—Suzy & Neil Howlett
As a child Suzy wanted to be George, but was actually more like Anne. Now she’s a pretty good mixture of both. Neil wanted to be Biggles, really. We both consumed Enid Blyton as children, despite the disapproval of some, along with everything else we could get our hands on. Libraries were wonderful places, especially the mobile library van which visited Suzy’s village of Uphill every fortnight.
Possessing those little half envelopes meant we could take out five books, take them home for a week or two, and then get another five until we had read everything in the children’s section. By then we were old enough to get on the bus to the big library in the nearest town. Hooray for public libraries!
Return to Kirrin began 18 years ago when we were walking round the channel island of Sark, which reminded us of the unsophisticated fictional world of Kirrin Island, with its endless and endlessly repeated summer holidays. We began to speculate what life would be like now for childhood characters if they had grown up and had to face the modern world. 1979 seemed to us a pivotal year.
In 1979, we were both at University. Suzy, after a few jobs as a high-kicking chorus girl, a seaside hotel nanny and (very briefly) a bank clerk, settled on teaching. This was really so she could read lots of stories to her class, first in Tower Hamlets (London) then in Frome (Somerset). She was startled to ‘go viral’ worldwide a couple of years ago, having covered a poorly written UKIP campaign leaflet with her red pen (see More!).
Neil, back in 1979, was about to leave Oxbridge academia to cram law in a polytechnic, with the idea that he might help people who needed help. He has been a lawyer ever since, having worked in Mental Health and Criminal law in Frome, Somerset, where the couple live. They have two grown up children [editorial suggestion from their son: ‘somewhat’ grown up?].
The first thing anyone said when they heard we were writing a book together was ‘and you’re still married?’ Like any joint enterprise it requires suitable admiration of what your partner does well, tact and diplomacy over the things you don’t agree with, and ultimately respectful compromise. We are still married . . .