Dead Diary tells the story of Mathilde, a young girl who has to deal with the usual difficulties of growing up: such as problems at school, not being noticed by that special boy, and having to constantly help ghosts find their peace:
I’m tired. Dead tired. So tired I can barely stay awake to write this. After helping Mr Bircher search for his head all night, I’m a little annoyed too. Dad doesn’t help. He doesn’t know what it’s like for a girl my age, trying to fit in at school as much as possible, and trying to fit in all the dead people. It’s not easy being a soul helper.
And so her diary entries begin. Through the school term, Mathilde will learn important life lessons she will never forget. Realising that ghosts and people are not as different as she thought . . .
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My partner was a big fan of the TV show Ghost Whisperer and I wanted to create something for a younger audience. I have always been a fan of the diary format, especially with the humor of Adrian Mole or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and wanted to merge these ideas to create something unique, fun and relatable to a young girl growing up, even with all the strange things going on around the main character, Mathilde.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character of Mathilde was developed quickly; drawing on my nieces and young female characters in literature I like.
Monday 12th September
I’m tired. Dead tired. So tired I can barely stay awake to write this. After helping Mr Bircher search for his head all night, I’m a little annoyed too. Dad doesn’t help. He doesn’t know what it’s like for a girl my age, trying to fit in at school as much as possible, and trying to fit in all the dead people. It’s not easy being a soul helper. ‘I know, dear, they can be so demanding those dead ones, but I know you can do it, my little one,’ he’d say. Mum helps when she can, but she is always floating here and there and it’s hard to catch her. We tried her with a mobile phone, but it requires too much mental exertion for a ghost to hold anything for long, so she kept losing it. In the end, we gave up.
It wasn’t Mr Bircher’s fault, though. He is one of the nice ones. It seemed strange at first seeing him with a head – you know when you get use to someone as they are then they get a crazy new haircut or something. It is proving so very difficult to find what will release him. I promised to help all I can, but then Bobby needed to find his penknife he’d had as a child to be released and Mrs Marples needed help finding her lost husband to be freed. So much to do, so little time and I still have my homework to do. Algebra! Ghost help me!
Got to get some sleep and then go to the library tomorrow to catch-up. Tests are around the corner early next year and then there’s the School Ball! He better ask me. If he doesn’t I’m getting the scariest ghosts on him, I swear!
I hope this diary I’ve started for the new school year helps to keep me sane! I love writing, so I think it might.
Have to sleep, so tired, can’t stop yawning . . .
Tuesday 13th September
Here’s an average day in my life:
Day in the life of me (Mathilde)
8.00 a.m. – Usually wake up at this time. (Not weekends, obviously!) I am definitely not a morning person! But school starts at 9.00 a.m. and it’s about a ten-minute walk from home. Takes around fifty minutes to eat breakfast and try to sort my body and face out into something presentable (and more alive-looking than the ghosts).
8.45 a.m. – Set off for school, usually at this time, a little earlier than I need to so I’m not late. Walk through the Woods that some other children also use to get to school, but I’m the only one waving the ghosts away, ‘It’s too early!’ Luckily, many ghosts prefer the night time but then those who lived to wake up at the crack of dawn never get the message that ghosts are for the night, or at least the evening! Nearly a non-zombie by the end of the walk. Helps if it’s a cold day, or a very sunny one, to wake me up!
9.00ish a.m. – Arrive at school (hopefully English is first). Wave to living people, telling them, ‘It’s too early!!’ Try to keep my head down mainly, to not stand out too much. Mixed feelings about school really, love it, but also I don’t sometimes.
1.00 p.m. – Lunch, which for me could be anything with Dad’s preparations. Hopefully does not have too much mould in it today!
1.20 p.m. – Usually spend time in the library for rest of lunch break, thirty-five minutes, before heading back. I love books – the smell, the feel, the covers, oh and the words as well, I like them too! Love all different types of stories, not so much the horror ones or those specifically about ghosts, as they are so, so unrealistic! Bed sheets?! Seriously?! Don’t think so! I like the librarians, especially Miss Mathews, she is lovely and always saves a book for me that she knows I will like to read.
1.55 p.m. – Head back to next class, hopefully English again, or History, which isn’t too bad.
3.30 p.m. – Freedom, um, I mean, end of school. Run home through the Woods, loving the feel of the wind in my hair. ‘Not yet, have to do some homework! But see you soon,’ I shout to the ghosts as I run through them. It always feels so cold, but great when you are running as it really cools you down.
4.45 p.m. – Hopefully (though probably not) finished all my homework but have to stop after an hour of it. Ghost help me, I really need to catch up properly!
5.00 p.m. – Have dinner, usually prepared by myself. (Dad cannot be trusted!) It doesn’t matter what the ingredients are. He always cremates them if he tries to use them for cooking. Mum finds it too hard to hold a whisk for long and, anyway, she doesn’t eat so it would be a bit unfair for her to help. I’m getting really good at cooking, that’s the good bit. Unfortunately, it means more lost time for other things. 🙁 My favourite to cook is Lasagne, yummy. I just L.O.V.E the cheesy, creamy gooeyness! (I am pretty sure it is supposed to be like that!?) At least Dad does the washing-up! He looks great in the pink marigolds that Mum doesn’t use anymore.
6.00 p.m. – Back out to the Woods. I head to the clearing, behind the giant oak tree and a large stone. If you look closely in the moonlight you can just make out the words:
Ghost Helper: from around 6 p.m. most evenings, and weekends from 11 a.m.
I will do all I can to help free your soul.
x Mathilde x
I often have to organise a queue before I get started to help them all. So many! There were eight last night, alone! And two of them were not going to be easy based on their life histories.
7.00 p.m. – Go ‘on location’ (as they say when making films) to help the ghosts, where necessary – that’s most of the time, it seems.
9.00 p.m. – Back home, Dad will not let me stay out any longer even though I am nearly as tall as he is now! Might watch a little TV or, more often than not, read before bed.
10.00 p.m. – Usually snoring loudly, um, I mean, I am usually quietly fast asleep at this point.
No wonder I always feel so tired and have no time! Feeling sleepy again now, just thinking of tomorrow. 🙁
Thursday 15th September
It’s still quite warm at the moment. I heard Dad say it was an ‘Indian Summer’ but didn’t know what it meant so looked it up. Apparently in India they have summers later than us. I think maybe they are too busy in our summer to have it then, so they delay it.
I thought I’d introduce some of my favourite current long-term clients/friends and so, here they are:
Mr Bircher: Mr Bircher is a very nice man, um, ghost-man I mean, or a ghost-who-was-formerly-a-man. Anyway, he is just lovely, even without a head on his shoulders. Luckily, now it’s back in the right place. He always wears a shirt and tie, pin-striped, these days. He tried it in the past, but the tie kept falling off every time he bent over, so he used to have to keep it in his pocket. Ghosts can think of what they want to wear, but it has to be something they wore when they were alive. If they don’t think about it hard enough, they usually find themselves wearing what they had on most before they passed. They can’t wear something that they fit into years before they died, of course. That would just be silly! Anyway, Mr Bircher always wears a suit and tie now, usually a blue suit and he has a very gentle way about him. He is definitely a gentleman-ghost. I wish I could help him, but it’s proving to be a very difficult one.
Mrs Bircher: Mr Bircher’s wife. She was the one that chopped his head off! Not on purpose. It was an accident and she still feels very, very guilty about it. Since she died, she does everything to make Mr Bircher happy. He always says, ‘It is all right, dear. You do far too much already! I know you never meant it.’ (Told you Mr Bircher is so nice!) Mrs Bircher is also a nice lady, and I feel sorry for her and the world of guilt she carries around. I have tried to tell her that it is this guilt which stops her from being free. She will never be able to step into the light until she stops feeling it, but then I know she would never step into it anyway until her beloved Mr Bircher was able to do so too, which might not be for a long time. 🙁
J.P.: I love J.P.! He has never told me what the J, or even the P stands for. Jim, John, Parton, Pinstripes? No idea! He is only slightly older than me, but I’m catching him up now. You do not age as a ghost so I can do this, which is kinda weird, I know, but kinda cool as well. Used to think that some ghosts were more mature than they really were, especially the older adults! In growing up, I now see the error of my ways. Anyway, J.P. (Jasper, no, surely not!) is a ghost and loves it. I’m sure he doesn’t really want my help to be released – he thinks it’s too cool being a ghost. He was a bit of a Goth when he was younger he said, and loves horror stories, so this must be why. He enjoys my friendship, as much as I cherish his. He is a great ghost and friend to match.
Lucy: My bestest friend, ghost or otherwise, in the whole wide world – that is including the living world also, of course. She really is the coolest! She is pretty blasé about being a ghost too, which I love. Quite a tomboy, which I love also! She is always up to something that one! Ha. Known her for years now. She doesn’t have a clue why she can’t be released. As long as she is happy, so am I. Wish I could have met her when she was alive, then at least I could have flicked her hair too. She always does that. If I try it to do it to her, I just go through her hair. Ghost, she’s annoying. I love her! Wish she was at my school.
Ernie: What a little scallywag! He is even worse than Lucy! Always up to some ghoulish mischief that one! He is forever playing jokes on people. Ernie’s young, though, so you can understand. I think he is just bored really. Hope I can help him one day too.
There are lots more and many that are no longer here, which is what they wanted. I remember them all and miss a great many of them. Unfortunately, it would take me all my life to list every one – who are gone but never forgotten.
Saturday 17th September
I’m fed up with school. Fed up with it! If it weren’t for the library, I’d wish I never had to go back there. Every day always the same laughs and sniggers, like yesterday from Amber and her friends. Ghost, she is so annoying and stuck-up, why can’t others see that!?? Oh, look at me, I’m Amber, the prettiest of them all. Look at me I have the best nails in the world! Soooo annoying!!! It’s not my fault my nails are as brittle as dust. A fly only has to land on one and it breaks!
What’s her problem anyway? She never liked me and never said why. Her group of friends tease me, even when she isn’t there.
And I just cannot find time to do it all. Just spent most of the day trying to catch up on my homework and still I’m only half way through! Argghh!! And on top of that I got the ghosts circling my window, saying they need my help! I told them I just couldn’t right now, but I promised I would be back at the usual spot as soon as I could!
I really need a rest. My dad said he would make dinner tonight – he could see I was tired and gave me a hug. Just hope I’m not a ghost too by tomorrow . . .
L. P. Donnelli is a children’s author. He was published at the age of 12 for a national angling magazine and later won short story awards at school and University, and has published two children’s books: –Back-on-Track– and Dead Diary.
He has been in the top 15 Best Sellers List on Amazon, both in the US and the UK, for Humorous Children’s Literature and has been in the top 1% of the Amazon Bestsellers ranking for all Kindle books availble on Amazon.com.
He lives with his super partner, his lovely Chinese/German/Mexican dog, two geckos (one extremely squeaky), and his Russian wandering tortoise. He leads a boring double life of legal and financial work when he unfortunately cannot write. He drinks far too much coconut water and loves writing different types of books, and is currently working on a fantasy and YA book along with other children’s stories.
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