My Working with Children card, designed by our government to protect the little darlings we writers and illustrators are talking to in class and at festivals, is okay for illustrators, but writers tend to be, by the nature of their profession, a bunch of half-mad professional liars, and the card is not going to protect your impressionable young minds from the lies of manic children’s book writers, especially this one. And, unfortunately, much against my better judgement, I can feel untruthfulness becoming a habit.
For instance, I told a group of Year 8s at Bunbury Catholic College yesterday that the Viking wench in the picture was my girlfriend. (What’s a wench? – you try explaining it after you’ve said it!) It was obviously a joke, as what girlfriend would go about dressed like that these days? Okay, no need to answer Frane’ … but a huge percentage of the kids instantly believed me. It wasn’t until Kathy Hogan, the librarian sitting down the back, burst out laughing that the kids began to doubt me.
My other slip-up was at All Saints Festival where, in the chapel, for God’s sake, I announced that being a writer is fabulous because you get to invent worlds, cities, towns and people and you get to command them and push them about to your will. You play with their lives. It is just like being God, I said. Well, it hasn’t rained in Perth in six months, but at that exact instant, outside, a huge peal of thunder sounded. Gulp! One more crack from me and it might have started hailing Marys.
And I was probably right to be a little wary considering God is probably not too keen on me and James at present, in view of an earlier draft of The Last Viking, where I had Knut, the hero, announce to his grandmother and the local vicar, based on the Vicar of Dibley, that he was no longer going attend Sunday School, instead he is going to become a Pagan and a follower of the Norse Gods; Thor, Odin, Hemrod and the rest.
Luckily, Cate Sutherland, our editor at Fremantle Press, more sensibly thought better of that sequence and slashed it, not really wanting to set up a conflict between Pagans and Christians in a book for young children, and where the Pagans win out, what’s more. But then that is what first, second, third and twenty-third drafts (and editors) are for. To iron out the stupidity that half-mad, manic, professional liars think are good ideas at the time.