Trouble Half-way is a novel for middle-grade readers, published by Viking Kestrel in 1985 (reprinted twice in hardback), and Puffin Books in 1987. It was runner-up for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award in 1986.
From an interview in the Australian magazine Magpies, March 1989
My brother drives a lorry. Half of that journey I did with him, in that very lorry, delivering that very furniture, as far as Cheltenham. I put the rest of the lorry journey in from what I knew of the towns. The train travel I have actually done.
Footnote: Jan mentioned a documentary made on the differences between the film, the book and reality, featuring Jan and her brother to accompany a TV adaptation of the book.
From an article entitled, ‘Journeys’, published in The Horn Book magazine, March/April 1987
Trouble Half-Way is about the relationship that develops between a child and her stepfather. Amy lives in Gravesend. She lives in Gravesend because I taught there for six years. I know it rather more intimately than I would wish. But as far as Amy is concerned, it’s home; it’s the right place. Everything else is measured against Gravesend. Her father is dead, her mother had married again recently. Her stepfather, who has only been in the family a few months, is a long-distance lorry driver, driving furniture all over England and delivering it, if it hasn’t disintegrated in the meantime. Because of a family crisis – her mother is called away to stay with a sick relative – Amy has to go in the lorry with Richard Up North. She doesn’t want to go Up North for a number of reasons: it’s dirty, she will miss the gymnastics competition; and Up North is foreign, somewhere else. It’s all right for Richard to be there – but not her. She can judge Richard well enough if he is elsewhere; if she, too, is with him, she loses her yardstick, her touchstone. She’s very reluctant to go, although she never manages to articulate these reasons to herself. Richard bribes her to go, not with money but by telling her that in the town of Oldham, outside Manchester, there’s a cotton mill with the name Amy on it. Now that cotton mill never actually existed; I invented it. There were three mills outside Oldham called Mona, Dawn and Coral. I saw them myself from a railway train about five years ago. I understand, however, that since I wrote them into the story they have been demolished. I have this kiss of death on subject material. When I wrote Handles, I used a friend’s motorbike shop; he went bankrupt.