'Stories begin with once upon a time.'
This is the opening sentence of Jigsaw Pieces my YA ebook. It is written in the voice of 18 year old Annie Skjaerstad. She continues: 'Once upon a time when I was 16 years old, somebody I knew died and changed my life forever'.
Jigsaw Pieces traces two pivotal experiences in Annie's life: the suicide of a classmate and her chance meeting with World War 1 veteran Billy Donne. Annie lives in the UK, but was born in Norway. Her father left when she was very young and she never sees him. She is a loner in a strange land who doesn't fit in, says the wrong thing, and is generally disliked and misunderstood by her fellow students. Yet as the story unfolds the reader begins to understand where Annie is coming from. How she has had to develop a strong carapace to survive, and I hope they also begin to see another, softer, more empathetic side to her prickly character.
Where did Annie spring from? Looking back at my own life, I am struck by how many similarities we share. I too was an outsider, growing up in the 1960's as the only Jewish girl in a school of 600 christian ones. My parents were refugees from Hitler's Germany. Like Annie I tried to fit in, but never really did. And then there was the inevitable racism and bullying. I underwent many bad life-events as I matured into an adult, but I firmly believe these were what eventually turned me into what I am today: a writer.
So out of our negative experiences we emerge, Annie and I, strong women, our characters forged in the fires of what we have endured. As Annie says: 'I like the idea of being strong. I've grown up with the concept. It's in my bones and my blood. Strong people survive. They weep, but they don't go under. That's how I am.'
‘He had been part of my everyday life. I hadn’t liked him much, nobody had liked him much, but he’d been there. Now, I’d never see him again.’
Annie Skjaerstad had been searching for her identity since being uprooted from her native country of Norway. With a spiky personality winning her no friends, and family members suddenly torn out of her life, she is left seeking comfort from a growing intrigue into the stories of fallen war heroes.
But one day, a boy from her school unexpectedly commits suicide, changing things forever. Confused by the tragic tale of someone she knew, Annie soon finds herself conducting her own investigation into his death.
What she uncovers will bring her to a dark and dangerous place, as suddenly – her own life is put at risk.