Belfast Telegraph

Belfast author lands top book prize for novel inspired by late daughter

Art therapy: John Young
Art therapy: John Young
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

An author from Belfast has spoken of his delight after a book inspired by his late daughter won the Scottish Teenage Book Prize.

John Young (54) received the £3,000 prize for his novel Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist.

He started writing it when his daughter Verity was receiving treatment, at first for lupus then cancer before her death at the age of eight in 2009.

The novel centres on a terminally-ill teenager named Connor who sets off on a wild tour of Scotland, getting into scrapes with the law along the way.

Along with wife Laura, John has set up an art therapy charity for hospitals across Scotland.

"Our daughter spent quite a lot of time in hospital with lupus. We found she reacted very well to creative things," he said.

"A friend who was an artist came in and it changed the way she reacted towards us and doctors.

"I started writing as well, just because I also felt better doing something creative."

The charity helps thousands of children across Scotland every year and John, who now lives near Edinburgh, is hoping to bring the service to Northern Ireland.

He hopes his novel captures his late daughter's spirit, Verity wanting to keep doing everything she could despite her illness.

"So I was quite keen to have an adventure story, to have someone with that magical spark that wanted to keep going and get involved," he said.

John said living in Belfast during the Troubles had also helped him find humour in tough situations. He said his father's car was blown up by a bomb when he was aged around six.

"He told us he'd been walking to his car when a bomb went off and threw him to the ground. By the time he got home he was visibly shaken," he said.

"He pulled out a bit of metal from his pocket and said, 'That's all that's left of it son'.

"I said, 'Dad, does that mean we can get a new car?' His face looked shocked, then he came over and gave me a hug and burst out laughing. So the tension really went out of the air. So you do develop a sense of humour to keep yourselves going in times like that."

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