I had a very good morning in Tooting yesterday at the Wandsworth FAB book awards, marred only by the fact that I didn't win. Alexander Gordon Smith was the only other author there of the seven who were shortlisted. We looked on nervously as the books were listed in ascending order, breathing a sigh of relief when ours did not appear in seventh place (he finished second and I finished third, by the way). Blood Read Road by Moira Young was the winner.
It was fascinating as always to talk to the young people who came along to the event and to hear a little about why they had enjoyed Mister Creecher (they were far too polite to tell me if they hadn't enjoyed it) and to get a chance to ask them about what they liked to read and why.
What was really heartening for me was the fact that they talked about Mister Creecher they really picked up on the friendship aspect of the book. The possibilities and limitations of Billy's relationship to Creecher were at the heart of all my thinking when I was writing that book.
In many ways I saw both characters as teenagers. Although Creecher is a giant physically, he is a boy emotionally and psychologically. He has been rejected by his 'father' and is looking for love, just as Billy, hurt and scarred by his life, is also looking for love. They want love but neither know how to give it. Both are wary and suspicious.
I think the relationships between teenage boys can be complicated even without such damaged individuals. Teenage boys are very conscious of their maleness and are hyper-sensitive to how they are perceived by others. Boys are full of questions they dare not ask for fear of revealing their ignorance and appearing to be inexperienced - which they are, most of the time.
Neither Billy nor Creecher know as much as they pretend to. None of their experience is of any use to them in gaining the lives they dream of having. Their friendship is a dangerous one, shot through with lies and suspicion and resentment.