LOCAL author Jeff Doherty admits he has an unfair advantage as he sets out to write a book.
Whereas other writers have to rely on gut instinct to decide if they are on the right track, Mr Doherty has something much more powerful: the students of Eglinton Public School, where he works as a support officer for children with learning disabilities.
Mr Doherty has been preparing to release the second book in his Guardians of St Giles urban fantasy series, but he remembers how valuable it was to see how the kids reacted to the first book while it was still coming together.
“When it was still a manuscript, a couple of the teachers at the school took it on and read it to the kids,” he said.
“So I got to sit in the back of the classroom while they were reading the book and see which parts worked and which parts didn’t work.”
And he wasn’t nervous?
“I was fascinated,” he said.
“You can't be nervous. Once you have done it, if they say it's bad, or they don't like it, that's okay. It's their opinion.”
ALSO MAKING NEWS:
Olivia Stone And The Dread Of The Dreamers, the new book in the series, was released this week and will be launched in Bathurst on August 10.
Mr Doherty wrote the first draft of the first book, Olivia Stone And The Trouble With Trixies, in 26 days as he took part in a novel-writing competition.
“Each month in November there’s a worldwide challenge, which is the National Novel Writing Month. It’s writing a novel in the 30 days of November,” he said.
“I started [the first Olivia Stone book] on November 1 and finished on November 26.
“It was very bad - it took me six months to edit it. But I got the story down in one go.”
The speed was the key for the first book, according to Mr Doherty.
“All the books that I hadn’t finished writing – I’ve got a whole stack of them – I’d started them and you’d get five or six chapters in and then go back and polish the first few chapters and then write another chapter.
“So you’d end up with this beautifully polished first 10 chapters of a book, a couple of chapters that aren’t so polished and some dodgy ones.
“And then you’d run out of steam and you go ‘I don’t know what’s happening now’ and get bored with it and then put it away.
“So the idea of that [National Novel Writing Month] is to write the whole story down and then go through and edit.”
The second Olivia Stone book took a lot longer, Mr Doherty said.
“There was a new character in this who kept jumping up and down and wanting more chapters. And then I realised that all the chapters that he had didn’t really fit into the book.
“I had to cut him back down. So I took 12,000 words of his story out. He’s still in there - but only the important bits that he needed to do.”
The Guardians of St Giles series focuses on 12-year-old Olivia (who discovers, after an accident, that she is part-grotesque and has a responsibility to protect her city from the monsters) and Yip, the smallest grotesque statue ever carved.
In the first book, Olivia and Yip take on some troublesome trixies. In the second, it’s spiders (and Olivia is, unfortunately, afraid of them) who present the challenge.
“It’s about unlikely heroes,” Mr Doherty said.
“In the first book, the monsters are way, way stronger than Olivia is. So it’s overcoming great odds to win.
“Being determined and just keep trying - that's the theme for the first one.”
In the second book, he said, it’s about finding your courage even though you are terribly afraid.
Mr Doherty has two more books planned to complete the series: Olivia Stone And The Call of the Carnival, which will come out next year, and Olivia Stone And The Curse Of The Changling, which will be released the year after.
He gets complimentary emails from young readers, but says a particular highlight came last year at Eglinton Public.
“We had a book parade at school and one student dressed up as Olivia and one dressed up as Yip. That made my day.”
Olivia Stone And The Dread Of The Dreamers will be officially launched at Bathurst Library next Friday, August 10 at 4.30pm.