Thursday, August 30, 2012

Novelist Pat McDermott on Children in Adult Stories

I'm very pleased to welcome back Pat McDermott, discussing a topic I've often been curious about: making child characters central to an adult story. I've never tried it myself, but I've read some great examples (David Mitchell's Black Swan Green pops to mind).

In her new novel, Fiery Roses, Pat used this technique, and agreed to share her thoughts about it.

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Children in Adult Stories

Blackmail and murder hardly make Fiery Roses a story for children. Yet a few vibrant moppets have stolen their way into this action/adventure fantasy set in an Ireland that might have been. Why include children in an adult story?

A child’s perspective can ease the tension, offer a simpler point of view, or add a touch of humor as it furthers the story along. In this excerpt, two girls amuse a reporter.

The sight of two red-haired demons bicycling straight at her frightened her until she realized the skinny legs pumping the pedals belonged to freckle-faced Mary Margaret Gannon and her sister Joanie.

“Allison! Allison!” Little Joanie skidded to a halt, braking with the toes of her sneakers. “An old, old man is visiting Aunt Betty. He must be a hunnerd-an-ten!”

Mary Margaret backpedaled to a stop. “He came to see her garden.” Holding the handlebars, she straddled her bicycle and sighed. “He said none of the flowers in her garden was as beautiful as her, and then he kissed her hand.”

“He’s going to court her,” squealed Joanie. “Wait till we tell Daddy!”

No secrets with kids around. Then we have the adult character who flashes back to childhood. I used this trick to help readers understand Neil Boru, the adoptive cousin and newlywed husband of Princess Talty. Here, he shares a haunting memory of his first meeting with his grandmother.

“‘Come here, boy’, she said. ‘Let me look at you.’ My mother gave me a nudge, and I went and stood in front of Bridget.” His eyes shut tight at the recollection. “I thought she was a witch, Tal. I can still see her weird purple eyes staring at me, never blinking. Then she said, ‘You look nothing like my Frank.’ She only spoke to my mother after that. While we were having tea, she said, ‘He’s left-handed. That’s no good,’ and other equally endearing things.”

Fiery Roses takes Neil and Talty to a parallel world, where they meet Kavie, a darling eight-year-old who gives Talty a chance to demonstrate her archery skills.

Kavie stood with his back to the sun, shooting arrows into, or at least near, a moth-eaten hide thirty yards in front of him. Pieces of straw peeked from beneath the target, an old boarskin shaped to somewhat resemble the unfortunate boar who had once owned it.

Smiling at his comical lack of skill, she waited until he reached for an arrow before she spoke. “Hello, Kavie. You’re up early. Practicing your shots, are you?”

“Good morning, goddess,” he said in his squeaky but endearing young voice. “I’m going to be a great hunter, like Papa.”

“That will take lots of practice and hard work.”

“I don’t mind.” He stood tall. “I’m small, but I’m very brave.”

Kavie will have a chance to prove his bravery, as will little Joanie, and yes, even Neil. The children’s presence undeniably enriches the plot of Fiery Roses. I’m glad they insisted on jumping aboard.

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Fiery Roses, released by MuseItUp Publishing on August 10, is Book Two in the Band of Roses Trilogy. Book One, A Band of Roses, was released in May. The third book, Salty Roses, is due for release in November.

To learn more about Pat McDermott, visit her website.           

Fiery Roses on Amazon or directly from MuseItUp Publishing.


  1. Delighted to visit again, Anne. Thanks for the hospitality!

  2. I never thought about using children in adult mystery or adventure books. Or taking the MC back to a scene from the their past. I don't know why I haven't. A wonderful ploy and advice.

    Thanks for posting this.


  3. Lorrie and Cheryl, thanks so much for stopping by. Lorrie, I love working kids into stories. It's like looking out through a different window. It offeres all sorts of possibilities.

  4. Love the Mary and Joanie scene!
    Very interesting piece. I've had the conversation recently about children in adult books, and it seems yours fill a happy space.
    Best of luck with Firey Roses :)

  5. Thanks so much, Tori. 'Kid' character add lots of fun to writing, at least in my experience. I'll keep them in my bag of tricks for sure!

  6. I enjoyed the Mary-Joanie segment featured here, too. The girls were funny and they brightened the news about the male guest and made it exciting. Kid characters are great in adult stories! What they express are raw emotions. Best of luck with 'Fiery Roses' from me, too, Pat.

  7. Well said, Claudine. Thank you for the good wishes!

  8. Kids in stories can certainly add their perspective and "tell it like it is"...unfortunately it is true in real life too! Great topic for blogging. Thanks.

  9. It is so true in real life, JQ. Hence the inspiration :-) Thanks so much for stopping by!