Developing the characters for Sister, Missing


Inspired by the case of a real-life missing child, I wrote Girl, Missing in the first two months of 2005. For the next five-and-a-half years I didn’t think there would ever be a sequel. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write about Lauren and Jam and Madison again. I did! It was simply that I couldn’t imagine another story that would sit well alongside the first book.

And then, one lazy afternoon in the Autumn of 2010, I sat down to watch the Coen Brothers’ movie, Fargo and, inspired by one aspect of the film, the germ of an idea slipped into my head. I made some notes and put them to one side. The next day I came back to the idea and fleshed it out a little. At last I saw how I could come back to the world of Girl, Missing and extend it into another story!

At the start of the first book, Lauren asks herself the question: Who am I? At this point she is very concerned with finding a practical answer to that question. Where does she come from? Who are her birth parents? Who took her away from them? Skip forward two years, to Sister, Missing and Lauren is trying to figure out what kind of person she is. Like many sixteen-year-olds she is pulling away from her parents. In Lauren’s case, she’s struggling to deal with two rather suffocating mothers (birth and adoptive) as well as the death of her birth father and the introduction of a new boyfriend for her birth mum.

I wanted this context for the book, because I think it’s one many people can relate to. Lots of daughters have to cope with controlling mums, absent dads and new step-father figures and this, I hope, gives Lauren’s extraordinary story a basis in a very ordinary life.

However the most important relationships in Sister, Missing are between Lauren and her sisters. I don’t have a sister – though I’ve clocked up five stepsisters and three sisters-in-law over the years – and I’m fascinated by this often complicated and intense family tie. In Girl, Missing Lauren meets little Madison, whom she adores, and rude, unfriendly Shelby whom she loathes. One of the main reasons I wanted to revisit the world of Girl, Missing was to show how these relationships develop over time.

Once Lauren was simply the child who went missing. Now, in Sister, Missing, she finds herself responsible for finding and saving her missing sister. How Lauren responds to this challenge is at the centre of the book, providing the story’s most dramatic moments, and revealing how getting to know her sisters will change Lauren in ways she could never have foreseen.