Where inspiration comes from is always something of a mystery, but Wishes Come in Threes is a novel where I can pinpoint exactly how the idea came into being. It happened in two parts. With about three years between them.
The first came on a family holiday in Austria. My daughters had been watching the movie Aladdin on the flight – the animated version with Robin Williams as the genie – so the idea of wishes and magic was in the air. Waiting for me to catch hold of it.
And then, a few days later, we walking in the mountains and my daughters were picking dandelions. The yellow flowers had turned into the fluffy white puffballs that every child knows you can wish on. And this is exactly what they were doing.
The girls would have been 5 and 7 or thereabouts, and I asked what they were wishing for.
The older said: “For everyone to be happy.”
She always was a sweet girl.
Then I asked her sister.
The little one didn’t hesitate. “A million pounds, daddy.’
She always was the practical one.
I was amused by the difference in their wishes, in their personalities, but the part of my brain that writes stories was doing its own thing. It wondered what the genie form Aladdin would make of these two wishes. Then it wondered what happened to that genie after his liberation. And how long do genies live, anyway? A hundred years, a thousand?
What if he was still alive now – ancient, frail and a little cynical? Probably his knees ache, his memory is unreliable and his powers are fading. What if he was holding out for one more person on whom he could bestow his magic? Someone pure and worthy.
But who would that be? And what would they wish for?
I didn’t know, and filed the idea away at the back of my mind where it sat, biding its time.
As I’ve already said, it took around three years for the second piece of the puzzle to arrive. We’d moved house, and with all the change in the air the youngest asked – as she had done many times before – if we could have a dog. Our answer was the same as always: “Now isn’t the right time.” But I had an idea: “Why don’t you put leaflets through our new neighbours’ doors? Offering your services as a dog walker.”
Twenty minutes later the leaflet was done. I scanned it, printed about 20 copies and we headed out to shove them though letterboxes. Then we waited.
Within a day, five people had taken up the offer. It was lovely, and I was struck by my daughter’s almost naïve optimism and by the huge impact that can come from small acts of kindness.
I also knew who my genie was about to meet. And exactly what she wished for.
One more thing:
I wrote the first draft of Wishes Come in Threes during the first wave of covid. Strange days, but not without some compensations. We got to spend more time together as a family, and we met lots of neighbours (over the garden gate) as they walked laps around the block. Over time, an increasing number of those neighbours acquired dogs – another unforeseen consequence of the pandemic.
So the girls asked again: “Can we have a dog?”
And this time, we said ‘Yes.’
They got their wish after all.