Lisa Thompson is the author of the children’s books, The Goldfish Boy and The Light Jar. Here she talks about her new book, The Day I was Erased.
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about your new book ‘The Day I Was Erased’?
Twelve-year-old Maxwell is always in trouble. He’s a menace to his sister, teachers and parents, but he also has a softer side. He likes to visit his elderly neighbour, Reg, and he saved his dog Monster from being run over. One day, after he’s ruined an important school event, Maxwell wishes he’d never been born, and he gets to see the world as if he never existed.
I adored the ‘The Goldfish Boy’. How is ‘The Day I Was Erased’ similar? How is it different?
It’s another story written from a boy’s perspective with an underlying sense of loneliness (which seems to feature strongly in all of my books), but I think this book has a lot more humour.
I particularly liked the scene in Chapter 8, where Maxwell and Bex are talking outside the hall. I thought it was very tender and moving. Do you have a favourite scene in the book or was there a chapter that you particularly enjoyed writing?
Thank you! I loved writing the scene just after Maxwell is unknowingly ‘erased’. He heads home and notices the subtle changes around him – the headless, plastic flamingo that he broke in a neighbour’s garden now has a head, the front gate he broke five years ago is now fixed… It was so rewarding to gently create this strange, changed world around him.
Some of the scenes involving Reg and his memory loss were quite upsetting to read. Were they difficult to write?
Yes, they were. Especially the scene where he talks about his wife Emily. That was a ‘writer sobbing at her laptop’ moment!
Maxwell could be seen as quite an unlikeable character, but you manage to make us feel sympathy throughout for him. Was this important to you? How did you go about achieving this?
This was very important and I discussed it a lot with my editor, Lauren Fortune. I think the key was to show quite early on that things at home were quite stressful for Maxwell, and therefore there could be a reason behind his bad behaviour. (I think I mention in the first chapter that his parents have post-it notes on the food in the fridge because they can’t even bear each other enough to share.) I also made sure we saw his softer side early on so he quickly pops round to Reg’s to make him a cup of tea!
The book references lots of famous disappearances and mysteries throughout history. Is this something that has always interested you? Do you have a favourite famous mystery?
It is! I used to love any type of ‘strange but true’ story and the Mary Celeste tale really stuck with me. I don’t think many children know about it but I love that I didn’t have to make it up!
I feel like there could be more to explore with Maxwell and the magic egg. Can you imagine writing a sequel to this book? What might happen?
I don’t think I could! I definitely felt that that was the end when I finished the book, but never say never!
As a teacher, I’m always interested in an author’s point of view about inspiring a love of reading and writing in our children…
Did you have a favourite story when you were younger?
Charlotte’s Web had a profound effect on me because it was the first book to make me cry. I remember being utterly gobsmacked that a simple book, with words on a page, could be so powerful that it could make me sob.
What advice would you give to teachers about how to develop reading for pleasure in their classrooms and schools?
Read lots of books and recommend them to your pupils! I know that time in the classroom is precious and sometimes reading can get forgotten, but I think just reading to them for 10-15 minutes a day can have a profound effect. I also think it’s lovely to create a bit of ‘drama’ around reading time. I have heard of teachers lighting a ‘Light Jar’ and dimming the lights when they read The Light Jar and also playing music around particular scenes. I think if books are read in the class then children are more inclined to pick up a book to read for themselves.
I think there are plenty of opportunities for teachers to use the book in class, certainly with all the links to the Mary Celeste and Amundsen. How would you envisage teachers using your book in their classrooms? Do any activities or ideas spring to mind?
I think the historical angle would be so lovely! Scholastic have also created some free teaching resources to use in the class room for this book (and The Goldfish Boy) which can be accessed here:
Finally, can you describe your new book ‘The Day I Was Erased’ in three words?
Heart-warming, thoughtful, funny.
Thank you very much, Lisa for taking the time to answer these questions!