‘Mr Brown’s Suitcase’ took twenty-two years to create. Well, that’s not strictly true; the kernel of an idea was there twenty-two years ago, it just took twenty-two years of teaching experience for the idea to become my debut novel.
‘Mr Brown’s Suitcase’ is the emotional story of a troubled boy, Jez, who is unhappy at home and challenging at school. It is only when a supply teacher, Mr Brown, takes over his class for a while that things begin to change. Jez becomes fascinated with the suitcase which Mr Brown has brought with him and is determined to get his chance to take a look inside.
I wanted to write this story because, over the years, I have had a great deal of experience with difficult children and I am always interested in why they behave like they do. What makes them so disengaged, sad and angry? We all know the theory, but what is it actually like for them to have a chaotic home life, then have to come to school with all its structure and rules, sit quietly and learn. I also wanted to show that there is much more to those children than the loud, badly behaved characters that we have to deal with in the classroom.
With all the negative press teachers get these days, I wanted to show in the book that we are in a privileged position. We can be the adult in a child’s life who can provide a little bit of stability in an otherwise turbulent world. I used a supply teacher rather that a class teacher because, as a supply teacher myself who frequently feels undervalued and invisible, I wanted to show that, even for the short time we are in schools, we can make a difference to a child’s school experience. Mr Brown’s back story also shows that, unlike popular myth, supply teachers are not just teachers who can’t get a ‘proper job’!
When I started writing, I actually aimed ‘Mr Brown’s Suitcase, at children aged 10 years and older. However, I have been thrilled that it’s become a book which lots of adults are enjoying too. It has particularly appealed to those in education as obviously it’s based in a world they are familiar with and experience every day. I have been thrilled with the reviews that I have had on Amazon – everyone seems to have taken Jez into their hearts!
It took about a year to write the book itself. As well as being a teacher, I am a mum of three girls, so writing had to be fitted in to any spare parts of the day! When I was happy with my final copy, I began the arduous task of sending it off to literary agents. After a multitude of polite rejections – it seems that the world of publishing is harder to get into than Buckingham Palace – I decided to go it alone and self-publish on Amazon; a friend of friend had done it with a great deal of success. The process was long and quite often I felt like throwing my laptop across the room in frustration, but I persevered. My book, which I had carefully written and rewritten, had a special place in my heart and I wanted to see it in print!
And so here it is…’Mr Brown’s Suitcase’. Have a look and see what you think…
Article kindly submitted by Kate Hughes, author and supply teacher. Contains affiliate links to Amazon.