Outside my window, Lane Cove National Park lies green and glossy. I’m sitting in our caravan, Gloria, while rain patters down on the roof and the muted roar of Sydney drifts across the parklands. Sydney is simply amazing. A crazy juxtaposition of landscape and architecture, harbours, rivers, rocks and lush bushland.
My first visit to Sydney was in January 1974. As my dad drove through the city, I hung out the window and breathed in the hot, heady odour of a place that seemed the polar opposite of my hometown of Melbourne. Sydney smelt of steamy heat, sweat and beer (six o’clock swill). The doors of every pub were flung open and the footpaths were crowded with men in blue singlets drinking glasses of ale. Everything seemed golden and larger than life. Last night, just after the Professor and I arrived, we walked through Lane Cove National Park and the air smelt as foreign as I’d remembered it – sweet and heady, of winter wildflowers and damp earth.
In the early 1980s I spent eighteen months living in share houses around Sydney. I was a bit of a punk and Sydney suited me down to the ground. The landscapes of Sydney seeped into my imagination and decades later became the backdrop for my novel Vulture’s Gate. The wildness of the north shore provided plenty of hideouts for the runaway kids in Vulture’s Gate and a base for a tribe of Festers and the scary Sons of Gaia.
Tomorrow, the Professor will perform two Punch & Judy shows at Vaucluse House. I haven’t visited Vaucluse for a long time but I took elements of it to create a house used by the corrupt Colony to house young children in Vulture’s Gate.
When the Professsor told me about his shows up here, I decided to tag along for the ride. I didn’t expect so much of my past to come back to me nor how many scenes from the imagined future of Vulture’s Gate would come back like flashes from a life I’ve never lived. Stories do that sometimes, the past, the present and the future all intermingling to make for a much bigger life, a brighter canvas, a different way of seeing the things you take for granted. It’s hard to take any aspect of Sydney for granted. Definitely, a city of wonders.
(Apologies to my beloved hometown, Melbourne).
Yesterday, I was sent the cover by the US publisher, Holiday House. I like the dry, golden effect. It’s actually very Australian with its parched landscape and reminded me of one of the Australian classics from my childhood that I own in hardback Lillith Norman’s Climb a Lonely Hill.
These days, not many Australian children’s books are published in hardcover so it’s a little bit thrilling that in the US, books come out in hardcover first and then are released in paperback later. I can’t wait to get my advance copies in the post.
Less than a month to go and Vulture’s Gate will be in bookshops across Australia. I have a stack of glossy covers on my desk, though I’m still waiting on my advance copies of the bound book.
This afternoon I had a long chat with the very lovely publicist from Allen and Unwin, Sarah Tran. I probably drove her crazy with questions as I vented my anxieties about the passage of this novel into the world. I poured over the media release and fretted about potential misunderstandings – though it’s too late now as both the book and the release have left the warehouse on their way to around a hundred reviewers, radio stations, newspapers and media outlets.
I can’t believe how anxious I am about its release. It was a story that ambushed me when I was working on another novel and I still haven’t worked out how to discuss its contents. Tomorrow, I’m giving a talk at Glen Waverley Library as part of the Monash Library Literary Festival. I’ve put together a powerpoint presentation of images related to my books and their covers but, if the last couple of gigs are anything to go by, I’ll probably be hit by an almost familiar ripple of fear when the cover of ‘Vulture’s Gate’ flashes onto the screen. There are so many things embedded in this book, I think it will take me a few more weeks to grapple with how to explain its genesis.
As I unwrapped the parcel of covers this morning and read the strap line I was struck again by the strangeness of this story that I have brought into the world: Girls are extinct, Chaos Rules, Welcome to the future…