Two Love Stories; Two Strong, Brave Girls

In the past few weeks I have been entranced by two theatre performances.

I re-lived a teenage pleasure when I saw the musical ‘Grease’ – and I had my grown-up heart pulled to pieces when I watched the ballet ‘Giselle’.

The love stories in both these shows follow a recurring theme found in literature:

Boy meets girl … boy and girl fall in love despite being very different … boy and girl are driven apart* … boy and girl are reunited.

*The thing that drives them apart is an age-old leitmotif, too. I don’t like to diss the boys … but I’m sad to say that the reason these couples split is because the boy lets the girl down really badly. (But more about that later.)

If you haven’t seen ‘Grease’ it goes like this. Danny (a confident, bad-boy greaser who is leader of his high school gang) and Sandy (a quiet, sweet girl-next door) meet in the school holidays and fall in love.

When they meet again, Danny’s desire to impress his mates gets the better of him. He denies knowing Sandy, and puts his ‘cool’ reputation ahead of his real feelings. Sandy is heartbroken.

But Sandy loves Danny, and finally makes a brave move. Dressed like a million dollars, she gives him an ultimatum: ‘You’d better shape up, ‘Cos I need a man – And my heart is set on you.’ … Sandy stands up for herself, knowing that she deserves to be treated with respect. ‘I’d better shape up,’ agrees Danny. It is only then that the two get back together.

The story of ‘Giselle’ has a more gothic twist. Giselle (who is poor) and Count Albrecht (who is very rich) are deeply in love. But Albrecht’s family have forced him into a relationship with a woman from his own social class, so he meets with Giselle in secret.

At his engagement party, Albrecht has the chance to declare his love for Giselle in public, but he chickens out and stands by his fiancée.

Just like Sandy, Giselle is desperately hurt. But Giselle is so overwhelmed by her misery that she dies of a broken heart.

She becomes a ghost, and her fellow phantoms urge her to kill Albrecht, but she forgives him instead. But, unlike Sandy, she doesn’t take Albrecht back. Giselle chooses to finds peace in death. Because there’s no getting round the sad truth that Albrecht didn’t have the guts to say ‘I love you’ when it mattered, and Giselle wanted better than that.

So: two strong girls, who knew when they were being treated badly, and who weren’t prepared to stand for it. I think this is a really important message to send out to girls of all ages (and to boys, too, of course). We all deserve to be treated with consideration and kindness.

Actually, can I make that “Three strong girls”?

When I planned this blog post, I realised that Beth Hardy’s love story in Fierce Resistance is very similar to those in ‘Grease’ and ‘Giselle’.

In the face of some poor treatment from a boy, Beth demonstrates the same resilience as the two girls I’ve written about here. Hopefully this isn’t too much of a spoiler, but I’m very proud I gave Beth the last word on her relationship with resistance cell member Ricky … When Beth’s 7-year-old brother Peter asks her, ‘Who was that on the phone?’ Beth replies, ‘Someone who’s less of a man than you are.’

It was very tempting to make the ending of the first love story I wrote a happy one. But as the romance unfolded, I felt that Beth’s integrity and self-respect were more important than that. And it fitted with the theme of ‘Resistance’. The idea of not tolerating unjust behaviour of any sort.

As a writer of books for young people, it’s very important to me that I give my characters the ability to stand their ground, and not allow themselves to be treated unfairly by anyone. All three of my heroic girls: Beth Hardy, Jac Stryder-Jones and Laurel Smith, have only loyal and decent friends.

And they are prepared to hold their heads high, and walk away from anyone who doesn’t treat them right.

To find out more about how three very different brave girls stand up for themselves and what they believe in, why not hop over to the Books page, and read the blurbs, for a mini-taste of their courage in the face of danger?


‘A Castle, a Mysterious Neighbour and a Secret Message …’

Have you ever visited somewhere and felt that you took a bit of it away with you when you left?

Eight years ago, I visited Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. And it captured my heart. The walls seemed to ooze history and stories – and I was sure I could detect the presence of those who had lived there many years before.

One resident in particular captured my imagination.  Lady Isabella de Fortibus was a great and powerful landowner. She organised ambitious improvements at Carisbrooke, not just designing her own spacious apartments, but adding a new kitchen and salting house, as well as a herb garden and vivarium (a place to keep fish alive once they were caught), to name but a few. What a woman! What creative and practical drive she must have had (and buckets of charisma to boot) to become so powerful in the male-dominated thirteenth century.  I reckon she was a truly formidable and determined character.

When I began drafting ideas for my third book, I contemplated making Isabella, and the legends which surround her, a significant part of the story. I even came up with ‘The Isabella Connection’ as a possible title!  But in the end, it was the place – the Isle of Wight – which became the primary inspiration. The blog heading above is taken from the end of chapter nine of Mouse. I loved Carisbrooke so much, it became the place where Laurel Smith first realises that the Isle of Wight is hiding some pretty intriguing secrets.

Me and Mouse in Lady Isabella’s apartment

I revisited Carisbrooke this year, and again I felt Isabella’s tough character radiating from the ancient bricks. On reflection, I think her spirit is everywhere in my books. (A resolute and courageous female. Sound familiar?!) So – to show my deep respect for this wonderful, feisty woman, I named the ‘Lady Isabella’ Pub in Mouse after her, and made it the setting for a critical scene where Laurel Smith plans a mission for Vectis, the mysterious Isle of Wight rebels.

If you’re finding yourself short of inspiration as the autumn gloom draws in, why not revisit a place that captivated you? Make a packed lunch and jump on a train … or just re-open your memory store!  Let that place, and the people who walked there, give you something new. You never know where you might end up.

Find out more about Carisbrooke Castle here.

Mouse is just a click away!  Just here!

More Orwellian Musings: The Art of Throwing Words Into the Dustbin

In my last post I talked about how George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four got under my skin and shaped me as an adventure writer.  Now I ponder Orwell’s rules for good quality writing.

Earlier this year, I read Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language.

It appealed to me because a) it wasn’t very long (always a bonus!) and b) it turned out to be less about politics and more about writing.

As I turned the pages, I found myself nodding in agreement with every point Orwell made.

He talks about the need for PRECISION (Yayy!  I spend AGES purging annoying flim-flam from my own writing) … DELETING PRETENTIOUS WORDS (Double yayy!)  … and REPLACING MEANINGLESS WORDS (I’m always saying to my students ‘ Don’t describe x as “amazing” … what does that actually mean?’)

And this is very good news for anyone who is worried that their writing isn’t ‘good enough’.

There’s no need to fear that your vocabulary isn’t impressive and flamboyant.  And no reason to stress because you can’t write anything ‘clever’.  Just follow Orwell’s six-point plan for writing and let your words speak for themselves:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.  (Yes, folks, say bye bye to ‘nerves of steel’ and ‘scared out of his wits’ and make up your own!)
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.  (This is the BEST ADVICE EVER!  Sometimes the word ‘big’ really is more powerful than ‘gargantuan’ or ‘oversized’.)
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.  (In the words of Stephen King: ‘Kill your darlings.’  It’s actually very liberating!)
  4. Never use the passive when you can use the active.  (Who wants to hear that ‘The rugged cliff was scaled unflaggingly by our feisty heroine.’?  Just tell us she climbed it!)
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.  (Seriously, don’t say ‘paradigm’ when you can say ‘example’ – and NEVER say ‘expostulated’ when you can write ‘said.’!!!)

BUT ALL RULES ARE FOR BREAKING, OF COURSE.   And Orwell’s final rule is almost my favourite (Rule 2 beats it by a squeak) …

6. Break any of these rules rather than say anything outright barbarous.

And that’s it!  Love words (especially the little ones) and use them wisely, but not barbarously! Leave the uncivilised stuff to those soundbite-loving politicians and sensation-seeking media companies.

So have that dustbin ready.

And learn to relish flinging away those pesky ‘clever’ words which get in the way of what you want to say.

If you want to hear more about how I came to love the little words in life, why not whizz over to the ‘ABOUT’ page and watch my video interview with Sue Aston.  Find out which authors inspired me to ‘keep it simple’ and use everyday language to write powerfully.

An Orwellian Tale of a Teenager Who Grew Into a Writer …

It was the year 1984: I was an ‘A’ level student preparing to go to music college, hoping to be a professional musician.

But I was harbouring a secret.

The truth was, I preferred English lessons to music lessons. I loved reading and analysing books, and I LOVED writing about it.

I was especially gripped by Nineteen Eighty-Four: George Orwell’s nightmare account of Britain Gone Wrong. I was fascinated by the way that he took something that troubled him, twisted it to the extreme and asked ‘What If …?’  


Years later, this same thought process would become the starting point for my books. In Fierce Resistance, The JASMINE Portfolio and Mouse, I take a worrying trend and drag it to a dire conclusion – then throw a teenage girl into the mix and say, ‘Now deal with that.’

But the influences don’t stop there. I re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four this year – and was stunned to see how much this one book had stretched and pulled me into the writer I am today.

So I’ve written an article about it.

If you want to hear how 1984 turned out to be a HUGE number in my life … you can find out more HERE Or go to ‘News and Features’ on the menu bar and click on the drop-down menu.

Not Long Now …

Fiona Beddow’s third book is on its way!

Mouse – the story of a quiet girl who has to dig deep to find the strength she needs to save Britain (and have the adventure of her life) – will be out very soon …

Watch this space …


Fierce Resistance and The JASMINE Portfolio are out now …



Here is the trailer video:





Here is the trailer video ...