It looks as if I might publish seven books this year, which is ridiculous even for me. The seventh, 'Cheekyfella Dreaming', is to be brought out by Halcyon Press (Ireland) in time for Christmas. It has an interesting background.
Several years ago I wrote a children's book called 'Kookaburra Dreaming' which was published by Scholastic in Britain, but fell foul of political correctness in Australia, where the book was set.
A white Australian editor decided the book's hero, an Aborigine boy, should not have been called 'Cheekyfella' even though the character was based on a real Aborigine with a similar name. (Similar, but not identical. The original was named Cheekybugger, which I thought might be a bit extreme for a children's book.) As a consequence, Scholastic declined the sequel.
I wasn't altogether unhappy. I'd objected strenuously to the cover of 'Kookaburra Dreaming' but lost the fight. (Few people realise that the standard publishing contract expressly debars an author from any input into decisions about the price, marketing, advertising, physical appearance or cover of his book. Most publishers will let you see a cover in advance as a courtesy, but if you don't like it, that's tough. And some don't even go that far. The first sight I had of the cover for 'Ruler of the Realm' -- due for publication in October -- was in a Bloomsbury catalogue.)
But Cheekyfella haunted me to such an extent that he popped back into my head when I was asked to contribute to an anthology of Christmas stories. The result was 'Kookaburra Christmas', a short fable about Cheekyfella that I think is probably one of the very finest stories I've ever written. The anthology came and went and while the story proved popular enough to be taken up and reprinted, I always regretted that it was never published as a stand-alone book.
Then Halcyon came on the scene, founded by two old friends of mine, Rita Kelly and Edel Connolly. Rita read a manuscript copy of 'Kookaburra Christmas' and took fire on it at once. The outcome was an offer to publish; and in time for sale next Christmas if physically possible. The name of the book will be 'Cheekyfella Dreaming' to avoid confusion with the anthology version.