When Only Child by Rhiannon Navin was first released I was thrilled to be able to review it and you can read that review here. Today I am delighted to welcome Rhiannon to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me.
Staying in with Rhiannon Navin
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Rhiannon. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thanks for inviting me, Linda.
As if I couldn’t guess, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought my novel Only Child with me. The paperback edition comes out the 4th of October and I’m excited to show off the beautiful new cover.
(Happy paperback publication day. I love the new cover too Rhiannon.)
Only Child is the first story I’ve ever written. It began as just a way for me to work through some pretty intense fears and worries I had for my children (I’ve got three) and turned into an amazing journey that led to this novel now having been published all around the world. It’s been terribly exciting and mind-blowing for this stay-at-home mum. Only Child deals with an unfortunately very timely subject and terrifying reality for parents here in the U.S.: a deadly school shooting. The story’s perspective is unusual, as it is a seven-year old boy named Zach who tells his story of having to live through a shooting and its devastating aftermath.
(I adored Zach’s perspective and only wish all the politicians would read Only Child too!)
What can we expect from an evening in with Only Child?
Tears, most likely. My little narrator Zach survives a shooting at his school by hiding in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher. But his older brother does not survive. While his family and community quickly begin to unravel and are consumed by their grief, Zach is largely left alone to navigate his many conflicting emotions. He retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach becomes determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion.
(I can confirm the tears…)
I know many of your readers might be hesitant to pick up a story about a school shooting, which I can completely understand. But, they will quickly discover that Only Child is a hopeful and uplifting story. It is ultimately little Zach, who manages to lead his family and their community to a path towards forgiveness and a chance to heal, together.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster for him though, so keep the tissues close by.
(That’s a perfect description of Only Child. I hope more and more people will read it.)
What else have you brought along and why?
I brought my three kids. I couldn’t find a babysitter tonight, so I had to bring them along. I want to apologize for the mess they’ve made already. But it is very apropos that they’re here with me, while I talk to you about my book, because they really were the inspiration for the story.
(They are very welcome. I’ll get my husband to clear up later…)
While writing Only Child, I used them as my focus group for how Zach might act or speak. In a way, the process of discovering Zach’s character and writing his story brought me even closer to them because I paid more attention and watched them intently for clues: What are they thinking right now? How are they processing, expressing themselves? I call my kids by the wrong name all the time—even the cats’ and dog’s names sometimes—and because I hung out with Zach so much while they were at school, I even called them Zach once or twice. They were very confused.
(Ha! My father used to call me by the cat’s name so I know how they feel.)
In all seriousness though, it was a devastating thing to have to do, picture my own children in Zach’s situation. I hope that my story finds the people it’s meant to find and that it can make a small contribution towards a safer future for all our children.
(I quite agree. Only Child brings home so clearly how children are affected and we need a safer world for all children.)
Having so appreciated Only Child, Rhiannon, it has been a delight to stay in with you and hear more about it. Thanks so much and good luck with the paperback version.
We went to school that Tuesday like normal.
Not all of us came home . . .
Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing.
Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can.
Published by Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, Only Child is released in paperback today, 4th October 2018 and is available for purchase here.
About Rhiannon Navin
Rhiannon Navin grew up in Bremen, Germany, in a family of book-crazy women. Her career in advertising brought her to New York City, where she worked for several large agencies before becoming a full-time mother and writer. She now lives outside of New York City with her husband, three children, two cats, and one dog.
Only Child is her first novel.