Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ten Years

On the first of May, it will be exactly ten years since my first novel, Feeling Sorry for Celia, was published.

Actually, ten years is not that long. Ten. It’s a cute little number. I remember when I turned ten. I was just a kid.

Anyhow, but ten years ago was the year 2000, and I was a lawyer in Sydney then. Everything was in good spirits that year. The ferry boats, the desk chairs, the dictaphones. All in a good mood. Boats bobbing, chairs spinning, dictaphones sitting on my desk with wry little smiles. Those down-turned smiles.

In 1999, I was drafting contracts to comply with the Year 2000 Disclosure Act. My name and number were listed on a pocket-size card headed Y2K Action Response Team.

But on New Year’s Eve, I stood on a Birchgrove rooftop watching fireworks, and nobody phoned for urgent legal advice.

I didn’t even have my phone switched on, to be honest.

And then it was the year 2000! And everything was cheerful. The contracts took a turn for the better. The Sydney Olympics were great! Everyone was worried but they turned out fine. The writer, Garth Nix, working as a literary agent at the time, sat opposite me in the café downstairs from my office—the one that closed down years ago, the one with the strange, inky spell—and told me with calm confidence, that he could get me publishers for Feeling Sorry for Celia. I didn’t believe him for a moment. I thought it was an elaborate hoax, like Y2K itself. But that’s what he did.

The year 2000, eh? That was years ago.

Ten years.

It’s a lifetime.

In celebration of the ten year anniversary, my Australian publishers are planning new editions of my books. The Ashbury books. I never set out to write a series about Ashbury High, but the books kept going back there. So now there are four.
In the UK and North America, beautiful new editions of the Ashbury books are already underway. I will show you the UK ones later, but here are some of the American covers, designed by the brilliant Elizabeth Parisi.

Ten years seems the right time to shift to a new series. This time I will do it on purpose. A five book series set partly in a Kingdom, and partly in the real world.

But I’ll tell you a secret. There’s something—a voice in my ear. There’s a great bird of prey just here on my shoulder, leaning in when I try to write. Its claws in my flesh, its voice in my ear—and you can’t start something new with a bird on your shoulder.

So I have a plan to get free of it. I’m going to write it away. Thirty blog posts in thirty days. Starting next week, I will write every day for a month. I plan to talk about the Ashbury books, and how I wrote them, and about a recent roadtrip to the Western Plains Zoo. And somehow, in the course of that, I’m going to let it go. Get free of it, that bird. Those talons, the voice, that weight.

Then I can start my new series— I want a character to walk out free and clear, I want him to be tossing a ball, a red ball, and his hat is woollen and dark grey, and he’s walking across snowy fields. Across white, white, white, white fields.