Writing a trilogy is a long haul, a commitment to many years of creativity, editing and research. So how do I feel now it’s completed? Elated, relieved, exhausted? All three if I’m honest, plus a host of other emotions, which have contributed to recent fatigue and lethargy. Strange as it may seem, there’s a sense of loss – no longer can I inhabit the lives of my protagonists, plot the course of their pasts and presents, envisage their futures. The same applies to less prominent but still vital characters such as Fley, Maris and Trooper Hild.
When I began Sannah and the Pilgrim I had no idea the eventual outcome would be three books, although I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the ongoing inhumane treatment of refugees by our government and continuing lack of adequate action to curb climate change – my inspiration for writing the novel. The idea for a sequel based on Sannah’s daughter, Pia and Kaire, pilgrim and Skyman, surfaced during the redrafting and editing process and gathered pace when I secured a publishing contract.
Finding a publisher willing to take on the first novel of an unknown writer – my publishing credits were confined to short stories, poetry and articles published in magazines and anthologies – proved as difficult as I had anticipated. Initially, I sent the manuscript to several mainstream Australian publishers, but all rejected Sannah and the Pilgrim as ‘too pessimistic.’ One also said the novel, ‘showed Australia in a poor light.’ Believing they had missed the point, I turned to Indie publishers and was delighted when Michelle Lovi of Odyssey Books shared my faith in the story and agreed to publish it.
Focusing on Sannah’s daughter, Pia in the second book, felt the natural choice to continue the story of an oppressed people’s struggle for liberty in apartheid Australia. I already knew the central characters and had a good idea of the plot, so Pia and the Skyman took me only a year to write. By contrast, Sannah and the Pilgrim took four years, including research on climate change, particularly in the Pacific region, and the treatment of refugees.
Having a young woman as a protagonist in Pia and the Skyman – Pia is nineteen at the beginning of the novel – gave me the opportunity to develop her character from volatile teenager prone to tears and melodramatic outbursts, to a responsible adult of whom Commander Breta says during their first meeting: ‘Pia, you are wise beyond your years…. Kaire is a fortunate man to have you by his side.’ But Breta has been misled by Pia’s self-assurance as she outlined a complex proposal. She still has a lot to learn and it is only towards the end of the third book that she fully matures following her participation in the revolution dubbed ‘Operation Unity.’
The need for a third book became apparent on finishing the first draft of Pia and the Skyman. There was so much more I wanted to explore, particularly an eventual return to democracy for my future Australia, essential to achieve an optimistic conclusion. The final paragraph of Pia and the Skyman alerts the reader to a subsequent book: “Lovemaking seemed the obvious conclusion to their special day. Freeing her people from oppression could wait a little longer.”
The Sky Lines Alliance is a tale of bloody revolution tempered with acts of compassion as three groups join forces to restore democracy. Former Sky commander Breta is the main protagonist in this conclusion to my trilogy of a future dystopian Australia, although Pia and Kaire play key roles in the narrative. Having an older protagonist – the novel begins on Breta’s fiftieth birthday – allowed me to examine not only his changed circumstances as a refugee, albeit one that possesses skills indispensable to his new homeland, but also the difficulties he faces adjusting to life on Earth.
Imagining and depicting a future Australia degraded by centuries of climate change and decades of authoritarian government, required total immersion during writing sessions and I confess that sometimes, I found it difficult to return to my twenty-first century world. News bulletins, current affairs programmes and articles read in print or online only confirmed my belief that the fictional world I was creating could easily become fact. “A record 65 million men, women and children were forced from their homes by war and persecution last year, leaving one in every 113 people a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum at the end of 2015, according to the UN.’ The Guardian 20 June 2016.”
Such is my concern with the increasing numbers of refugees worldwide and accelerating climate change that if beginning the trilogy today, the timeframe would be the end of this century not 2399- 2402!
But whatever the future for humankind and the planet we seem determined to degrade, I want to end with a positive image from the final pages of The Sky Lines Alliance:
‘Still standing on the doorstep, Kaire and Pia raised moist eyes to the velvet sky.
‘Freedom from prejudice out there,’ Kaire said, wishing for a moment he could fly away from Earth-borne love and responsibility.
Pia lifted his free hand and placed it over her heart. ‘Freedom from prejudice in here, too.’
Together they slipped inside, closing the door behind them.’