It was the same with Millie. I hadn’t made a conscious decision for her to have Downs Syndrome, I don’t even remember making the decision to give Grace a sister. Millie came into being quite naturally, simply because it was necessary for Jack to have some kind of hold over Grace. I don’t have any real experience of Downs Syndrome yet I always seemed to know what Millie would say and how she would react to any given situation. I thought she was brilliant and, without giving too much away, when she turned out to be so important to the story, nobody was more delighted than me!
Grace’s character didn’t change much from how I had imagined her because there wasn’t really anywhere for her to go. In an impossible situation from the start, all she could do was play along while she tried to find a way out. What was exciting was seeing her rise to the challenges that I hadn’t known Jack would fling at her! I loved her ability to adapt, to wrong-foot Jack, as well as the little flashes of humour she displayed. I wanted the reader to be able to root for Grace so I was pleased when, behind the carefully controlled exterior she presented to the world, flashes of her true personality shone through.
From the very beginning, along with Grace and Jack, there was always Esther. I knew she would be crucial to the story but I didn’t really know how everything would tie in so, as the end approached, I did what I had learnt to do and let the characters take over. I swear Esther wrote the last few lines herself. They were so unexpected, and finished off the story so beautifully, that they brought tears to my eyes.
All in all, I think it would be fair to say that I will never find another book as easy to write as Behind Closed Doors and I’m sure that’s because the characters wrote most of it for me!