A Moment's Reflection...
The decision to resurrect a twenty-five-year-old novel isn’t made lightly. The Last Wizard’s publication in 1995 led to it being short-listed for Best Fantasy Novel in the inaugural Aurealis Awards, eventually being rightly beaten by Garth Nix’s awesome Sabriel. The original was always planned and written as a stand-alone coming-of-age tale, although the end also deliberately set the stage for a sequel. Unfortunately, that coincided with a tsunami of events in the ensuing five years – Pan MacMillan’s decision to cut its experimental stable of Australian fantasy writers, winning a job in Brunei, a divorce, and HarperCollins taking on the rights to the Ashuak Chronicles – all meaning The Last Wizard slipped into history. With one exceptional moment – in 1999, Robert Stephenson snagged Time Warner interest in a movie deal for The Last Wizard, and for six months it appeared the novel was going to grow wings and fly. Sadly, in early 2001, we learned the option was dropped. And I moved on.
Fast forward to the digital book revolution and my rather sad and messy experimentation in 2015-17 with publishing via CreateSpace and then Amazon Kindle. I really was wandering in the wilderness, looking to bring life back to the original Andrakis series and also to publish a couple of teenage novels that I’d allow to languish. The whole publishing process was fun – even the silly errors I made – but neither lucrative nor easy to complete because of the time and money factors. But what did ensue were conversations with readers about any chance of a sequel to The Last Wizard.
At first, I did not want to go there. The challenge of picking up characters and a fantasy world long buried in the past was terrifying and I knew there would be a lot of time and work involved in doing so. Besides, I have still way too much to learn about marketing in the digital world, and so little time to manage my work. And what would the sequel be? Tam’s continuing story? That made perfect sense, of course. But she had come of age. Her older brother was struggling with his identity. The younger brother was an offstage enigma. And there was the dragon egg. Which parts of the story should be told next? Whose story?
I know it will sound awkward, or foolish, or pandering, but I decided to not pursue Tam as a character, partly because I had written what I wanted to write about her as a model for my daughters at the time the novel was written – a girl finding her own voice and not being driven by social norms to conform to what men, and women, expected. Tam had emerged. Sure, there is plenty more she can and will learn as the saga unfolds, but as a writer I was no longer following her arc.
More importantly, I realised that a sequel – and a potential series – could focus one book at a time on the emergence of each character. The earliest iteration of The Last Wizard was titled ‘Tamesan’s Song’ because it was her story, her ballad. As the story unfolded, the working title that went to Pan Macmillan was ‘The Last Dragon’. We knew there’d been a martial arts film in the 1980s with the same name, but figured the associative reading audience wouldn’t be affected by that link, but then the editors decided the title was already too evident in popular culture, so the title was altered to ‘The Last Wizard’: ironic, because that in itself is a well-overused title.
Last year, I began toying with sequels, landing on the original title concept as the lever for the series – Tamesan’s Song, Chasse’s Song, Jaysin’s Song, Harmi’s Song. Each book would focus on the ‘coming of age’ of each character, dragon included. The titles are distinctive, original in names at least.
So, with Tamesan’s Song: The Last Wizard Book One, and Chasse’s Song: The Last Wizard Book Two fully drafted, and 12,000 words into Jaysin’s Song: The Last Wizard Book Three, the project has grown from a concept into a major work, and I’m confident the wider tale is taking great shape. But…where will it go?
My greatest fear is that because the first book was published so long ago in mainstream publishing that I won’t find a publisher willing to take the series on board. I do believe there will be a much greater and fresher audience for the books, because there is a generational change in the target audience and The Last Wizard never made it out of the very tiny Australian publishing arena back in 1995 (publishers were highly parochial about regions back then – that has changed, I believe). I have been out of touch with the writing arena for a decade or more as well, which means I am starting from scratch as far as working out who to send the project to. In the past, I would approach a publisher with the first book, seal the deal and write the rest after that. This time, I’d like to be able to offer the completed project. Ambitious? I don’t know. I still have to do the research to find out who would even want to look at it.
There is, of course, self-publication. Personally, I want to find a traditional publisher, but if the work doesn’t attract a publisher I’m learning enough through my experimentation and online guides to make a fist of publishing the project alone. That dilemma is still a year away on my estimations. I have two more books to complete first.
Next blog, I want to focus on the cover design process. In preparation for publication of the books, as I’ve said before, a friend and great artist, Kirsi Salonen http://www.kirsisalonen.com/ is creating cover art for the books. I’ll unpack how we arrived at the cover design for Chasse’s Song.
For my Christian friends, happy Easter! For my non-Christian friends, enjoy the long weekend break, if that is given to you, and stay safe.
Writing is my passion. Ideas, opinions, beliefs, experiences expressed through language - through words and images - pervade and create my life. Writing is my voice, my soul, my self. My dream is one day writing will sustain my life...