Monday, 2 January 2017

Her Kingdom for a Pony

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. 

Her Kingdom for a Pony 2

Her Kingdom for a Pony was my first published book. I started it during my last year at school, when I was fifteen and finished it when I was sixteen. It came about after the editor who gave me a kind rejection for The Kamarand suggested I should try short stories instead of a novel. I had already had some short stories published in the NSW School Magazine, so I quite liked the idea. I have always liked the short story form, and still write them.

Rather than fantasy as with The Kamarand, most of the thirteen stories in Kingdom are farm-and-family based, with backgrounds and themes taken from my Tasmanian childhood. The characters are made up, but some of them were lightly based on people I knew. The stories are linked in that they all take place in the Tasmanian country town of Springford and its surrounding district, so characters wander in and out of one another's stories. Main characters include eleven-year-old Susan Thorn, her fat black pony Jason and her brother Greg, the sisters Deb and Jenny Barns and their family, and an opinionated Jersey heifer named Honey who lives on the Thorn farm. There's a cat named Gingerpop and an old cattle dog who has his own ways of doing things. There is also a ghost story where the ghost is a calf. 

At the time I wrote these stories, I didn't know much about the normal ways of publishers, so I found nothing odd in the fact that the kindly editor offered to read each story as I wrote it. She turned down two of them with frank criticisms, so I just went on writing until I had enough that she liked. She then accepted the collection and assigned Noela Young, a lovely illustrator, to do the pictures and cover. A couple of versions of the cover were sent to me, and I had my photo on the inside jacket flap. (I was wearing a cheesecloth shirt and, for some unfathomable reason, a brass bell around my neck on a leather thong. What can I say? It was the 1970s!) In due course (about two years, actually) the book came out, and someone sent me a contract... belatedly. Now, this is NOT the way books are usually published, but that is what happened. The book, a hardback, retailed for about $6.95. As for the title; let's just say I'd been studying Shakespeare at school.

Looking back, it was an odd experience. It's years since I read the stories, but from time to time ancient copies turn up in library sales or second-hand shops and occasionally I buy one. I'm not sure why. Maybe I don't want them tossed on the tip. Maybe I want spare copies in case one of my grandchildren develops a desire to read Granny's first book. Maybe I just see Kingdom as an old friend. Who can say? I have no idea how many copies were printed, but a quick check of eBay shows three for sale right now, priced between $3.45 and $9.58. Two of them are in the UK. How did that happen? I have never been to the UK but my first published book is there right now.

Makes you think, doesn't it?  

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