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.