Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)
The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.
The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist.
Selka (2004) is one of my favourites of the bonsai novels I wrote during the 1990s and early 2000s. So, what's a bonsai novel? It's not an official term; just what I call books which are novels for older children that look just like their tribe but which are bonsaid... short!
It can be difficult to bring a story world to life in a short word count, but I managed it to my satisfaction in this story. It's set in the Atland Islands, which are somewhere near Scotland. (No, don't go racing to the map. I invented them.) The main character is named Marsali Gordon. "Gordon" is a typical Scottish surname. I probably found Marsali while trawling through name books or name sites, a long-time hobby. It means something to do with the sea. Atland would have a specific and appropriate meaning too, but thirteen years later, I disremember what it is. Marsali is a lighthouse keeper's child, who has been brought up in isolation. From her mother, she has "sea sight" which simply means she is in tune with her environment. One of the ferry captains locally has it too. Marsali isn't lonely, because she knows the mers and the selkies. Her best friend is Selka, a selkie girl around her own age. When Marsali has to go to the mainland for school, she makes human friends, and begins, for the first time, to see Selka's limitations. Selka has the knowledge and skills she needs for her life in the islands, but she can never share Marsali's broadened horizons. When her friends visit the islands, Marsali "denies" Selka, not in words as Peter did Jesus, but by pretending she doesn't see her. And soon... she truly can't. Marsali realises almost too late what she's lost, and she needs help, faith and a lot of soul-searching to get it back. She also has to decide if she really wants it back.
I borrowed the name "Selka" from a little girl who went to playgroup with one of my children. (See Post 11... The Incredible Smell for more of that.) I'm not sure where I acquired the knowledge about Scotland and the selkies; I think it was just something I knew from my childhood reading and a lifelong fascination with Celtic and Norse myth. In fact, there was a lot more sea lore in the story initially, but the editor wanted me to take out the merrows and some other sea folk and stick with the better-known mermaids. I got to keep the white horses and the selkies which, in retrospect, is surprising. The author's name on this book is Edward E B Cracker, which is one of my pen names. The odd thing about these extra names is that I "know" so much about their bearers. Edward is a retired teacher turned sea captain, who plies his yacht around the Scottish coast. He has the traditional white beard and blue eyes and he's hale but weathered. He has lots of grandchildren and--of course--he has sea sight.
I've always wished Selka was better known. I've even contemplated writing a sequel so as not to waste all the world-building but I never have. Maybe Edward is just too busy with his seafaring. Or maybe I've accepted that Selka, my bonsai novel, said what it needed to say.