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Noughts + Crosses: the real story behind the book and show

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Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
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Fans have been loving the new TV adaptation of Malorie Blackman's bestselling novelNoughts + Crosses, which follows two teenagers, Sephy and Callum, who fall in love despite living in a society that wants them to be apart. In this alternate reality, 'Crosses' are the black ruling class, while 'Noughts' are the white underclass, and Malorie has previously opened up about her real-life inspirations behind writing the novel. 

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Malorie opened up about writing the novel

Speaking at a Q&A following a screening of the BBC show, the author revealed that she was partly inspired to write the novel following the death of Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old black man who was killed in a racially motivated attack in London in 1993. She explained: "It was a combination of factors, it was like the Stephen Lawrence case in particular. I was watching a docu-drama and I was just so appalled at the way the family have been treated." 

noughts crosses sephy callum

The series follows the love story of Sephy and Callum

Malorie previously spoke about why she decided to write the novel in an online Q&A on her website, where she explained: "I'd been mulling over the idea of writing a story about slavery for quite a while, but the reaction from my friends was lukewarm to say the least... Almost everyone I spoke to about it was of the view ‘Been there, done that, let’s move on.’ But I wanted to write a story about the legacy of slavery. About how attitudes way back when, still influence all our lives and the way we think and live today. I really believe the subject of slavery is terribly important – especially in this day and age. I think it gives a context to modern day Western World thinking and attitudes regarding other races and cultures. But the comments and feedback I received planted the seed of the idea for Noughts and Crosses in my mind." 

READ: Fans delighted by long-awaited first episode of Noughts and Crosses

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Have you been watching the show?

She continued: "It occurred to me that the story I had in mind would be more challenging to write and hopefully read if I played with people’s perceptions of the society presented in the story. I wanted to turn society as we know it on its head in my story... Race and racism are emotive issues that most people are loathe to discuss but I think they should be discussed, no matter how painful."

READ: Noughts + Crosses: All you need to know about the TV book adaptation 

First love in a dangerous, alternate world - Noughts + Crosses: Trailer - BBC

WATCH: Noughts and Crosses trailer

Speaking about how her personal experience influenced her decision to write the book series, the novelist added: "There were things in my own childhood that I kind of thought I had addressed. But I realised when I sat down to write the book I hadn’t put them to one side, I just buried them really deeply. A lot of the things that kind of goes through the book are based on true incidents that happened to me. Like the first time I travelled first class on a train and the ticket inspector accused me of stealing the ticket."