One day, several years ago, I was minding my own business when I got a message through the contact form on this website.
I’ve had some lovely messages before – people in their twenties and thirties who loved my early novels when they were teenagers, researchers wanting to interview me for their theses, folks wanting to book me for gigs – but this one sat me on my heels.
“Can you call me please. I would love to talk to you about a picture book idea.”
The author of this mysterious missive was Maryann Ballantyne, publisher at Wild Dog Books.
I’d met Maryann many years ago – first at Penguin books when she was working there, and then on and off since then at various kids’ book-related festivals (such warm acquaintanceships are one of the many delights of working in this area). She is warm and frank, and I immediately took to her.
So, I was able to say, when the conversation intimated above took place, “But Maryann. I don’t write picture books.”
And she said, “I think you can write this one.”
And so I did.
I’ll write more about the actual book later, but for now, I wanted to share this unlikely origin story with you.
Everything that has emerged since that first conversation has been an unexpected pleasure – from finding that I could indeed write this fascinating story about John Glenn, Friendship 7, and its unlikely connection to Western Australia; from seeing the glorious directions in which Heather Potter and Mark Jackson took my words; to the joy of the hardcover book in my hands.
And also, finding myself watch The Right Stuff, at the urging of my mentor Howard Norman, forty years after it came out.