LESLEY PARR’S new book WHERE THE RIVER TAKES US is a thrilling historical adventure set in a Welsh Valley during the 1970s miners’ strikes. To celebrate the book’s release, Good Reading for Kids caught up with Lesley to talk about her characters, writing and inspiration.
From Lesley Parr, the author of The Valley of Lost Secrets comes a thrilling adventure about the power of friendship, set in a Welsh valley in the 1970s.
Jason lives with his big brother, Richie, trying their best to make ends meet so they can stay together. They’ve got supportive neighbours and some great friends, but there’s always the threat that someone will think they can’t manage on their own since their parents died. It’s February 1974 and working-class families have been hit hard by the three-day week. The reduced power usage means less work, and less money to get by on. Richie is doing his best, but to make enough money, he’s been doing favours for the wrong people.
An urban legend about a beast in the valleys catches Jason’s eye in the local paper. A wild cat is said to roam the forest, far up the river from their bridge. A reward is offered for proof of The Beast’s existence. Jason’s friends are desperate to help him, and they convince him that this is the answer to his and Richie’s money problems.
And so a quest begins. Four best friends soon find themselves on a journey that will change each of them … forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LESLEY PARR grew up in South Wales and now lives in England with her husband and their rescue cat, Angharad. She shares her time between writing stories, teaching at a primary school and tutoring adults. Apart from books, rugby union is her favourite thing in the world, especially if Wales is winning.
Chat with Lesley Parr
It’s a cliche but ‘write what you know’ seems to work for me. I‘m proudly Welsh so I love writing about Wales and Welsh people. As for the 1970s, it’s not an era often explored in children’s books so that was appealing, and I wanted to move away from the war themes I’d previously explored. I needed a backdrop that would serve the working-class nature of my stories, so I settled into the 1970s and went from there.
What can you tell us about brothers Jason and Richie and their troubles?
At the beginning of the book, they are hanging onto each other by an unravelling thread. Their parents have recently died and 19-year-old Richie is trying his best to be a decent guardian to 13-year-old Jason. Not at all easy when he’s really still a grieving kid himself. They love each other fiercely and will do anything to stay together … even if it means criminal activity (Richie) or putting himself in danger (Jason).
Which character do you resonate with most from your new book, Where the River Takes Us?
I think there’s a little bit of me in all of them. I never do this intentionally but, considering the kind of writer – and person – I am, I think it’s inevitable. Catrin has my loyal streak, Tam loves rugby and food, Jinx wants to make everything okay (even when he can’t), and Jason is finding a way to cope with huge change and needs his friends.
Where the River Takes Us follows four friends on a quest. What do you hope your readers will take away from their adventure?
All I ever really want is for readers to have enjoyed spending time in the story with my characters. If it makes them think more deeply about friendship and how far we’ll go for our friends, then even better! Relationships are complicated, no one gets things right all the time. I hope I’ve shown in this story that even the most difficult circumstances can be worked through with patience and understanding – and a few silly songs!
What did you find most challenging or rewarding about writing this book?
I think the rewards come from the challenges. If I’ve found a chapter or a plot thread difficult, then it’s all the more satisfying when I finally get it right. An example was getting to know Tam – even as a very character-led writer, I felt for a long time I didn’t really know who he was. He had his place in the group, but what was he beyond a calming influence? Once I worked out his relationship with Jason, I knew how he fitted into the dynamics of the four children and the plot. I had to look at how far he’d go emotionally, and what he’d sacrifice for Jason.
Stick to what you enjoy writing about – you’ll be spending a lot of time in this world with your characters – make sure you want to be there and readers will feel the same.
There will be good writing days and bad writing days. I still regularly have times when it all feels like it’s never going to come together, and those are the times I need to leave my desk and reset my brain. I scribble in notebooks, take a walk to mull things over, or – often – do something totally distracting like watch TV or cook. It’s amazing how productive a break can be! That said, sometimes you just have to force yourself to stay there – knowing how to recognise the difference is something that only comes with experience.
Please describe Where The River Takes Us in three words.
Friendship, adventure, acceptance.
Visit Lesley Parr’s website HERE