Secret lives of a book

In a previous post, I mentioned that a book takes on a life of its own once it is released. In part, this is because every reader brings their own world experience to the words they read and they respond accordingly. 

Indeed, the first time a publisher read a manuscript of Game as Ned, I was encouraged by her response because she said she shed some tears at key moments in the book. I would have picked the same two moments – one sad, one happy – as most likely to make me choke up. That said, I’ve had other readers contact me to say they cried (or laughed or smiled) at entirely different moments. Truth be told, I’m chuffed to hear that the story is triggering any emotional responses as this suggests readers are identifying with the characters or events I tried to portray.

A book also takes on its own life in the commercial world. I’m gobsmacked (and grateful) that Game as Ned has been purchased for publication in Poland, for instance. If I’d had to hazard a guess as to potential international readers, I would have picked Ireland as first cab off the rank. GAN has also been turned into an audio book (more on that in another post), read by professional actors.

Critical acclaim is another aspect of a book’s life that is difficult to predict. I was rapt that GAN made the Children’s Book Council of Australia Older Readers Notable Books list for 2008 and amazed to be mentioned in such high-powered company. GAN was also long-listed for the Ned Kelly Awards 2008, as judged by the Crime Writers’ Association of Australia. As a first-time novelist, I’m flummoxed just to be on the same page as these wordsmiths.

GAN is also listed for upper secondary students as a Premier’s Reading Challenge book for 2008, which is also fantastic.

On the road

During my time as a newspaper journalist, I became familiar with writing articles that generally had a very short shelf life. You soon learn that today’s news is tomorrow’s food for the compost worms. When you write a novel, the experience is very different. A book takes on a life of its own the minute it is published. Where and when it will make an impression is almost impossible to predict.

So it was a fantastic surprise to hear from Albion Park High School in New South Wales where an entire Year 9 class had just read Game as Ned. I received handwritten letters from each student and the feedback was blunt and brilliant. Thanks guys. You made me laugh (and my wife cry.)

I hope to be having more to do with schools as GAN becomes better known. With this in mind, I’ve signed up with the speakers’ agency Booked Out where I’m humbled to be on the same list as scores of much better known and comprehensively published wordsmiths than me.

I spent time recently with five classes of grade 1/2 students from my son’s school and, once again, was blown away by the enthusiasm of the kids and their wacky, obtuse questions. (For the record, my favourite colour is still green.) I’m also scheduled to chat to Year 9 students at Braemar College soon and join a Ned Kelly-themed panel at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. August is going to be action-packed!

Speaking of MWF, if you have read Game as Ned and want to learn more about how I tangled bushranger fact and fiction together, please join me at Federation Square’s ACMI Cinema 1 on August 25 at 10am.

Tim Pegler's author odyssey