Eco-literature for teens? Can books help save the planet?

I wrote my teen novel, Walker, several years ago.  It’s the story of a boy who dies and who comes back to life as a shaman, a walker between worlds.

It’s aimed at the mid-grade/YA market (hard to be precise as reading tastes vary so much but I’d say if someone likes Percy Jackson, Michelle Paver, Rick Riordan etc., they should like this.)

Walker had an agent and did the rounds of publishing houses.  It also made it through to the shortlist of The Wow! Factor competition run by Waterstone’s and Faber.  Yet, despite all this it never quite found a home.  It got onto the editor’s desk at Authonomy and the feedback I received from the editor at HarperCollins made me rethink the book quite radically. So I rewrote it. Rewrote it twice, actually.  Well, gazillions of times really, but ended up with two main versions – a ‘boy’ version and a ‘girl’ version.  Which appealed to me for all sorts of shamanic reasons.

So. Why Walker?  Firstly Walker is set on Exmoor and really this place is one of my constant muses.  Can a place be a muse? I think so. There are just so many legends here; so much history and prehistory, magic and mythology.  Nature is so darn…elemental. Its mood shifts round every corner – whether on the wild bleak moorland, in the deeply forested combes, the swift running rivers, the crashing waves against cliff or sultry slap against shore. I wanted to try to capture/encase/enchant in words some of its tricksy, tempestuous, rugged charm (yeah, I like my muses like that). *smile*

Secondly Walker is about shamanism.  I love shamanism. Imagine a practice where you can journey into other worlds, other realms – where you can find spirit guides and animals; where you can go for healing, for self-knowledge, for wisdom, for inspiration, for education. It’s not always a gentle process. Spirits often play rough, pulling you apart before putting you back together. It’s a journey of self-awareness and also a journey of connection – with other people, animals, places, times. Above all, shamanism is about the Earth – and this brings me onto the third point…

Thirdly, Walker is about the Earth. It’s got an underlying environmental plea for sanity running through it. It’s not a worthy book; it doesn’t ram points down your throat but it does have the life blood of the planet running through its pages.  This is eco-lit…just as much as any fist-thumping non-fiction tome on climate change.

Fourthly, finally, Walker is a yarn. I wanted to write the kind of book I loved as a child; the kind that lures you in and makes you turn page after page, reading by torchlight under the covers. The kind written by people like Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliff.  When I met one of my total heroes, Alan Garner, a couple of years ago, I told him that his book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was my lodestone, my template for Walker. ‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘Is that really a good idea?’ J Jeez, I love that guy. You’ve never read Alan Garner? For shame on you!

Anyhow, there you have it. Walker is my paean to Exmoor, my homage to storytelling, my head-bowing to shamanism and my earnest hope that we can learn to love our world and respect it before we pull it to pieces.

Did I succeed? I dunno. You tell me. One of these days I may get my act together and self-publish, in a lovely edition made from paper harvested from sustainable forestry of course.  For now, it’s available in Kindle form (no trees harmed at all). walker

You can read more about shamanism and the world of Walker on its own blog – here…

Walker has its own Pinterest board – here…

And you can buy the book for download to  your e-reader – here.