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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wong

How books can change your life

I picked this rose as a reminder that art and life are intertwined.

You see, a while back I did some reading all about climbing and rambling roses, as research for my next book. Specifically, I wrote about a white rose in the grounds of the house where the story is set.

This week, I walked up to the old house that inspired the setting, and I noticed something I'd never spotted before: a white rambling rose. (I can identify them now I've done all my research!) Here were two separate things I'd written about, sitting side by side.

Something even more amazing happened yesterday, when an albatross was sighted off the Yorkshire coast. If you've read A Map of the Sky, you'll know that the main character, Kit, and his new friend Bert the birdwatcher spend some of the book investigating a possible sighting of a Black-Browed Albatross off the Yorkshire coast. I knew when I wrote it that, though not entirely impossible, this was a highly unlikely event. So when I saw the news, it felt like my book had come to life!

Photo credit: BBC, Craig Thomas

These surprising links between real life and the written word got me thinking. First of all, I thought my next book should be about a writer in her thirties who becomes a millionaire, just to see if that would come true too!

But I've also reflected on the fact that creativity and life are not separate. They influence one another. And really, that's a key reason why I write. I believe books have the power to change us.

I think of it a little like C.S.Lewis' book, The Silver Chair. At the start of the book, Eustace and Jill are hiding from school bullies, with no hope of escape. By the end of the book, they've been to Narnia and the experience has so transformed them that the bullies run away from them.

In the same way, maybe you've had the experience of reaching the last page of a novel and knowing it's impacted you in some small (or big) way. Studies have shown that reading can increase our empathy. Yes, we love a bit of escapism to another place or era, especially during difficult times, but I believe a good book can show us a new perspective on life, help us understand a different point of view, or recognise beauty where we'd never seen it before.

This, I suppose, is my WHY: my manifesto for continuing to write. It's why my books explore themes I think matter, like how people cope with disappointment, or what forgiving someone means.

And I think when you know why you're doing something, it's much easier to keep going, no matter what life throws at you.

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