I was going to write a detailed account of the book launch until I realised most of what I wanted to say I’d already said in my speech … So I’ll simply copy and paste my speech into this blog. Who knows – you might find some useful tips. An author mustn’t talk about their book much (during their own speech). That role is for the person launching your novel, in my case the brilliant Irina Dunn. I needed to talk about how I got there, to that moment, standing holding a copy of A Wicked Kind of Dark in front of family, friends and book-industry guests.
The jazz band introduced me to Star Wars’s Imperial March:
Being introduced to Darth Vader music was always a dream of mine. The other dream was to get published. That’s two boxes ticked today.
One of the first books I remember reading was a collection of illustrated nursery rhymes. I used to imagine I was part of the illustrated worlds written about in the book. Who Killed Cock Robin was the stand-out rhyme in this collection … ‘I said the sparrow with my bow and arrow, I killed cock robin’. That murderous little sparrow proudly declaring its guilt used to keep me up late at night. Even way back then, I marveled at the power of the written word … Even way back then I knew I wanted to write my own stories.
I was a better author when I was 14 than when I first started developing the craft. Whenever I wrote a story I either won a competition or got top marks. But as I stumbled through my teens I lost my writer’s voice. The car accident – such a huge part of my life. It still is – hardly a day goes by that I don’t wonder what Julie King would be doing now if she was alive.
All these experiences muted my expression. But it’s these same experiences that now fuel my creative engine room. They are what makes me want to, as Stephen King puts it in Lisey’s story: ‘Go out in my flimsy wooden boat and capture the big ones’. The big stories, the compelling tales from the pool of life.
I’ve lived in a quartet of countries, each one an essential part of my journey to publication.
In many ways Fiji saved me. I swear – if anyone is experiencing tough times I recommend they get on a plane to Nadi, find a reef, throw on some scuba and sink beneath the swells. The underwater world is easily as good as any of the great fantasy landscapes of literature. Being a PADI Divemaster, and looking after the people I used to take diving, centered me. It gave me a sense of responsibility that I don’t think I had until Fiji.
England. Rather than base myself in Earl’s Court with the other Kiwis and Aussies, I found a quiet little English village, and immersed myself in its culture for two years. How a small town could have 7 pubs I’ll never know – I was drinking back then though. Several pubs probably filed for bankruptcy once I left. New Zealand. Another beautiful country, and Australia, the place I now call home.
I arrived here in Australia, and with the help of a trilogy of wonderful mentors – Jan, Sean and Irina – I was able to reconnect with my author’s voice and re-learn the craft. A Wicked Kind of Dark is all about reconnecting too. Reconnecting with your inner child, reconnecting with the richness of that part of your imagination. We seem to have so much imagination when we’re young. I don’t believe we ever really lose it!
Young adults … What a wonderful market to write for. What an amazing, energizing and inspiring group of people. I believe they deserve books that have layers, thought-provoking books. I certainly enjoyed those kinds of books when I was a strapping young lad! Books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Something Wicked this Way Comes. AND I’m hoping A Wicked Kind of Dark. But writing is a balancing act. One of my mentors – Jan – once told me his thoughts on Moby Dick: what is the significance of the white whale; what are the deep underlying messages; how these questions have been discussed and debated in the ivory towers around the world. Jan then went on to say that Moby Dick wouldn’t be talked about at all without it first being a ripping good yarn. That is the kind of balance in their literature that I think young adults deserve.