Talking about his childhood today on the blog, I’m pleased to welcome Dan Smith, author of My Friend The Enemy which is published by Chicken House this month.
I had a strange childhood.
On the one hand, I was very privileged. I went to a top class school with incredible opportunities, and had the fortune to travel to a wide variety of countries and experience their culture.
On the other hand, I went to boarding school when I was seven years old and my parents lived thousands of miles away.
Good or bad, I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.
Anyway, perhaps it was this unsettled existence that sparked my love for stories. Maybe that’s what made me want to imagine I was someone else, somewhere else.
Friday evenings at school were given over to letter writing, and my parents kept every single letter I ever sent to them. I recently asked Mum to dig them out and I’ve been looking through them, discovering a weird door into my childhood. What really struck me about some of the first ones, though, was that I often wrote detailed accounts of films I had seen or books I had read – so even as a 7 year old, those things were significant to me. And, of course, that was the year of Star Wars, which was a massive influence on me. I wanted to be Han Solo – I mean, who wouldn’t? He was cool, good looking, he had the fastest space ship, the best blaster, a wookie for a friend and he rescued the princess. Cool.
I even bought the novelisation of Star Wars (as you can see from the photo of the letter if you can read my terrible 7yr old scrawl), but I don’t think I ever read it. I was too busy reading something else . . .
One of the first books I remember reading on my own, all for myself, was ‘The Runaways’ by Victor Canning. It’s about a falsely arrested teenager called Smiler who escapes from the police and tries to lay low while he waits for his father to return from sea and resolve the misunderstanding. His adventure is paralleled with that of a cheetah that has escaped from Longleat Wildlife Park. I remember reading that book in sips during the silent ten minutes before lights-out and then lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, wishing I were as brave as Smiler, and wondering how far I would get if I tried to run away.
I never was as brave as him though. It’s far easier to be brave in stories.
My Friend The Enemy by Dan Smith was published by Chicken House on the 4th of July.
To find out more about Dan Smith: