Friday, 13 January 2017

Three Missing Days aka Ex-Spelled

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. 

Three Missing Days aka Ex-Spelled; Post 13

Three Missing Days (1992) is one of the most peculiar of my books. Initially, I called the manuscript "The Bushwalker Documents", because it was a collection of documents pertaining to a peculiar adventure experienced by two teenaged bushwalkers, Stephen Kelleher and Matthew Caley, who vanished  for three days. This was long before the Blair Witch Project, but "found footage" is the modern version of these scrapbook-like narratives, made up from newspaper clippings, journal entries, letters, reports and notes. Stephen and Matthew know Rose Blackwood, and her little sister Sara, but they are unprepared for a much-too-close encounter with Roseblight Zebra-Hooves-Backward, and her little sister Slug Pig. On the other hand, Roseblight, who is a terrible failure as a witch, is not entirely prepared to deal with two humans who have wandered into her dimension. The Zebra-Hooves-Backward family are bizarre, whereas Steve and Matt are pretty normal, but the entanglement took a considerable amount of detangling, both for the characters and for the intrepid author.

I don't remember exactly how the plot came about, but I do know the name Zebra-Hooves-Backward just popped into my mind. Names sometimes do that. Naturally, a name like that needs a story...

I set my tale in Bandinangi, one of my private towns where odd things tend to happen. (see Post 31 Hairy George for more on Bandinangi.) Steve and Matt are a bit older than the protagonists of the first Bandinangi book, but they had to be teenagers, I thought, to be allowed to go bushwalking alone. 

Having constructed my story, I was pleased (and in hindsight, I should have been more surprised) when it was accepted and published. The complications didn't end with the plot, because it was with some difficulty that the publishers persuaded the printers that yes, one of the journal entries really was supposed to be printed upside down. It was the proud report of Wizard Zebra-Hooves-Backward that his daughter Slug Pig has this day turned the family cavehold upside down.

The world inhabited by the Zebra-Hooves-Backwards and their relatives is not exactly ours, and this book, renamed "Ex-Spelled" when the editor decided the original title sounded too serious, comes just a year or two after the beginning of my fascination with what are not exactly doubles of doppelgangers but people who mirror others from another world, dimension or time. I developed that theme far more in the decade that followed.

The pictures shown here are the covers of the first edition (Ex-Spelled) and the second edition, which was renamed "Three Missing Days". The first edition, as you see, was a kind of lavender shade, and although I like it, it didn't seem to appeal to the upper primary demographic. This edition, with the stronger colours, sold considerably better.

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