'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Guest Post: Lian Tanner on The Story behind The Rogues

The Rogues had a difficult beginning – mainly because it started off as a completely different book. I had in mind a trilogy that was going to be called The Lost Brothers, and it was based around the seventh son of a seventh son tradition. Only in this case the seventh son was going to turn out to be a daughter, throwing everyone's expectations into disarray.

But when it came down to it, I couldn't get the story to work. I got to about 20,000 words – and realised I was horribly bored.

First drafts are invariably awful, but they're not meant to be boring. I suspect the problem was something to do with my protagonist. I was too focused on whether readers would like her or not, and so I smoothed off all her edges until she became a bland pseudo-heroine.

When I realised what was happening, I tried to rescue the story but it was too late. I'd lost interest, and couldn't get it back.

But while I was agonising over all the time I'd wasted, and wondering what to do about it, I stumbled across a magazine article about poisons. I find poisons intrinsically interesting, but the best part of the article was the bit about food tasters – mainly because I didn't realise they still existed. I didn't know that the President of the United States often has a food taster, especially when he travels abroad.

And I had no idea that when George W Bush visited Thailand in 2003, his food tasters were a small team of white mice.

How could any writer walk past something like that?

The idea of these white mice was like a magnet, gathering other ideas around it. Because where you have food tasters, you immediately have the possibility of an assassin. And where you have an assassin, you have greed and ambition, and people who can best be described as rogues.

At that point, I re-read the boring manuscript. And tucked away in a corner, where I'd written them almost by accident, I found three characters who weren't at all boring. They were Duckling, a girl who trusts no one, her devious grandfather Lord Rump, and Pummel, a boy who trusts everyone. They were spiky and imperfect and the very opposite of bland, so I grabbed them with both hands and started to build a new story around them.

To my relief, this one worked. So The Lost Brothers turned into The Rogues, and I ended up in a completely different place from where I started. I still really like the idea of the seventh son turning out to be a daughter, and maybe I'll go back to it one day. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying this story too much to regret it.

Lian Tanner is a children's author and playwright. She has worked as a teacher in Australia and Papua New Guinea, a tourist bus driver, a freelance journalist, a juggler, a community arts worker, an editor and a professional actor. It took her a while to realise that all of these jobs were really just preparation for being a writer. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania, with a small tabby cat and lots of friendly neighbourhood dogs. She has not yet mastered the art of Concealment by the Imitation of Nothingness, but she is quite good at Camouflage. Her middle grade novels include The Keepers Trilogy and The Hidden Series. You can visit her here: www.liantanner.com.au

We are tingling with excitement over her new series and can't wait to share our thoughts on The Rogues with you soon.