Thursday 8 December 2011

Eco-literature for teens? Can books help save the planet?

I wrote my teen novel, Walkerseveral years ago.  
It’s the story of a boy who dies and who comes back to life as a shaman, a walker between worlds. 
It’s aimed at the mid-grade/YA market (hard to be precise as reading tastes vary so much but I’d say if someone likes Percy Jackson, Michelle Paver, Rick Riordan etc., they should like this.)

Walker had an agent and did the rounds of publishing houses.  It also made it through to the shortlist of The Wow! Factor competition run by Waterstone's and Faber.  Yet, despite all this it never quite found a home.  It got onto the editor’s desk at Authonomy and the feedback I received from the editor at HarperCollins made me rethink the book quite radically. So I rewrote it. Rewrote it twice, actually.  Well, gazillions of times really, but ended up with two main versions – a ‘boy’ version and a ‘girl’ version.  Which appealed to me for all sorts of shamanic reasons.   

Cow Castle - built by pixies
So. Why Walker

Firstly Walker is set on Exmoor and really this place is one of my constant muses.  Can a place be a muse? I think so. There are just so many legends here; so much history and prehistory, magic and mythology.  Nature is so darn...elemental. Its mood shifts round every corner - whether on the wild bleak moorland, in the deeply forested combes, the swift running rivers, the crashing waves against cliff or sultry slap against shore. I wanted to try to capture/encase/enchant in words some of its tricksy, tempestuous, rugged charm (yeah, I like my muses like that). *smile*

Secondly Walker is about shamanism. 
I love shamanism. 
I wanna talk about it more, in more detail, later as it’s part of the Labyrinth. But, for now, for starters, think of a practice where you can journey into other worlds, other realms – where you can find spirit guides and animals; where you can go for healing, for self-knowledge, for wisdom, for inspiration, for education. It’s not always a gentle process. Spirits often play rough, pulling you apart before putting you back together. It’s a journey of self-awareness and also a journey of connection – with other people, animals, places, times. Above all, shamanism is about the Earth – and this brings me onto the third point…

Cos thirdly, Walker is about the Earth. It's got an underlying environmental plea for sanity running through it. It’s not a worthy book; it doesn’t ram points down your throat but it does have the life blood of the planet running through its pages.  

This is eco-lit…just as much as any fist-thumping non-fiction tome on climate change.

Fourthly, finally (fine ally), Walker is a yarn. I wanted to write the kind of book I loved as a child; the kind that lures you in and makes you turn page after page, reading by torchlight under the covers. The kind written by people like Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliff.  When I met one of my total heroes, Alan Garner, a couple of years ago, I told him that his book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was my lodestone, my template for Walker. ‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘Is that really a good idea?’ J Jeez, I love that guy. You've never read Alan Garner? For shame on you! 

Anyhow, there you have it. Walker is my paean to Exmoor, my homage to storytelling, my head-bowing to shamanism and my earnest hope that we can learn to love our world and respect it before we pull it to pieces.  

Did I succeed? I dunno. You tell me. One of these days I may get my act together and self-publish, in a lovely edition made from paper harvested from sustainable forestry of course.  In the meanwhile, if you happen to be an editor or publisher who likes the idea of this then...get in touch.  

You can read more about shamanism and the world of Walker on its own blog – here…
You can read the first few chapters here…
Oh, oh and, is this part of the Labyrinth?  Of course it is.  


Isobel Morrell said...

Congratulations! Hope it goes well and that Kindle delivers zillions of readers! Have never been quite sure how you collate the sales and collect the lolly!

Milla said...

well done Jane and good luck to it. Muse and place? well, maybe. You don't have the bulldozers moving in, the fucking mini roundabouts being shoved in country lanes, the crappy houses no one wants being shoved up with rubble for gardens and 6' bedrroms. Our muse is being raped however many fantastic arguments are raised against it. If you've got it, enjoy it :)

Ashen said...

Great. Looking forward to read in the new version. My PC Kindle account is with Amazon UK, your link is for Amazon US. No worries, will find it.

Exmoorjane said...

@Ashen....the US page should offer a link to the UK one... Hope you like. :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Milla - I hear you. Walker hears you... this is exactly what it's saying...the concretisation of the turn it into a 'Plastic Paradise'. :(

Kim Jewell said...

Yay, and congratulations!!! Now send me the next one so I can start working on it (says the pushy nag)!

Frances said...

Jane, I am so, so delighted to read this news about Walker being released to the world!

Bravo to you, and to all those who got your characters, thoughts, plots, scary and beautiful parts to a place where many folks will be able see them all.

And, as one who has read this book, let me encourage any of you who have not yet done so so!

Walker would make a grand Christmas gift, to read during chilly days or nights.

Jane, it's clear that Exmoor does serve you well as muse. I also quite agree with Milla about how not all of our hereabouts are as promising in their stimulation.


Zoë said...

I finished a Penelope Lively book last night, so I dived into Walker on my Kindle. I've just met Rowan, and Ruth fascinates me - she could have been my Grandma!


Ren Warom said...

Bought it, read it, loved it :)

Left you a review on Goodreads - don't shoot me over my minor niggles. I have too much Eng Lit analysis bollocks overhanging from uni.

I thought Walker was absolutely wonderful and I hope it sells a ton!

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Delighted to see it out there in the world. I loved it when I first read it however long ago and agree totally that a place can be a muse. AG is evidence! Alan's latest and he says last novel will be published around October 2012. It's called Boneland. Watch for it!

AliB said...

Hi Jane
I remember Walker from authonomy so great to hear it's out in the world (and hope you didn't change too much!) I think this is the way to go for any decent book that didn't quite catch a publisher's eye.
all the best with it!