Reviving Old Ideas
16 April, 2016 | By Goldie Alexander
I am writing this so disheartened authors can take heart from my story. Sometimes it can take a decade or two before a novel finally emerges into the public eye. Sometimes the market is poor and publishers, more and more ruled by their marketing departments, are wary of taking on untested, untried ideas. Sometimes the novel still doesn’t work and needs expert editing. Sometimes, as in the case of my Middle Grade novel ‘CYBERTRICKS’ it needs to sit awhile in our computers before being pulled out, reviewed and rewritten.
There’s a limited number of themes for our writerly pickings. What isn’t fixed is how we combine them. Fifteen years ago the effects of climate change made little headlines. The deniers were promoting their own theses and the public, if not the scientists, were too shaken by 9/11 to worry about melting polar icecaps and strange rain patterns. Back then I was part of a social group who enjoyed arguing philosophy and world events. But even more, they loved nothing more than a quarrel. Friends were won and lost in the twinkle of an eyelid. Gossip abounded. What these sophisticated adults reminded me of was a bunch of mischievous kids left to their own naughty devices.
Science fiction deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon a society or individuals. Even if the story describes something hard to imagine, it must contain a consistent internal logic and sustained believable characters with whom the reader can identify, though extraordinary characters and situations are acceptable.
I suppose it was then that I thought of putting those two ideas together: that of a post apocalypse future almost impossible to imagine, and the quarrelsome kids living in it. I’m not going to argue that my concept was so innovative, publishers simply didn’t recognise it. If I had found a publisher who liked the idea, it may have appeared, but only with a great deal of help and anyway, until ‘Harry Potter’ appeared, fantasy and science fiction were both out of favour. My problem was that I didn’t know how to combine those separate concepts. Thus the novel languished, locked away in my computer as yet another failure. It was only many years later that I considered it worth a total rewrite.
Though I had the bones of a story, my four major characters needed far more development. Though these children are identical in appearance, Zumie is self-centred, Trist teases her unmercifully, Jafet talks non-stop and never listens, even the narrator Pya, takes little responsibility for her own prissy behaviour. Their characteristics had to be fleshed out through dialogue and action. And given they are sent back in time to a future some thirty years hence, they had to learn how to be children. And I have to boast that I wrote about avatars long before the film of the same name appeared,
After a number of rewrites www/fivesenseseducation.com.au the company that has published three of my other middle grade novels: eSide, Neptunia, and The Youngest Cameleer, was happy to take it on. But then they produced a cover I honestly hated. When nothing much happened and the book was shoved aside, and it seemed as if still it might never appear, I said ok to the previous cover.
A week later I did a rethink. A decent cover is essential. A poor one can damn a book from the outset. The immensely talented artist Aaron Pocock had achieved a wonderful cover for my Young Adult ‘In Hades: A verse novel’. I approached him with the idea and he came up with an illustration I truly loved,
This is what the book is about:
It is the year 200,043 AD. Pya, Zumie, Jafet and Trist live in tiny Cells, cared for by their tutor-holos, only communicating via their avatars. Pya narrates how the giant computer ComCen sends their real bodies back to the mid 21st Century where they meet the twins, Rio and Charlie. But even if these six youngsters manage to survive in a very dangerous world, they must also achieve Independence and Co-operation. Can they?
‘Cybertricks’ can be bought from www.fivesenseseducation.com.au or [email protected]ander.com
ISBN 978-1-74130-888-4 www.goldiealexander.com RRP $14.95
An answer from an expert! Thanks for conrbituting.