I don’t like the term ordinary people: I haven’t come across an ordinary person yet.
So said PeggySeeger during a wonderful interview on BBC Front Row. The words echoed with me so powerfully that I had to stop walking and write it down (Front Row podcasts keep me company on my daily walks!).
One of my struggles with modern life, is that it focuses on the wrong people. I live in a world in which only the beautiful, the slim, the intelligent, the rich and the talented, get the airtime. Those people rarely interest me; the light of publicity tends to dissipate the magic at the heart of human life. We are left with holograms: they shift before our eyes and, when we reach for them, our hands grasp nothing but air.
However, unlike Peggy Seeger, I don’t think that ‘ordinary’ is a bad word. Ordinary is wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s real. It’s you and me making our way, as best we can, through a world that is both awesome and incredibly hard. The people I love to meet, to have as my friends and to write about, are all uniquely ordinary.
And so, one of the few mantras that form the core of my writing life, is that I want all my stories to be about everyday people and to draw out how extraordinary they are, an extraordinariness rooted in their characters, their hearts, their souls. Through those stories about real people, I hope that my readers will be moved and inspired and encouraged to keep going. C.S. Lewis once said, ‘we read to know that we are not alone.’ I hope for that too, that in the company of my characters, of Milo Moon and Norah Wells and all those who surround them, people just like them, my readers will, not only be entertained (the ordinary are by far the most entertaining), but also feel a little better understood, and so less alone.