Guest blog by Finbar Hawkins
hen I began writing ‘Stone’, I knew instinctively that I wanted to explore the male psyche, how a boy starts to become man, and how difficult that terrain can be to navigate. And while ‘Witch’ is about the tension and love between mother and daughter, it also felt a natural companion piece to write about fathers and sons. I have always found it fascinating when I encounter this relationship in other fiction or on screen.
When I began writing ‘Stone’, I knew instinctively that I wanted to explore the male psyche, how a boy starts to become man, and how difficult that An early influence was Roald Dahl’s ‘Danny the Champion of the World’, in my opinion Dahl’s masterpiece. I read it and re-read it as child, and I’ve still got that same hardback copy. It’s as moving and joyful as it was then. Slowly we see how Danny and his father’s roles pivot, as the protected becomes the protector. So perhaps this was in my writer’s subconscious when I came to work on ‘Stone’, that I wanted to celebrate male relationships, unfortunately little seen in fiction.
Having been a boy on the threshold of adulthood, I knew that some of my personal experiences would inform my character Sam’s journey. There are moments of elation mixed with danger, of risk-taking and rivalry. And there are the first stirrings of sexual attraction, when girls take on an intensity that it is difficult for a young man to express. That we must learn that a male’s testosterone impulses are often not the best means of making a proper connection with the opposite sex. For one reason or another, society seems to prevent boys sometimes from truly expressing their feelings. It’s why I wrote about Sam’s sessions with a psychotherapist, importantly someone not part of his immediate family – because with family we can sometimes go to old faults and feuds, that obscure the fundamental truths. And initially Sam is resistant, aggressive even. But in time, and with the help of another male character, the much older Bill, who is also navigating his own mental health, Sam starts to realise that to grow, to take the next step in life, he will need to talk, will need to express himself, and so draw the splinter lodged in his heart.
Life isn’t easy sometimes. And a male tendency is often fight or flight. ‘Stone’ is my attempt to show my young reading audience – some of whom I hope are the less book prone males – that there is no handbook to this ‘great and strange universe’, as Sam’s father tells him, so we must try walk the land, talk to each other, look out for each other and learn to enjoy the ride. If ‘Stone’ manages to help a single young person out there, whatever their gender, then I’ve done something, and that’s the true magic of books – we look for ourselves, we seek some peace of mind, some solace, an escape and a home. And for this reason, I’m off to find my copy of ‘Danny the Champion of the World’.