprise up his sleeve in the sequel!) If you haven’t read It’s Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella, I hope you feel completely left out. So much so that you will get straight on to Amazon and buy it right now.
Before I finish this Blog, I’d like to say a couple of big thank yous. Firstly to Richard Kelly from RK74photography for his ideas and encouragement, and for making the wonderful poster promoting my interview on BBC Radio Suffolk. If you missed it and would like to listen, here is the link: Suffolk Radio Interview
Secondly to the lovely people at Carer to Home. I wish this company had been around when we were looking for care for my mother-in-law. They help to find carers to support people with dementia, Parkinson’s, cancer and more. They have also actively been trying to promote It’s Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella, and anyone who does that is hugely appreciated.
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Thanks for reading. I’ll be back next week.