A Cannabis Farm on Hayling Island?
By Miriam Halahmy
By Miriam Halahmy
Hidden, Illegal, Stuffed, (Meadowside Books.)
I like to read realistic novels with challenging themes so inevitably my Y.A. novels deal with quite strong issues. Hidden (March 2011) focused on asylum seekers, racist bullying and human rights. Illegal (March 2012) picks up the character of Lindy who first appears in Hidden, the bad girl with a nail sharpened to a spear and tells her story. I had become interested in the rising number of cannabis farms being discovered and raided by the police along the south coast. What if someone set up a cannabis farm on little Hayling Island and asked Lindy to run it?
My initial inciting idea was born and at first I thought it was quite an amusing theme. But very quickly this became a serious story and I wanted to show how dangerous ‘smoking a bit of weed’ can become. I have taught a lot of young people on the margins of society and some of them had been sectioned because of the terrible effects of cannabis on their mental health.
Lindy puts the facts very succinctly herself in Illegal :
Everyone in school boasted about smoking weed. No-one ever mentioned it could drive you mad, make you walk naked down the motorway out of your mind, like Jay. She noticed more and more stuff about drugs on the telly since she’d been at the Greenhouse. There were hundreds of secret cannabis farms, just like Colin’s, all over the country. She had no idea. The police had raided two farms in Portsmouth just last week. Would they find out about the Greenhouse?
The weed they were growing these days was so strong apparently it made you go psycho, gave you schizophrenia, one doctor said. That must be what happened to Jay. Terrence said he was on a mental ward now.
The doctor on the news also said you can get cancer of the tongue from smoking skunk. She began to imagine all the kids at school with huge cancerous lumps sticking out of their faces and everyone blaming her. If the police don’t get me first, the parents and teachers will beat me to a pulp.
What would Joyce at the Ambulance say if she knew Lindy was growing drugs? Joyce would kick me out, school would kick me out too. Then where would I go all day?
For Lindy running the cannabis farm is only the beginning of her problems. In fact her cousin wants her deal in cocaine. He has cunningly chosen her because she is a vulnerable lonely girl from a dysfunctional family with no-one to look out for her well –being. Lindy teams up with another neglected boy who because of his own problems hasn’t spoken for two years. Karl is a mute but he is attracted to Lindy and together they make a desperate bid to save her from prison and the crooks.
All of my Y.A. novels deal with strong themes but it is the characters that drive the plots, their highs and lows, their desires and wants and needs, how they interact with each other. I believe in creating complex layered characters, I think that humour is very important in books which have strong themes and ultimately if I have created convincing three dimensional characters, then my readers will want to turn the page and find out what is happening to them, no matter what they are mixed up in. I don’t write to drive home political or social messages, I write to create characters and situations and I am constantly making new discoveries about my characters and their tangled lives. This is the mystery and ultimately the pleasure of being a novelist.
ILLEGAL (March 2012 Meadowside Books)
"touching, surprising and painfully honest"
HIDDEN (Meadowside Books)
Nominated for CILIP 2012 Carnegie Medal
Shortlisted : 2012 Portsmouth Book Award
Shortlisted : 2012 Essex Book Award
What the reviewers have said about HIDDEN:
"Written with clarity and immediacy.... a book to counter bigotry" Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times
"Tautly written throughout this fine novel deserves the widest audience" Nick Tucker
To find out more about Miriam Halahmy and her books, please visit her website, Miriam Halahmy.com
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All images courtesy of Miriam Halahmy.