James Matthew Barrie was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland, on May 9 1860. He later graduated from Edinburgh University and moved to London to fulfil his dream of being in the world of literature and the theatre. And boy did he succeed in that!
In 1897, Barrie befriended the Llewelyn Davis family and quickly became like an uncle figure to the family’s five boys. And it was these boys who gave him the inspiration for Peter Pan.
Barrie would later say: “I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. That is all Peter is – the spark I got from you.”
Although the character of Peter first appeared in a chapter of a Barrie story, The Little White Bird, in 1902, it wasn’t until later that Barrie wrote the stage play Peter Pan.
It opened at the Duke of York theatre in 1904 and was a huge success.
Barrie then wrote the novelisation of the play in 1911 and called it Peter and Wendy. It was an instant bestseller, and has never been out of print since.
I am enthralled by the story of Peter Pan, not just as a childhood memory, but right through my entire adult life. To me it’s pure escapism at its best.
A story of a boy who never grows up, can fly, lives on a fantastical island with a fairy as a best friend and a pirate captain as an enemy. JM Barrie, in my opinion, was a genius.
Not only that, he was extremely generous. In 1929, Barrie, to the surprise of everyone, gifted the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London.
This world-famous hospital has benefited ever since from royalties from not just book sales, but every time a theatre production of the play takes place.
By how much? We will never know, for Barrie requested that any monies raised for the hospital from his work of Peter Pan, be kept private.
GOSH, I believe to this very day, has honoured his wishes.
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of “what happened next?”. By that I mean, I read a wonderful story, but often think, what happens next? It can’t just end there. I want more!
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a prime example. I adore this story. Yes, we all know this tale and its wonderful conclusion. However, it’s been my thought for decades, does Scrooge actually remain a kind old man who becomes like a second father to Tiny Tim? Or does he regress into the old miser that he always was?
Then, of course, there’s Peter Pan.
We all know the story of the boy who never grew up. And in the end Captain Hook gets swallowed by that crocodile, while Wendy returns to London and they all live happily ever after.
Other Peter Pan books, I accept, have been written since. As for me, I first had my idea, believe it or not, around 15 years ago.
I wrote a storyboard for a sequel to Peter Pan, but did nothing with it. I put it in a drawer and that was that.
It wasn’t until 2019, for a reason I cannot remember, that I started to work on the storyboard again, and after invaluable advice from a friend who works in children’s publishing, I sat down and finally wrote the manuscript during lockdowns.
The name of my Peter Pan sequel? An Awfully Big Adventure. Taken, of course, from Pan’s famous line: “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
Who is my book aimed at? Technically it’s classed as middle grade with a cross over to young adult. Confusing? Sure, but it basically means it’s not a little kids’ book.
Of course, I want all young people to read it. Yet I wrote it in a way that I hope will appeal to adults also.
My Peter Pan sequel is for your children, grandchildren, and for you, the young at heart. It’s basically from age 10 right up as far as you can go. All you need is imagination.
An Awfully Big Adventure will be available from Amazon as an eBook or in good old-fashioned print as of June 4. There’s even plans for an audiobook. Watch this space.
Next week I will bring you a 1,500-word extract from the actual book. But here’s the back page blurb as a teaser.
A year has passed in Neverland…
Initially triumphant after Hook’s “death” at the hands of that crocodile, the spark has gone out of Peter Pan. Now totally disillusioned and after spending much time in London with Wendy, Pan concedes, it may be time for him to finally grow up…
Meanwhile, rumours circulate round Neverland…
Since no remains were ever found, could Hook still be alive?
It’s a thought that would once have put terror into the hearts of the Lost Boys. But now, fearing that Peter Pan is going to leave them for adulthood, they realise there’s only one thing that can stop that and bring Pan to his senses…
The return to Neverland of Captain James Hook.
But no one knows where Hook is. Or if he really is alive. And how to find him?
The Lost Boys don’t have the answers, but they do know one thing – they’ve got to stop Peter Pan from growing up.
From Neverland to the back streets of London, it’s a dangerous race against time…
Tick tock, tick tock…
Writing a Peter Pan book is hardly like writing columns about Putin’s Russia or freedom of speech topics, or the Israeli Palestinian question.
An Awfully Big Adventure has, I can tell you, really taken me out of my comfort zone writing wise.
And I’m finally ready to share it with the world.
Excited? Yes. Nervous? Most definitely yes.
Actually, it’s not a solo book. It’s the first in a planned trilogy. An Awfully Big Adventure, The Battle for Neverland, and Wendy’s Final Journey.
But one step, or book I should say, at a time.
Is there not a better time, with all the misery and chaos in the world right now, to lose ourselves in a world of wonder, adventure and never growing up?
A sincere and huge thank you to the P&J and the larger DC Thomson group for allowing me this opportunity to promote my new book through their various publications.
Next week – An Awfully Big Adventure…