The Story of Writing this Book

Deputy Dan & the Mysterious Midnight Marauder started as a game with words in 1996.

I wanted to see if I could write a story in poetry – a story that had some complexity and meaning – and began fooling around to see what I could manage. At this time, I was thinking a lot about the men in my life, remembering their childhoods fondly, and spending a lot of time with male friends in general. I was also studying towards my honours degree in English Literature and I found writing for fun a good time out from course work.

I continued this word jigsaw puzzle while I worked in various jobs, during hundreds of lunch breaks, and over countless morning and afternoon cups of tea. Before I knew it I had amended, patched, and changed the story for eight years using only tiny stolen moments. It was still a work in progress when I fell ill in 2004. I simply woke up one day and couldn’t feel my legs. For two years all I really could manage was writing. When my left side was paralyzed I could still write and when I was bedridden I lay and worked on stories. My progress was slow but continual; I eventually finished a first draft of Deputy Dan.

Finally, my sister Jane encouraged me to show a few things to Tim Rogerson, a semi-retired publisher. He enthusiastically declared it all publishable, and has been a tower of support since, even showing the manuscript to an Oxford Professor of English Literature for suggestions! I attended the Conclave conference in 2006 and Deputy Dan & the Mysterious Midnight Marauder was recognized there as the “Best work of Fantasy Poetry”.

My hunt began for an artist. I talked to people at the University of Canterbury about doing it, in the hope that the book could be entirely a production of my alma mater. While this wasn’t to be, one of the highlights of making the book was the day I tried to take pages to show people there, and my printer broke down. I rang what I thought was a print shop, and asked them to print it out for me, which they said they would do even though they actually sold printers rather than printing items for people! When I got to the shop to pick up the manuscript there was a CLOSED sign on the door. I was beckoned in, and found all the staff were acting out the story, with each person who worked there playing a different character from the book. They were having a glorious time!

Tim suggested the story would be improved by being written into syllabically correct poetry as opposed to simple rhyming couplets. My jigsaw puzzle immediately became much more complex. I decided to take the book traveling with me. Consequently, it has been worked on in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Dubai, India, Japan and Oman. It was scribbled at in Tibetan lodges in the Himalayas and grand castles in the Thar Desert. I came up with alterations to two verses while on the back of an elephant riding through a deserted cliff top palace. I took advice on editing out some verses while sitting with friends on tatami mats. Finally, Deputy Dan’s story was finished in my best friend’s office in the Middle East. She cleared all her work out of it, supplied me with food, and declared she wasn’t letting me out until I had fully totally finished working on the book! In three weeks I declared the story finally, utterly finished For Once and For All! I’ve loved this story – I suspect no other story will ever take me as long – but it was worth it.