“Creating The Children of Gaia was not just a good idea, it was a compulsion, yet when I began I had only been painting and drawing seriously and regularly for just over three years. I hadn’t written a story since High School and despite a deep love of trees I did not know much about their internal structure or the ecology of forests. I took the encouraging advice of my clairvoyant friend, Carron who said, “Just put one foot in front of the other. Everything will be there when you need it.”
There is a saying that ‘Luck is preparation meeting opportunity’ and I certainly had to do plenty of preparation— study, detective work and trust in my own intuition as to what path to follow—to be ready for the extraordinary ‘luck’ that followed. Though we drive our own such journeys we seldom travel alone, though sometimes it might feel that way. My brother is an ecologist so he supplied me with a good deal of scientific material and people to talk to, who in turn led me to other experts and more leads. The story evolved or perhaps revealed itself—as my younger son had suggested one night—like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle waiting to be found.
When I seemed to reach a dead end, people turned up, like the Australian, a friend of a friend who, to my astonishment, had recorded a particularly good TV documentary on British television about acid pollution. He thought it might be helpful. It was indeed for not only did it give me a clear overview of the problem of acid pollution, it led me to an English scientist in Norway who kindly included me on a whistle stop tour with him and two of his PhD students. Through a fellow Kiwi (that’s what we New Zealanders call ourselves, after our national bird, not the fruit) I found myself on another journey with a bus full of Swedish foresters. So these journeys went—through Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Costa Rica, England and in my own country, New Zealand. There were many magical moments and strangely serendipitous happenings—enough for a book of their own.
Trees and forests were only part of what I needed to learn about to create The Children of Gaia. Crafting a novel is something one really only learns by doing—and re-doing—many times over. Likewise learning to illustrate a text takes practice, and often a good deal of trial and error. My trials resulted in coming up with better, faster ways to go about illustrating that I can now pass on to other aspiring illustrators through Illustration Workshops.
Experts critiqued and I re-wrote. Fellow artists inspired and encouraged my efforts as I tried new materials and techniques. On the one hand I followed the science and on the other learned to communicate better with the Deva kingdom. So it went on for nine fulsome years—a pathway strewn with gifts and learning. Then I tried to get it published.
I discovered, as many before me have, that no matter how good our idea or product might be, sometimes the world at large is just not ready for it. It was much admired, praised, even accepted for publication by well-established publishers both in New Zealand and in the USA but didn’t make it to the print machines. A US agent raved but couldn’t sell it. They were challenging years indeed. One friend said, “My dear, the [people] this book was written for haven’t learned to read yet!” Then serendipity found me again in the form of a wonderful ‘critical reader’. Despite the pressures of her own job, Kathy went through the manuscript meticulously, making suggestions where needed and I re-wrote yet again. A final polishing, a smoothing of the sculpture, a refining of the note until it shone clearer and brighter.
Then came an offer of a traditional contract and a modest digital print run tested the waters. By now the world was changing and readers wrote back to me. There were inspiring, touching stories as people shared what The Children of Gaia meant to them. They wanted copies for friends and to be able to tell people where it buy it. James Cameron’s Avatar burst onto the cinema screens and my husband expressed his surprise at its shared philosophy with The Children of Gaia. We had been without a base for twelve years, as he worked overseas and we traveled, returning eventually to New Zealand but undecided where to settle. It was time for a home of our own again and time, I knew, for The Children of Gaia—now truly ‘found’ after a long, long journey—to go out into print again.
People new to the world revealed by The Children of Gaia tell me, often with palpable awe, how it transports them into a different realm. That’s when, as an author you know you’ve done your job! I would love to be able to share it with people who speak other languages so the song of Khoros can truly be sung around the world, as the young elf is instructed at the book’s beginning . . .
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