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My Side of the Diamond

Sally Gardner

MY SIDE OF THE DIAMOND, which is aimed at readers aged 14+, is told by several different characters, each of whom has been affected in some way by an alien contact.

The focus of the story is Jazmin Little, the main witness to events that lead up to her best friend Becky and her boyfriend, Icarus, jumping from a tower. As each of the witnesses tells their story, the events that led to Becky and Icarus jumping are uncovered.

Here, SALLY GARDNER answers our questions about MY SIDE OF THE DIAMOND:

Q: What was the initial inspiration for My Side of the Diamond?

A: What I was really interested in was a big question about our race. We are such a violent people and seem so keen to destroy all we have been given. I started to wonder about all these stories we have of UFO sightings; given our nature, what on earth would they want to come here for?

I suppose what struck me was the cliche of Love, Absolutely - seeing people falling in love, or the genuine, heartfelt love of seeing your family, and I thought - if aliens wanted to learn something from us, that is the emotion they would come for.

Love gives us extraordinary abilities, it gives us our art and beauty and poetry, but it also gives us war and destruction. It's a nuclear bomb, really. So I thought I would explore that.

Q: Why did you decide to frame your exploration of love around an alien experience?

A: Because I needed to look at what we might be without love. What if we were all very nice to each other, pleasant and kind, but we couldn't love?

In the end, we wouldn't have children. Why would you bother if you have no emotions for your child, nothing to connect to it? Ultimately, even if everything seemed wonderful for a time, without love our whole planet would be in danger of extinction.

Q: The story is set around a UFO incident and alien contact at Rendlesham Forest; did you research UFO encounters?

A: I drew on accounts of an actual UFO sighting at Rendlesham in the 1980's, which is often described as 'Britain's Roswell'. A lot of people have never heard of it but it is a UFO sighting they have never been able to explain.

Over two nights, people saw strange lights in the sky and some claimed to have seen aliens, but then the 'men in black' turned up and afterwards, the people who were questioned realised they had very little memory of what had actually happened during their meeting with these men. Many of the reports about the incident suggest that a lot has been covered up.

Q: Why did you decide to have several narrators telling this story?

A: I felt that you couldn't really explore the question of love from one angle; if you're going to talk about all these different emotions associated with love, it needs to be seen through many people's eyes.

If you take Jazmin's friend, Becky Burns, looking at her from the outside, it appears that she has the perfect family but what she really lacks is love. Her parents are interested in her exam results more than her, they are socialists so they send her to a comprehensive which she hates, and she becomes a successful writer at a very young age. That is what her parents actually see; they don't see her.

Jazmin's mother was a wash-out, and hopeless, but you do have the sense that she had a grain of love for her daughter, and honesty; she admits that she can't look after Jazmin, not with the life she has been dealt.

Then there is all the sadness around Skye, the child made of clay, and the hopeless heartbreak of all that, and the artist who loved his brother and who has never recovered from his loss.

There are so many variations of love.

Q: You include painters, sculptors and writers in the story, all of whom create something extraordinary. Is this another consequence of love?

A: Yes, the painting of Icarus by Rex Muller - the artist who has never recovered from the loss of his brother - is so powerful that it has an incredible effect on people who see it. Becky's first print run of her book is in the millions. There is also a statue that comes to life. There are so many variations of love.

Through the painting of Icarus, we see that from love comes creativity; without that we are doomed and this is what the story is about. But there is also the opposite of this in Doubleday, a terrible cyborg who had been one of the aliens. He was wonderful but the humans weren't able to leave him alone. They damaged him and he became this cyborg. Man focuses on the beast being the killer, not the beast being the beauty. We need rage and curiosity, but we need to harness it for good, not evil.

Q: The narrators tell their stories to 'Mr Jones', and for each of them it becomes a cathartic process. Are you also reflecting in this the power of the story?

A: Mr Jones listens, and that is a rare quality. Not many people listen and he does. On of my favourite plays is When An Inspector Calls. I love the idea of this quiet person asking a few pertinent questions and from that comes this whole bag of awfulness.

No one in this story has anyone to listen to them; everything they have tried to say has been dismissed, so this is a confessional for them and it is cathartic.

For Jazmin, there was only one young man - Alex - who saw her as she really was right from the start. She is so crippled from the loss of him and the feeling that she is in some way to blame. She is a very honest narrator and she talks her way to a closure, or conclusion.

Hopefully, the story will speak to the reader, too. Reading can also be cathartic.

Q: How did you decide on the title for the story?

A: As Jazmin tells Mr Jones, 'I want to tell my tale, I want to tell my side of the diamond'. A diamond is cut into many different facets and each face reflects a different side of the diamond, just like the history of this story and the families in it.

Jazmin wants to show her side of the diamond and - although she has been treated as an unreliable witness - she has a right to her story, as do the others. It takes many cuts to make a diamond and she has an absolute right to this side of hers.

Q: The novel is illustrated by Nat Barlex, did you want it to be illustrated?

A: I think the illustrations are outstanding and I'm thrilled with them. I would also like adult books to be illustrated. The moment I see a book that is well spaced or illustrated, that's a book for me. I think we underestimate how important a book's layout is to the reader.

Q: Your novel explores our everyday world. If there was one thing you could change in the world around you, what would it be?

A: I am very troubled by what we do to children and by our education system that crushes children's imagination. Why will we accept diversity in people's appearance but not in people's brain or in allowing a different way of teaching? I think that the government needs to get out of education and to leave children alone. The education of children by politicians becomes a political issue and parents need to wake up to that and to understand this, we are too passive.

We need to let our children play! Where will the next great imagination come from if there is no time to play? There is a school near me, the playground is like a brickyard of a prison and when the children come out to play, they just scream and scream.

We have to stop testing and parents need to demand that their children have time to play. We need to nuture a love of words and imagination and play time. The fuel of a nation is its children and its wealth is children's imagination.

I am dyslexic and I have recently started a charity called NUword ( to open up a debate about dyslexia and we have been going into prisons and art schools to explore dyslexia and creativity, which hasn't been researched enough. In this country, the highest proportion of dyslexic students are found in the St Martins School of Art and in Her Majesty's Prisons. That says everything about what is wrong with this country. We need to find new ways to educate our children - that is what I would change.

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Your reviews Sally Gardner

MY SIDE OF THE DIAMOND - a story of UFOs and aliens, friendship, and love in all its forms. We...

Your reviews

The Dollmaker of Krakow, I would rate this fabulous book 10/10!!!! An emotional story of magic, friendship and hope, yet...