Debbie is Paul's only realistic challenger for the leadership of the gang. Although younger than himself, Jim and Tina the power of her personality and the extent of her self-belief lead her inevitably to test Paul's resolve, and to probe his weaknesses. And despite the fact that he wins on those occasions when they do go head to head, he never quite manages to put her back in her box.
I worked hard on developing the contrast between Debbie and her best friend Alison, because they are not entirely opposites. Alison is not altogether retiring, simply less outward than her slightly older friend. The challenge throughout The Best Year Of Our Lives was to make them the same, but to such a varying degree that they were at the same time different.
Debbie is Jim's girlfriend, and though unlike Paul and Tina they are unambiguously joined I felt the need to overshadow them as the senior "item" within the group by the implied, almost-relationship of their respective elders. And yet when Debbie and Tina get together, it is the former who if anyone is in charge.
In a story which centres around the ego of one individual it is not easy to create and develop another leader, someone who is subordinate to the lead character yet at the same time so obviously free-spirited and instinctively dominant. Only by her being two years his junior could I manage to perfect the hierarchical balance.
I think that casting Debbie was my most challenging assignment, aside of course from Paul himself. The fact that my daughter captured her to a tee with her cover artwork before she had even read the book tells me, I think, that I managed to pitch her as I had intended.