Sunday, 19 February 2017

Amy Amaryllis

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. If you're not familiar with this blog, scroll down to see what it's all about.

Amy Amaryllis (Post 50)

Amy Amaryllis  (1992) is the first book in a loose series of four. It all began when I was ten or eleven years old. My mother's cousin was clever at buying birthday gifts. One year, she gave me an S-seal (which I still have, and which pops up in another book) and a pack of sealing wax. I still remember the interesting scent of that wax; not quite candle wax, but pleasant. Another year she gave our family a box crammed with upmarket samples of marzipan fruit (which I'd never seen before), nuts and little bottles and pots of things. The gift that kicked off this book was a handsome green-covered album with parchment-coloured pages. The edges of the pages were gilt, as you see in some bibles and prayer books. The book was about the size of the large photo albums we used to have, but they were blank. It was a truly magnificent book, and one of the nicest gifts I'd ever had. She knew I enjoyed writing and drawing (remember the sealing wax and seal?) so this was a gift along the same lines. There was just one problem and it was one she couldn't have foreseen. I still loved writing and drawing (and I do to this day) but I'd reached an age at which I recognised, with considerable disappointment, that I was supremely untalented in drawing. I was good at stories, but my handwriting was so bad I'd taught myself to type so I could write stories that had a sporting chance of being read.

I loved that book, but I knew anything I wrote or drew in it wouldn't do it justice. I could have typed stories and stuck them in, but that would have hidden the tinted and textured pages. So... I kept the book on my shelf as I kept other lovely things. Many years later I gave it to my daughter.

Although I couldn't bring myself to use the book as it was intended to be used, I did in fact use it. I gave it to the co-protagonist of Amy Amaryllis.

Amy Day is a typical kid of her times. She loves swimming, she has problems with the school bullies, her big brother Craig is stirring up a bit of trouble at home, but on the whole, she's okay. For her birthday, she has a Walkman and a splendid green book. Amy sometimes hankers for a bit of elegance in her life, so she uses her green birthday book to write a story about a girl who both is and isn't her. Her name is Amaryllis Loveday, and she lives in the land of Ankoor, in a place of castles, cliffs, guilds and carriages. Amaryllis has a brother named Crag, and parents who are similarly glorified versions of Amy's mum and dad.

Meanwhile, in the land of Ankoor, Amaryllis Loveday is tired of being cossetted, and confined. Her brother wants to be a bard, but all she's allowed to do is stand for fittings, draw and write. One day, she begins writing a fanciful tale of a girl with a free and fortunate life. For this girl, she chooses a simplified version of her own name; Amy Day.

Amy and Amaryllis effectively create one another, and soon find themselves living in one another's bodies, in one another's lives. Amaryllis faces down the bullies that bothered Amy, but she nearly drowns when Craig, Amy's brother, pushes her into the water. Her body knows how to swim, since it is Amy's, but Amaryllis's mind has no concept of doing so. Craig understands there's something odd going on, and reluctantly comes to believe the girl who looks like his sister is telling the truth when she says she is someone else. 

Living in Amaryllis's world, Amy is kidnapped and marooned on a rocky prison. It never occurs to the kidnapper that a nobly born girl could swim. Amy escapes, but since she's living in Amaryllis's body she has the opposite problem to her double. She knows how to swim, but this body is not accustomed to it.

Everything gets sorted out eventually as, assisted by their doubles' brothers, the girls work out how to get back into their own lives.

The story was one of the longest I'd written up to that point, and my editor asked me to add a lot more drama while not adding any more length. It was difficult, but I did manage. It was possibly the first book I'd written that completely pleased me and it remains one of my favourites. I am also fond of the cover, although the physical cover of the book is paler in colour than the proof I was shown during the process. If you look at the back-to-back girls you'll see (a) that they are not traditionally pretty, and (b) that they are identical in feature. I think this is the cover that gave me a persistent liking for cover-characters who look like real people.

There is one more odd thing. To me, this is a pure fantasy. Amy and Amaryllis do not live in the same world. During the editing process, someone referred to the book as time-travel. I pointed out it wasn't. It was reality-travel. Someone else also called it time-travel, so I set to work in the final revision to prove it wasn't. Instead of horses, I gave the people of Amaryllis's world riding and draught animals called reinbeast. They looked a little like llamas, but came in different colours, such as blue and gold. The reinbeast, I reckoned, were the proof of the pudding. This is not a time-travel story.

Amy Amaryllis is out of print, but copies do turn up on eBay and abebooks, and I think it is still in some libraries.
About the Blog

Sally is 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.

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