Earlier this week we published the first part of our interview with Emma Mooney which you can find here. Here is the second part of the interview. Here we learn how Emma dealt with the serious issues the book touches on and how, and why, she uses the book Tom Sawyer. Check out the rest of the interview below the break and you can buy her book A Beautiful Game here!
4) A Beautiful Game touches on many serious issues such as domestic violence, what research did you do into these issues and at what point in the writing process?
The majority of research that I had to do was based around pubs in Edinburgh and making sure I had my football facts correct. In terms of Robbie’s responses to the violence and neglect from his parents, I’m afraid that as a teacher with twenty years experience I already had a close insight in to the many different ways this can affect youngsters.
I’m extremely aware that domestic violence is a sensitive issue but it’s a subject rarely told from the young person’s point of view and I wanted to address that. I offer no answers or advice in the book, and so I suppose my aim is to raise awareness and get people talking. Since the book’s publication I’ve been contacted by police officers, nurses and teachers who have all thanked me for highlighting the issue.
5) As the last question says, your book touches on many serious topics, did you find it hard balancing the need for realism with any desire to give Robbie a happy ending?
Of course we all want youngsters to go on and be happy and successful, and indeed live ‘happily ever after’, but I took the decision early on to keep the book as real as possible. Since the book came out many people have got in touch to ask me what happens next, which is great because it means it’s got people thinking. I chose to end the book at a point where the main character’s life can travel down different paths because I want the reader to question what part we as a society can play in helping these young people to achieve their happy ending. The book deliberately ends with an incident which will draw in the police and social workers and I guess I wanted the reader to stop and think about what support Robbie may or may not get from our society.
I know that many of the children I’ve taught in the past have continued the destructive cycle of abuse and violence, but I also know that a few of them have successfully managed to break free from that cycle. I still don’t know what determines the path a youngster will take but I’d like to know what more we can do to support them and help them make the best choice.
6) Throughout the book, and especially at the end, Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain plays an important role, at what point did you decide to use Tom Sawyer in this way?
I decided quite early on to weave Tom Sawyer throughout the book. In my own experience as a teacher I’ve found that some children are able to use books as an escape from their own harsh reality and I’ve often wondered if this has a positive impact on their choices and decisions further down the line. Does reading about other lives and worlds open up possibilities?
I also hope that by making my main character intelligent and interested in books it challenges the stereotypes that society often has of youngsters in trouble.