Soon, I hope, the world will be a safe and happy place. This morning it isn’t.
A trilogy leaps its boundaries and becomes four books. When you’ve gone that far, an author may well ask, why stop? Specially when you’ve stumbled on something that, unexamined, could damage your character at the deepest level of his being.
When I first met Felix and realised what this young boy was going to be up against, I wanted to equip him with all the personal resources I credibly could. So he became a storyteller. A creative thinker, capable of imagining more than one possible outcome for every situation, no matter how dire.
It’s this remarkable capacity for hope and optimism that keeps him going most of the time. Even in his darkest days a glimmer usually remains and no matter how devastating the events around him, Felix always manages to find his way back, sooner or later, to full hopefulness.
One thought above all others keeps him going through his young years of sadness and loss. One day, he tells himself, the war will be over and the world will once again be a safe and happy place. He has dim memories of such a world from his early childhood, and these faint fragments help keep his hope alive.
While researching After, I read a lot about the events in Europe during the last year of World War Two. Several of the books didn’t stop in May 1945 when the war ended, they went on to describe life in that shattered continent during the months that followed. It was most definitely not a safe and happy place.
The more I read, the more anxious I felt for Felix. How would he cope with having this hope crushed? How would he deal with this greatest threat to his optimism?
I needed a book to find out. Soon was the result.
Writing it took me and Felix to places, outside and inside ourselves, that we hadn’t been to before. And it helped me come to a decision. To stop pretending that each Felix book will be the last, and to make a plan for my future work with him.
I’ve decided there are two more periods in Felix’s life that need to become books. The first, a book that doesn’t yet have a title, I’ll write later this year. It’ll be about Felix’s journey to Australia in 1946 to start a new life, and what he finds there, and what he finds he’s brought with him.
The final Felix book, to be written a bit further down the track, will be called Always. In it the elderly Felix will make his most important journey. A quest to make a final gift to the world, to pass on to future generations of children the care and protection he was given in his own childhood.
This final journey will take Felix through territory new and different even to a man of his vast experience, but it will end in a familiar place. The place we first met him, seven books ago.