The Last Viking Returns


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Young Josh is very brave…

You’ve gotta’ love Children’s Bookweek.  This is Josh from Dalyellup Primary School on the coast near Bunbury in WA. His school librarian, Heather Lindsay, invited me to her school to meet all the kids, including the rather terrifying  pre-primary classes.  I survived them and met loads of lovely kids all bursting with excitement and really enjoying the book. It seems it is a favourite with a great many of them and romped it home in the class voting for Book of the Year. Who would have thought the whimsical little story James and I concocted on Rottnest Island three  years ago would be so popular with kids of all ages. Long may it continue as I have some long and expensive holidays, er… book research, to pay for with the royalties.

Josh made a Viking helmet from his bike helmet when he heard I was to visit his class. Excellent! And well done to his parents on picking a name for him that I could actually spell when signing his book.  A real Viking hero’s’ name.  Though he tells me he is considering changing it by deed poll to K-nut.   Even more excellent!!

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First Draft

Now that the lovely Kris Williams, fifth member of ABBA,  has mightily, regally and graciously  launched Little Knut, the Last Viking, off on his first voyage, ( just did I just hint at a sequel then?) I thought you might be interested in seeing the very first draft I did of the story, late on a Friday night two years ago at a Rottnest Island Writers and  llustrators camp. This was few hours after having  first seen James’ drawing of the little knight and me suggesting to him we might like to do a story together about a boy who dresses up like  a Viking.

Having announced that to James, and, unfortunately,  a lot of witnesses sitting close by,  I then panicked and thought I had  better actually produce something for him to illustrate. Hence the late night and the hurried scribble. Had there not  been witnesses I could have told him next morning he imagined it and was having nightmares.

Should you be able to read my writing, you can see lots of elements of the story that ended up in the final draft, although not in any order, because  at this stage the ideas for what Knut  looked like,  what happens to him, what  he  does, and the consequences, as well as a real plot, were still swirling around in my head like a Longship caught in a whirlpool at the edge of the known world, where there be dragons.  Had I known how much work the next two years would entail for me, but especially for James, I might have let the Longship be hurled  off the edge of the world, along with my images of a small boy carrying on like a barbarian in his grandparents’ back garden.

Then you see a sight like this, with all the piles of brand new, shiny books lined up like precious gems and holy books plundered from  the castles and monasteries of  Northumbria,  and they have your name on the cover! And you think, idiot, what ever could you have been thinking?  It was worth every rewritten page, every substituted word, every ditched idea,  every mild disagreement over words OR picture, because you can’t have both,  and every sketch worked, reworked and reworked ten times over.

As you can see in the draft about halfway down, Knut’s shield was to be a Volvo hubcap. That  had to be changed when we made the Gods accidentally drop a shield to Earth from their celestial Longship, so we could hint that the action might actually be happening  in real life and not just in Knut’s head.  I’m still wondering, however, would Volvo Ltd have come after us with a Thing full of  lawyers and a string of copyright  lawsuits for using their logo?