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Writing Liberator








Writing Liberator was almost the opposite to writing Worldshaker. The first novel was ten years in the planning—a labour of love, when there was no Australian market for it—then five years in the writing and re-writing. By contrast, Liberator came in a headlong rush.

I did plan for at least a year and a half in advance, but it wasn't exactly Liberator I was planning, because I was thinking in terms of a trilogy and two sequels. Why? Just because fantasy=trilogies, I suppose. I never considered anything else. The middle volume would have dealt with the revolution turning bad, the reign of terror, and the rise and fall of the extremists; while the final volume would've covered the arrival of the Imperialist juggernauts leading to pursuit and final battle.

Here are my v early notes, even before Worldshaker had been published - easy to remember because I made a last minute change, so that Riff now comes up with 'Liberator' as a new name for the juggernaut, instead of 'New Dawn' >>>>>>>>

My editors at Allen & Unwin weren't so keen on the trilogy idea.They felt that the material for the middle volume looked thinner and weaker than what came before and after. The old problem of fantasy trilogies, where book 2 is really a bridge between book 1 and book 2. Whereas, book 2 is the volume that needs to be strongest of all, because it's where you cement your readers and reputation. Book 1 catches interest and attention, but it's when you show you can do it again that people really believe in you. I think the middle volume of the "Ferren" trilogy falls down a bit in that way—Ferren and the White Doctor is the volume I'd most want to revise before any re-issue.

When the Allen & Unwin editors suggested moving from a trilogy to a duology, I was horrified at first. I'd done so much planning over the previous 18 months. I'd imagined events and pictured the whole story—whole two stories—in my head. Anyway, I tried putting the two stories together … hmm … could do … and then this … which would go with that … and little by little it all started to fit together. No, better than just fitting together: each half of the new super-story enhanced the other. Obvious, really: what better to drive a revolution to extremism than the approaching threat of the Imperialist juggernauts? The one big story was much more than the sum of its parts.

But I was still lamenting my wasted eighteen months of planning even as this far better prospect started to take shape. When the switchover came, it came suddenly: I wanted this duology, it had to be a duology, mouthing else would do! From then on, I was in a frenzy of re-planning. So much had to be changed, I junked ideas wholesale—yet somehow better ideas came out of them.

<<<<< Did I ever mention - I love making notes on coloured paper? Makes them easy to recognise: yellow paper, green paper, pink paper, blue paper. Here are some notes I made for Liberator as a single volume.

As soon as I started writing it was like a dam bursting. Not fast by some writers' standards—I'll never be that—but incredibly fast by mine. Six months for a 465 page novel: it was as if a mighty surge swept me along.

The beauty of it was that unifying the two stories brought major climactic events into play far earlier than either story alone. I mean, a climax starting between a third and half way in! And because of the lucky way the original stories bounced off each other, event led to event led to event all the way to the final chapter.An ever-rolling climax! I've said in other places that my favourite part of the writing process is when the story takes over and I just hang on for the ride. usually that happens in the last quarter of the book, but with Liberator it started before I was even half way through. Whoo-ee! I was riding on rainbows all that time!

Six months after starting, I sent the finished ms off to my editors in Australia, UK and US. I've never felt so confident about getting a book right first time—more often I'm a nervous wreck—and the feedback was as totally favourable as I'd hoped. Almost perfect! But … there were still a few queries and comments. And soon I was pulling my hair out (not easy when there's so little of it),not because anyone was requesting big changes, on the contrary. The problem was that I had feedback from all three publishers—and soon after, my French editor too—and everyone was coming from a different direction. So many small things, some on a copyediting level, but so many of them all at once.

In the end, I couldn't cope with jumping around making small changes all over the place, so I did what I always do, starting at page 1 and re-writing all the way through to the last page. By the time I'd got my head around everyone else's suggestions, I had some bigger improvements I wanted to make for my own sake. As usual … and also as usual, the improvements started to cascade and accumulate all the way through. But I didn't mind, because I could feel the book getting better and better as I re-wrote.

More coloured paper! Notes for revising, labelled BIG CHANGES. I had an A3 sheet for small changes.>>>

The problem was deadlines, which kept tightening up on me even as the work I wanted to do expanded. I'd started late after first taking time to recover from the US and UK book tours for Worldshaker, then taking time to get my head around all of the suggestions. If I'd struck a gnarly bit in the re-writing, I'd never have finished in time. But the improved story flowed as smoothly and easily as the original version. It seemed to know exactly where it wanted to go!

So it worked, getting feedback from all my publishers simultaneously, though at first I thought my head was splitting apart. The copyedit was similar, with so many different tiny corrections to think about for Australian, American and British publishers—and then my French translator too. Every correction had to be crosschecked to see if it needed making for other editions. And tight, tight deadlines again …

Meanwhile, work was going on on the visual material. I feel like I've scooped the pool again! More great B & W illustrations from Eiko, showing the French, Russian, Austrian and Turkish juggernauts; another wonderful cover for the UK edition from Ian Miller, my all time favourite fantasy/SF artist; and Anthony Lucas—director of the Oscar-nominated film Jasper Morello—outdid himself with the cover artwork for the Australian edition. Stunning stuff! Not to mention the very different, very chic French cover—love those colour combinations, Séverin!

I'll end with a secret … Séverin had to change the hair colour for Lye on the cover because she'd been blonde in the first draft. One improvement I made in the rewrite was a deepening of Lye's character—she's the main new character in the book, and everyone's been telling me she's one of the best things in it. She changed her hair colour at the same time! I had a much stronger visual image when I did the rewrite, and I just knew her hair had to be jet black, not blonde. So Gérard shrugged his shoulders and set to work again …





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