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trying to figure out how I could write a TV show about a gifted child – when I mentioned it at meetings in LA though I could see the eyes of the execs glaze over – but my father was a gifted child, he went to college when he was sixteen, and both my sons went to a school for gifted children. There was obviously something going on inside my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about the subject. I got really interested in Steve Jobs, who was adopted, like Willow. His real parents ended up getting married – they’re both professors - but it’s so interesting how he ended up with this family that couldn’t have children, who intellectually were not where he was, but who were loving and wonderful. He said all the time that he was who he was because of them. They didn’t get so angry with him if he didn’t go to school, so he quit college and took a calligraphy course – and then his taking that calligraphy course is the reason that Apple have all these great fonts, what differentiated them from IBM.’





she was behind a woman with two toddlers, three and five years old. To the consternation of the check-in staff, the woman was trying to send them on the flight as unaccompanied minors! Their grandparents would apparently be waiting at the other end. As the discussions continued, Holly stepped up and simply said, ‘I’ll take the kids’ – and she did, despite her mother and airport staff who were all saying, ‘NO! Don’t take the kids.’ It was an eventful journey, but they all arrived, and Holly was able to hand the children over to their grandparents. A family put back together!


Willow, the central character in Counting by 7s is desperately in need of a family. At the start of the story, her adoptive parents are killed in a car crash, and she’s left alone. Willow is a very gifted child, but finds ordinary communication difficult. Luckily for her – fate plays an important part in Holly’s books – she’s made friends with an older Vietnamese girl at school. Willow is able to move in with Mai, her mother and brother and by the end of the book, she has assembled a new family, and changed the lives of nearly everyone she’s met.


Counting By 7s is driven by the loss of Willow’s parents, and Holly wrote the book in response to a particularly sad event in her own life. Her husband, the father of her two children, died suddenly three years ago. They had divorced after ten years of marriage, but remained very close, and his death was a great shock. ‘I try to write what I’m feeling, and I felt like a kid from an emotional point of view, I was feeling so much loss.’ The book was not an easy one to write, and she claims she actually tried to give up a number of times, but her publisher wouldn’t let her. They were right to make her persevere: despite the grief at its heart, Counting By 7s is a real feel-good book that readers of all ages will press on their friends; the characters are immensely appealing, and its story arc leaves them in a kind of recreated paradise.


Counting By 7s also allowed Holly to explore another theme that she’d been thinking about for a while: gifted children. ‘I spent ages


I had a choice early on to let the world


come to me, or to jump into the world. I chose to jump!





Like Steve Jobs and his calligraphy class, Holly’s books are full of the unexpected repercussions of actions. In both I’ll Be There and Counting By 7s, small acts of kindness result in life-changing events for the characters. ‘I believe that all the small things in your life matter, that they count more than the big things. I tell kids in schools that what matters is the day to day, not the big thing like the school prom, these events that you spend so much time on, and which are over-emphasised. I tell them: find the seven people in your life that matter, and tell them that. It could make a real difference.’


There’s a kind of spiritualism to this, and though Holly seems uncomfortable at the thought, she admits that her husband says she’s the most spiritual person he’s ever met. ‘But I’m not religious at all, and it sounds really corny, but I just want everyone to think about everyone else.’


The sequel to I’ll Be There, Just Call My Name, will be published in the UK this autumn. Although she hadn’t planned on writing a follow up, Holly found herself thinking about the characters a lot, until it became clear to her that she wanted to write more about them. ‘It takes place about three months after the end of I’ll Be There. You think that things have worked out for them all, but that’s not life …’. For fans of the characters, this is sounds alarming, but they needn’t worry, as Holly says, ‘I was once asked, “Could you ever write something where things didn’t work out?” It was upsetting, that's just not me! Why wouldn’t it all work out? Life works itself out, you struggle and you find ways to make it work.’ n


Holly’s books are published by Piccadilly Press Counting by 7s 978-1848123823, £7.99 I’ll Be There, 978-1848122673, £7.99


Just Call My Name 978-1848124127 is scheduled for publication in September 2014.


Books for Keeps No.206 May 2014 11


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