From the Author
Jane: In my own life, the influenceof those who are missing is as great, and possibly greater still, than thosewho are present. The fact that someone is absent creates the ultimate What if? question, the question all authors toy with when thinking about the premise for their plots.
I had explored this the theme of missing persons tentatively in my previous fiction, but while writing Owl I found myself studying the Missing Persons ads in The Metro, the fourteen and fifteen-year-oldswhose stories aren't sufficiently high-profile to land them on the pages ofnewspapers. They are simply slipping between the cracks. And so I looked intothe facts. One in ten children 'run away' from home before they reach the ageof sixteen, an estimated 100,000 every year. Shockingly, a quarter of thoseyoung people are actually forced out of their homes by parents or carers.Two-thirds are not reported to the police as missing. That's 75,000 childrenfor whom a Missing Persons ad will never be placed. All of these children arehighly vulnerable, at risk of substance abuse, sexual exploitation andhomelessness. Mobile phones and social networking sites have made it eveneasier to target them. I include a particularly poignant quote from LadyCatherine Meye at the beginning of my novel."We can't establish for certain how many children are missing. You'd have morechance of finding a stray dog."
But what if some of the rules thatare put in place with the best of intentions - to protect children - actuallydeprive the most vulnerable of confidential counsel from someone they trust? Iappreciate that not everyone will agree with that view but, when I was growingup, we had a wonderful teacher who operated an open-house and provided a safeplace for those who were struggling at home, no questions asked. It wassurprising who would turn up at her door. Today, in an environment when anyrelationship between teachers and pupils outside the classroom is taboo, shewould be sacked. I think that's terribly sad. Fiction provides a uniqueopportunity to tell one side of a story through the eyes of one or twocharacters. It's not the whole picture by any means, but it is one aspect ofit.