My daughter, Libby, was in primary school when it occurred to me that while I’d been working as a professional writer for years, I’d never written anything specifically for her. In every ‘Day in the Life’ column I read, writers talked about writing stories for their kids – generally the ideas for which they then became famous – but I’d never even tried.
In short, I wasn’t a real writer!
The same month I decided to do something about this, I was teaching screenwriting in three institutions (circa 130 students overall) and writing a feature film that would be made later that year. My daughter was 4, I was far too busy to even think of creating something new, but the guilt got to me!
Also, it felt like a challenge. Libby was growing up fast. She might not have the patience to hear my stories in a few years!
So where did Wulfie come from? First, the odd socks situation. In our house, until we all gave up trying to wear matched socks, we always had 17 odd ones. No matter that I brought all the socks of the house together and chucked out any that wouldn’t pair, within a week we would still be back to 17 odd ones. Someone, I decided, was eating them and for this creature, a smelly sock was a culinary delicacy. In fact, the stenchier the sock, the nicer he’d smell afterwards.
Then there was my daughter, Libby. A hugely imaginative child, who invented endless games and characters, she longed for a best friend. When I asked her how she’d define a best friend, she said, someone ‘who’d walk through flames for me’.
I admired her ambition, but as a parent my heart sank – how could anyone live up to that?
I was using clips of Amadeus in my class and hence the mischievous, purple sock-loving creature I came up with was named Wolfgang Amadeus Rachmaninoff the Third aka Wulfie. He was the ultimate best friend, loyal to a fault. Bullies, well he’d gobble them up – since he loves stinky things – and he was eating all the odd socks in our house before they even made it to the washing machine.
Wulfie’s friend was Libby. Naturally. She’d make Wulfie spit out the bullies, because she was good at heart, but they’d retain wolf-like tendencies for some time afterwards, such as trying to sniff people’s bums or turning three times and falling asleep under the school desk. Wulfie could also grow enormous or shrink small enough to piggyback to school in her ear.
Oh and Wulfie tumbled out of an old mariner’s chest, the sort my mother’s father would have had when he joined the navy at the end of the 19th century. (He has always fascinated me – he was 13 when he joined.) So that became a portal, which meant Wulfie was wulfen. In fact, he was the first purple wulfen to be born in decades and a bit of an outcast in his world, Lupuslandia.
Wulfie is also insatiably curious. This world has rules he doesn’t understand, and being Libby’s best friend, he tries to fix things. One way or the other, Libby ends up tumbling headfirst into adventures she didn’t intend, but from which she gains confidence and does things she would only have dreamt about. I wanted that confidence for my daughter and every little girl I knew.
So every night, I’d sit on Libby’s bed and try to create a new story, or find the right ending for the one I hadn’t been able to finish the night before. If I got stuck or was too tired, I’d ask Libby for a location, an object, or even a sound, and from those I’d weave a story. Most of them were wafer thin but it was fun. Within no time at all, we had a series of mismatched adventures and odd happenings, with lots of slapstick and heart. I had an idea that felt fresh and magical.
Everyone, my daughter decided, needed a wulfen in their lives.
By the time I sent my first Wulfie book to Little Island, I’d written for stage and all sizes of screen (including apps and games) and for every age group from 3 years up. I thought I knew what I was doing but this was my first book for middle grade; I’d spent years developing Wulfie as an animation series after all. But it was set right in the middle of Wulfie and Libby’s life together. It was too long, the structure was too complex and it was turned down.
I didn’t work out how to tell the first story, when Libby and Wulfie meet, until 2017-8 at which point I went back to Siobhán Parkinson. She remembered the original idea and agreed to look at the new book. By then I had published two YA novels – Dad’s Red Dress (2017) and The Angelica Touch (2018) and my book on screenwriting, Write That Script (2018), and I was exhausted by the work involved trying to market your own books. Wulfie had to go the traditional route and I really felt Little Island was a good fit.
Within weeks I had an email with a thumbs up in the subject heading.
Being traditionally published by Little Island is a real treat. To work with a bunch of people who really loved Wulfie as much as I do has been – and is – a privilege.
Wulfie: Stage Fright comes out on Sept 3rd and the second book (Wulfie: The Great Escape) will be out next Spring. I’m finishing the first draft of book three and hatching book 4.
Now that Wulfie has finally made it out into the world, he and Libby have a lot more stories to tell and I can’t wait to write them!
(c) Lindsay J Sedgwick
About Wulfie: Stage Fright
With a best friend like Wulfie, anything is possible! Libby lives a lonely life with her mean stepmother, her ineffectual inventor father, and her nasty step-brother, Rex. Then she makes a new best friend: Wulfie, a purple wolf-like creature who can shrink down very small or grow very big (usually on purpose, often not). Wulfie is a sweet but mischievous character who helps get Libby out of difficult situations at school and to get revenge on Rex – all the while just managing not to be discovered. From the Award-winning creator of ground-breaking animated series Punky comes a tale of magic, mischief, and most importantly, friendship.
Order your copy online here.