With a little help from my (imaginary) friends – Louise Douglas

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By Louise Douglas

When I was six, I used to carry a little tin box everywhere with me. The box had once contained sweets but inside it now were five little paper figures. These were self-made drawings of my imaginary friends: Lily, Luca, Natasha, Gilburn and Suki. I had drawn the pictures in response to being told so often that my friends weren’t real. ‘Yes, they are!’ I would reply. ‘I have pictures of them!’♥

Even at that age, I knew having imaginary friends was not normal and was regularly in trouble for telling stories about them. I was told to stop telling lies. I knew people thought I was odd. Within a year or two I had learned to keep my imaginary friends secret but they never went away.

When I was a young teenager, things at home were difficult and I went through a phase of hating school, really hating it. No matter what was going on Lily was there to reassure me and Luca to protect me. I could always take myself off inside my head, to play with Natasha, to talk to Suki, or Gilburn who loved me. We could go anywhere! I remember with particular affection a Little House on the Prairie-type cabin where the six of us lived, fishing in the river and taming the wild horses we had befriended. Yes, I had a field full of imaginary horses too.

I named the hero of my first novel, The Love of my Life, Luca, after my imaginary friend. One of our dogs is called Lily. And in my sixth book, The Secret by the Lake, the child Viviane has an imaginary friend who the adults don’t understand, and who frightens them. Viviane recognises this, and learns to keep the friend secret, and this is a reflection of the book’s theme: the secrets that we keep from one another because we all so desperately want to fit in, and to be loved.

I believe in imaginary friends. I wish I’d known, when I was a child, that they aren’t something to be ashamed of, in fact now I’m really proud of mine! I spend a good deal of my time with them, old ones and new ones, not all of them friends. We travel through time and space, and I have made a career out of them. It’s called being a writer.

Thank you to We Heart Writing for the opportunity to share this with you. Me and my friends – both real and imaginary – couldn’t be happier.

Louise Douglas was born in Sheffield but lives in the West Country with her husband Kevin. She has three sons who she adores, and two dogs, Lil and Lola, who take her walking in the Mendip hills. She has a day job working for Europe’s biggest aircraft manufacturer and she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, walking and being with her friends, both in real life and on social media. She hopes that anyone who reads it will enjoy The Secret by the Lake, which was completely inspired by Blagdon Lake, close to her home.


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