Malory Towers: early inspiration for a girl like me

When I wrote the previous post, mentioning that I’ve been writing most of my life, it reminded me of the books I read back then. Around the age of nine or ten, I discovered the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton. I devoured them as quickly as I could save my pocket money to buy them. Based around Darrell Rivers and her exploits when she went to a girls’ boarding school in Cornwall, I couldn’t get enough of them. I knew nothing about boarding schools, about Cornwall or tales of friendship woes that seemed to run through these books. The thought of going away to school wasn’t something I liked the idea of and because of that, I started to see things from a different perspective: writing not just about things I was familiar with.

I found myself a big old book of maps that belonged to my parents and based ‘my’ school in St. Ives, Cornwall. It looked nice on the map. That was good enough for me. I created characters who were a cross between me, my real life friends and some made up people. I didn’t just stick to girls. I thought it would be more interesting to have girls and boys go to this new school I created.

I wish I’d kept those early plottings and character names. I have a feeling I gave them names like: Jeannie Jones, Damien O’Donoghue, Catherine Caraway and Mikhail Something-or-other (I was obsessed with Mikhail Baryshnikov at the time). I wrote about them all starting boarding school, how they became friends and all sorts of (completely unrealistic) shenanigans.

As I got older, so the ages of my characters followed me and so did the completely unrealistic shenanigans. By the time I was fifteen, I was writing about Nigel Nicholson (who was best friends with Damien) getting caught for smoking at school (no longer a boarding school). His teacher threatened to call his parents but, as it transpired, his father kept him in cigarettes as Nigel had caught his father (Terry) seeing someone behind his mother’s back and Nigel was blackmailing him. Verity, Nigel’s sister, was pregnant at fourteen and the father was her History teacher.

I’m not entirely sure Enid Blyton would have approved.

It’s perhaps not a bad thing that I didn’t keep my old notebooks.

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