A Yorkshire Author and Adoptive Father on his Children’s Book
This National Adoption Week, we catch up with Knaresborough-based author Daniel Ingram-Brown about his experiences as an adoptive father
On the eve of her 12th birthday, Beatrice runs away from her adoptive home, but encounters the ghost of England's most famous prophetess, Mother Shipton – who was fostered herself. The witch offers her treasure, but can she be trusted? Bea must face up to her past to discover the witch’s secret and eventually find her way home.
While it’s a fabulously fun children’s book, especially for Halloween, it really highlights the challenges that adopted children can face. That’s something that’s important to Daniel, who is the author of The Firebird Chronicles series of children’s books, and is currently studying a PhD at Leeds Beckett University exploring adoption through creative writing. Having moved from theatre production to writing around 10 years ago, he’s now a story-writer-in-residence for secondary schools in Yorkshire, and has overseen a number of community writing projects.
Daniel decided to write his book with the aim of helping readers to better understand and empathise with those involved in the adoption system. ‘I’m an adoptive dad, so the main inspiration is my son,’ he explains. Daniel adopted his son when he was around six and a half. ‘I guess I can write about adoption because you can write about what you know,’ he adds. ‘But I decided I wanted to write about adoption in a more conscious way. Bea is an adopted protagonist. I wanted to raise a bit of awareness about some of the challenges that adoptees might face.’
Research suggests that adoptees are often under or misrepresented in fiction. Daniel wanted to shed light onto a part of our society that is often obscured, misunderstood or misrepresented. ‘All adoptees have a level of trauma within them and you can’t avoid that, so even if you adopt a child as a baby you still can’t avoid those issues – but it’s been the richest experience I’ve ever had and I definitely feel it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,’ he says. ‘I have a lovely relationship with my son. He loves reading. He’s a bigger reader than me, and reads really quickly, but books and stories have always been a connection point for us.’
In fact, having read the book, his son has given it his seal of approval. ‘He said “well, it’s better than I thought it was going to be” which I thought was high praise from a teenager,’ Daniel laughs.
But Daniel admits he was slightly nervous about adoptees reading his story and recognising some of their experiences. ‘I did get a lot of feedback from adoptees and birth parents while I was writing the book and, thankfully, those who have read it do say that they can see themselves in it,’ he says. ‘There’s one bit where it’s revealed that the main character has a memory box where she keeps various things from her life and I remember one adoptee saying they have one in their garage and they could really relate to that. But, of course, I wanted to write something that had a wider appeal as well so that people who may not have any experiences of adoption can understand it and get something from it. I guess, for me, in terms of writing it, it’s just about finding the humanity in the character. We all have challenges around who we are, what we are doing and where we fit in life.’
Research shows that adopted children are 20 times more likely to be excluded from school than their peers, so Daniel is using Bea’s Witch in schools to encourage conversations around issues such as home, family and displacement. ‘It’s not a case of me teaching others about this, it’s about the readers identifying with the character,’ he continues. ‘In the book, you’re never quite sure of whether the magic is really happening or whether it’s something Bea’s imagining in her head. There’s plenty of fun in trying to work out what’s going on, but in that process, readers hopefully step into Bea’s shoes as an adopted girl and see the world from her perspective.’
Bea’s Witch: A Ghostly Coming-of-Age Story by Daniel Ingram-Brown (Lodestone Books, £8.99) is available from all good book shops. Get your free audio book chapter at danielingrambrown.wordpress.com.