I can’t speak about my life as a writer without mentioning ‘The Promise’. It’s a book I wrote when my sons were about nine. One day, they asked me to write a story where there were no grown-ups.
“None at all?” I asked.
“None,” they replied firmly. And then Sebi gave me the idea. “They all got killed off by a virus,” he said.
So I sat down and wrote ‘The Promise’. It was a slim, unassuming story about a boy named Ryan who didn’t give up. He made a promise to his father, and he meant to keep it. He and his younger brother and sister made a voyage to the south of France, meeting other survivors along the way. It was a small book, but it had great consequences. My mother, an English teacher, decided to use it in her class in a maximum security prison for minors. In my book, the narrator is the hero of the story. But the boys in the prison identified with Red Sky – the villain. But Red Sky redeems himself in the book. The boys in the prison loved the book so much they asked my mother if she could find the film. My mother said the book wasn’t a film, but she knew the author. Incredulous, the boys demanded to know who it was. When she told them it was her daughter, they wondered if I couldn’t come in and talk to them about the book. It required several months of preparation, special permission, and lots of organizing – but the day arrived I went to prison to speak about my book.
I was a little nervous and had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect the barrage of thoughtful, interesting questions the boys asked me! From the metaphor of setting free the wolves, to Red Sky’s motives in saving the horse…everything had to be discussed at length.
Amazed by the visit, and amused by the demands, I wrote a story just about Red Sky, the character the boys most identified with. I finished the sequel and presented it to the classes for Christmas. (Just what they wanted – an unedited first draft!) My mother had them editing it for an English lesson one day. (How many of you can spot the misplaced modifier in this page? How many typos can you find?)
I went back to the prison three times. Each time I was thankful for the prison authorities who took the time to organize the day for me, and who made everything go so smoothly. A special thanks to the director and to my mom, of course, for letting me be part of the program. It really means far more to me than dollar signs to hear a young boy tell me, “Mrs. Macaire, I want to say something. When I’m out of here, and I have a wife and kids, I want to be sitting on my sofa one day and watching television and see your film, ‘The Promise’ with my kids. And if it doesn’t become a film, I’m still going to sit down and read the book to them. Because it was important to me. It made me see to the future.”
Well, after that – who needs a best seller?
You can find The Promise here as a kindle,