Coming full circle

My ninth novel India Dark had its first launching into the world in Melbourne on Thursday, 5th August at the Sidney Myer Asia Centre at the University of Melbourne.

The photo on the left is of me ‘in conversation’ with Kabita Dhara, talking about the story behind the novel. Behind us is an image of some of the children who were members of Pollard’s Lilliputian Opera Company, the child theatre troupe on which the book is based. Kabita is the publisher of Brass Monkey Books – a new imprint of Hunter Books that launched its first novel – Lunatic in My Head – by Anjum Hassan at the Sidney Myer Asia Centre exactly a week after my launch of India Dark.

I really enjoy going to other people’s book launches but I can get ridiculously stressed in the lead up to my own. I’m going to have to get over my pre-launch nerves with India Dark because there are still more launches to come. Last night, Meera Govil of Eltham Books and The Meeting Pool restaurant at Monsalvat hosted a delicious event to celebrate both Indian Independence Day and the release of India Dark. This Friday, Anthony Eaton will launch India Dark at Asia Bookroom in Canberra and then on 14th September, India Dark will be launched in Western Australian by Lesley Reece at the Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre. Last, but not least, the novel will also be launched in Indonesia at the Ubud Readers’ and Writers’ Festival.

I never feel I’ve spoken about the book as eloquently as I would like at my launches, though hopefully by the time I get to the launch in Ubud, I’ll have found exactly the right words to describe India Dark. It’s always thrilling and slightly amazing to hear other people talk about the book at a launch. Sometimes releasing a new book can be like flinging your heart into a black hole. Once the book is out in the world, it’s hard to know how it is being received until the reviews start coming in and even then, reviewers represent the tiniest fragment of the people who are actually reading the book so you can’t help but wonder about the reception your story is getting in the privacy of other people’s homes. Launches go a small way to dispersing that sense of the loss of the book. You get to see the faces and watch the responses of people who will read your work. You also get the amazing privilege of hearing someone you respect talk about your book and give it their blessing.

Brenda Niall did the honours at the Melbourne launch and spoke so generously about both India Dark and my other books that I felt particularly honoured. Ever since I was a child, I’ve admired Brenda as a writer. When I was a teenager, she visited my parents’ house to go through some papers and diaries that had belonged to my great-uncle whose biography she was working on. I remember putting my head around the dining-room door and seeing her sitting at the table, surrounded by piles of papers, and thinking that there was actually something incredibly exciting about what she was doing, that she was taking all those scraps of someones life and constructing a whole book about them. To have her launch one of my books so many years later felt like coming full circle for me. Perhaps that is one of the most important things about launching any book – a sense of completion, of knowing that all those hours spent thinking, dreaming, researching and writing have an end point which is not simply about the author, but all the readers who will engage with the finished book.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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