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Pass the Tissues … Crying at Books and Films by Rachel Ward

We’re watching a film together as a family. The end credits roll up. My family look anxiously my way and yes, ‘She’s burst!’ someone declares, while another hands me a tissue, and they all laugh (not unkindly) at my soppiness. Sound familiar? Are you a serial crier too?

I don’t cry at every film – it just seems like it sometimes. Knowing that film-makers are manipulating me – trying to squeeze those tears out – doesn’t harden my heart. I cry at sad endings, obviously. I also cry at happy endings. Feature films. Documentaries. Big budget Hollywood films. Small indie films. They’ve all got to me.

The most recent blubfest was the documentary ‘Amy’. This was so, so sad that I won’t be buying the DVD, even though I’m a massive fan. Just having it in the house would make my bottom lip quiver. Other offenders include Sense and Sensibility, the Railway Children and Pride, but there are many, many more.

I don’t cry so readily at books. I can only think of two books in the last few years that have made me cry: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I’m wondering why this is. I suppose the pace of reading a book is so much slower than watching a film. You get swept up by a film, don’t you? Do I get less involved with books? I don’t know. The fact that you can put a book down and have a break probably makes them easier to handle emotionally. At the moment I’m reading a lot of detective fiction, which aren’t ‘weepy’ books even if they are sad.

I get quite a few emails from readers who say that they cried inconsolably at the end of Numbers. Some berate me for the ending. Others say they understand that the ending fitted the story, but are still upset. I confess that I did cry when writing the book – not so much when I wrote the ending, but about halfway through, when I was contemplating it. I had a day of doubt, when I knew how the book should end, but didn’t want to put my characters through such pain. The next day I picked myself up, dusted myself down and carried on writing.

Numbers has been optioned for film by British company, Warp, and the script is being fine-tuned as I write this. I’d love to see a film of Numbers, and I really, really hope that when the lights come up at the end of the red carpet premiere there will be plenty of people dabbing at their eyes with tissues. I’m pretty sure I’ll be one of them.



Rachel Ward grew up in Bookham, Surrey. After school she studied Geography at Durham University and combined working for a number of local authorities with raising a family. She began writing in her 30’s, starting out with short stories. One of these short stories formed the first chapter of NUMBERS, which has been published in 26 countries and was the winner of several awards including the Flemish Children and Youth Literature Prize 2011, Angus Book Awards 2010 and the Salisbury Schools Book Award 2012, as well as being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2009, the Branford Boase Award 2010 and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturepreis 2011. Since then she has published two more books in the Numbers trilogy as well as THE DROWNING and WATER BORN.


2 comments on “Pass the Tissues … Crying at Books and Films by Rachel Ward

  1. barbarahenderson
    September 11, 2015

    Interesting! Why do we cry more at films than books?!

  2. Rachel Ward
    September 11, 2015

    We really do though, don’t we? Quite rare to blub at a book!

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