You might recall a little over a year ago I posted that I had finished my children’s fantasy novel Zeb and the Great Ruckus, and went on to describe how it would transform your child into a ninja-scientist-guitar-soloing human rights champion. Well, it’s taken a while, but I have finally inked a publishing deal in order to bring this little beast out into the light. When I returned from an eight day trek across the Ladakhi range of the Himalayas a few months ago I found an email in my inbox informing me that I had been offered a deal with Odyssey Books (who also published Foley Russel and That Poor Girl by my friend Rebecca Bloomer).
The email that informed me of the offer was sent via satellite to Leh, the prayer flag drenched capital of Ladakh, India, located 3500m above sea level. I received it whilst typing away drowned in the delightfully rousing aroma of yak-scented mountain gear. It was five years ago in that same city, whilst sitting on the rooftop of a ramshackle hotel and staring out at the Himalayas, that I began writing my first novel A Beginner’s Guide to Dying in India. Receiving this offer for my new book in that same city was a beautifully cyclical moment.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
Zeb lives in the land of Bravura , where the oppressive Czar and his legion of Admonishers have outlawed art and music. The mystical Alephs, magical mouthless creatures that eat music with their ears, have long since disappeared into hiding. When a letter from Zeb’s departed father urges him to seek out a legendary musician rumoured to be living somewhere deep in the forest, Zeb must set out with his best friend Flip to seek him out. Armed only with a ball of magic clay and a harmonica, Zeb and Flip face wolves, clockwork birds, an army of Admonishers and the bewilderbeast in their quest to find the lost musician and the Alephs and bring music back to Bravura.
As a teacher I got sick of reading stories to my students that were populated with saccharine characters, cheap wish fulfilment and 1950s values.
I wanted to write the kind of book that makes kids shake their heads and articulately explain why they disagree instead of just nodding their heads when told to do so.
I wanted to write a book that makes children appreciate the fact that art is not just a sprawling mass of pretty pictures and three-minute pop songs, but the most powerful communication tool in existence.
I wanted to write a book that kids would read in their youth and return to in adulthood.
I wanted to write a book filled with explosions, clockwork birds, steel guitars and vats of weaponised toffee.
Zeb and the Great Ruckus is that book. It’ll be in stores sometime in 2012, which, according to various sources, may well be the end of the world. So at least you’ll have something fun to read during the Apocalypse.