August

August was my first novel with Text Publishing. Although they’d published other novels of mine in Australia, this was the first time they were primary publishers: the go to folk for editing and advice. August was also the first novel I’d written following the international success of Genesis, and was the first time I had deliberately written a follow-up novel. (While August has nothing in common with Genesis in terms of worlds, characters or even style, it is a deliberate attempt to return to the well, so to speak, and write another metaphysical novel for teenagers.)

It’s perhaps not surprising then that there is something a little self-conscious about August. It almost has the hallmarks of the difficult second novel, despite being my tenth. I like it a lot, but it clearly doesn’t achieve all it sets out to. Other times this would annoy me much more than it does here. The reason I think, is that where it fails, it fails by tying to do something difficult, like the gymnist who pulls out the high risk routine in competition, knowing the risks but shooting for glory.

The car crash scenario works well, I think. I’m proud of the openingsection, and in general the writing  of the two people trapped upside down in the crashed car is all I hoped it would be. During earlier drafts, they then told each other their back stories, and those chapters became a  first person  dialogue. It was pointed out to me, reasonably, that the eloqence of their tale detracted from

  the sense that they were injured, and perhaps even dying. The two choices then, were either to rewrite that dialogue in a way that was more ragged and fragmented, while keeping hold of the narrative, or jumping into the third person for the flashback sequences. I chose the latter, which was probably the wrong choice, and didn’t execute it well enough. The result is two stories pulling against each other, rather than working together.

I wrote this book with a clear intention, that of bringing the paradox of free will dramatically alivefor an adolescent audience. Again there is good and bad here. I like the world that is created: The Rector presiding over St Augustine’s, and his cat and mouse game with Tristan. And although it’s not to everybody’s taste, I think the philosophical conversations mostly work. Against this, the novel doesn’t quite manage to play the theory out in a concrete way, which is one of the things that made Genesis so successful. The metaphor of the car on the cliff isn’t exactly right for the discussion of free will that runs through the heart of the novel, and so the ending, while intriguing, doesn’t quite complete the story.

Another positive that can’t be overlooked, is the award winning cover design (designer W H Chong), which I adore. And I’m lucky enough to be currently working on a screenplay of August with a UK director, a great chance to re-imagine the story and make a whole new set of mistakes. 

Text Publishing resource

Text Publishing August page

5 thoughts on “August

  1. Dan says:

    I just finished August, having never read any of your work or even heard of you.
    Thank you. After a two-year orgy of wonderful science reading this was the perfect return to story telling–trivial flaws and all.* My feeling is that you did the right thing with the third-person flashbacks because it let me imagine their story telling. I didn’t need to be constantly in the car with them. Stories can take you far away, as surely as a shinkansen, so why not step out of the car and into the past?

    Enjoying your blogs. As a writer perhaps you won’t struggle as much with the fate of the blog slave.

    Dan

    *(We know where he learned to think, but where did he learn to drive?)

  2. Hi Dan

    Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. Yes, the mix of medieval walled city environment and hints of modern technology (in an early scene when he’s a boy, trucks on the road are mentioned) does end up being a little confusing. I did toy, at one point, with having a reference to a driving lesson at St Augustine’s, but decided to leave it out there in the swirl of implied and imagined events. Possibly the wrong call.

    Bernard

  3. Dan says:

    Implication and imagination are far nicer gifts to your readers.
    And three cheers for your blog on boredom.

  4. Hollstar says:

    I have to ask this.. sorry.
    What on Earth happens at the end of this novel?

    • Hi Hollstar

      Well, there’s the question isn’t it? And I suppose the answer is, nothing. At some point stories end, and for the characters there is no hereafter. Normally, we attempt to tie up an ending such that the reader’s central concern (will our hero achieve their goal) is settled, and that’s enough. This time though, I was so taken with the final metaphor: that of constrained freedom, of our ability to choose how we act, but our inability to anticipate fully the consequences of those actions – that I gave in to the aesthetic impulse and left them turning in the air.

      I know that’s a form of cheating, a breaking of the implicit contract with the reader, when you say on page one, sit down and let me tell you a story. And maybe, if I had it to write again, I’d do it differently. But I didn’t, and so your question has no answer.

      Sorry.

      Bernard

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