Walking through a bookstore in Sydney the other day I spotted Boone Shepard and realised that it’s been almost five years since it was released. Naturally this prompted some reflection. Personally and professionally a lot has happened in that time and my life now looks vastly different from how it did when Boone came out. But that book’s release, comparatively small scale though it was, was a crucial step in the journey that brought me here.
I sometimes feel like, in all the hubbub around The Hunted and the impending release of The True Colour of a Little White Lie, Boone gets forgotten. By myself as much as anyone. Those three books seem so far removed from the stories I’m telling now, and indeed a lot of the publicity for The Hunted referred to it as my ‘debut’, implicitly erasing Boone.
But Boone Shepard will always be my first published novel. And what’s more, I’m proud that it is. It’s by no means a perfect book. I don’t know that I’d entirely found my voice yet (although writing that trilogy was integral to me doing so). The structure is… odd, to say the least. There are some narrative choices that simply would not fly today. But I still love it.
Boone Shepard was a strange, idiosyncratic little book followed by two strange, idiosyncratic little sequels. It was almost certainly never going to find a home with a bigger publisher and I’m forever grateful to April Newton for loving it enough to put considerable time and resources into getting it out into the world.
We probably thought Boone would make a bigger splash than he did. In retrospect that was misguided, but it also meant that we maybe didn’t pay enough attention to the splash he did make. There were podcast dissections of the novels, fan art, kids dressing up as Boone for Book Week and the Readings YA Prize shortlisting. I still get approached by kids at school workshops telling me how much they love Boone.
Then there’s the fact that the books remain on shelves all over the country, still quietly selling copies even though the trilogy has been consigned by many outlets to a footnote in my bio.
But Boone Shepard, American Adventure and The Silhouette and the Sacrifice together comprise a story that I adored telling, a story I was so privileged to be able to finish despite many limitations and setbacks. A bookseller recently told me that, as much as she loved The Hunted, she preferred Boone Shepard for its whimsical quirkiness and distinct individuality. And while I’m never going to pick favourites, I will say that getting to write three books packed with time travel, famous 1800s authors, 60s counterculture figures, silly banter, nonsensical quasi sci-fi technology, manatees and a fairly philosophical exploration of what it takes to move on from the past, will always be among my favourite things I’ve ever done.
Writing words about writing words.