If there’s one thing I’m an absolute sucker for, it’s books and films about sister, and the unique relationship they share. From Little Women to Goblin Market, from Meet Me in St Louis to White Christmas, I love tales of sisters putting aside their differences and stepping up to the mark to protect and defend each other.
Perhaps that’s why, when I came to write Zero Days, which is about a woman who is quite literally entirely alone, with the whole world against her, from the police to the justice system, right down to the loss of her husband, I gave her one person she could rely on utterly and absolutely: her sister. When Jack is up against the wire, her big sister Helena is the one person she can trust, the one person she can ask to break the law, put herself in danger (up to a point), and the only person she never doubts.
Maybe it’s because I’m a big sister myself, but I find the sisterly relationship both fascinating and moving. In spite of the connotations of the word – being “sisterly” literally means acting in a way that’s loyal and supportive – the truth is that sisters often spend as much time fighting as they do bigging each other up. That was certainly the case for me, at least in childhood. Although I loved my sister and spent hours in imaginative play with her, she was also the person most able to wind me up to a furious pitch, and we used to physically fight, sometimes quite viciously. I remember waking up in the middle of the night when I was about five or six, sweating from a nightmare in which I had hit my little sister with a chair so hard her leg snapped off. I had to creep out of bed and check both her legs were still there, before I could fall back to sleep.
In adulthood though, that anger disappeared (mostly, anyway!) and I’ve come to realise what a key part of my life she is. Like Jack and Helena in Zero Days, my sister and I are the only people left from our childhood family. We have loving aunts and uncles, and we’ve both gone on to have families of our own, but she is the only person who remembers so much those formative early years, the one person I can turn to, to say “do you remember…” and “what was that holiday when…”
Fortunately, I don’t think either my sister or I are planning to go on the run. We’re both pretty law abiding, and neither of us really enjoys camping. But she is still the one person I could turn to, the one person I could ask absolutely anything of, safe in the knowledge that if she wasn’t comfortable with doing it, she would tell me. In some ways, this book is a love letter to her. Thank you for being my sister, E!