Elaine Forrestal

On Wings of Steel has flown the coup

The Southern Cross. With its canvas body and open cockpit it carried Ulm and Smithy around the world in the 1920s and 1930s.

Recently my NLA Publishing editor and I finished our work on the new manuscript, On Wings of Steel. Our ‘baby’ has now moved on into the hands of the designer. From there it will go to the rest of the publishing team. There will still be final proof-reading and tiny adjustments to be made but, when I think of that book now, the expression ‘flown the coup’ seems to invariably come to mind. I know these words are sometimes used when a prisoner has escaped from gaol, but for me it has always had much more family oriented connotations. It was used by my parents whenever teenagers or young adults, their own or other people’s, were leaving home for the first time and going off to make their own way in the world.

When I’m talking to students in workshops and meet-the-author situations one of the questions they frequently ask me is, ‘which one of your books do you like the best?’ Strangely, I find this the hardest of all questions to answer. Perhaps that is because, inevitably, my books become my ‘children’. The older ones grow up and leave home, finding their place in book shops, libraries, private homes and pubic collections, leaving the new one behind to eventually follow in their footsteps. The new one – the one I am still working on – then becomes the baby of the family. It demands the most attention, sitting there at the front of my mind. It’s the one that I am closest to, but Ironically it’s the one that is most difficult to talk to the students about. With all my other books I have something to show for my efforts. I have the copy in my hand. I can talk about the story, the process of writing it. They can see for themselves what the cover looks like, how thick the book is, what size print it has. They can relate to it much more easily than they can to something less concrete, something I can only describe through the eyes of other people because I am still too close to it to be objective.

Nevertheless it is very exciting stage and I can hardly wait  to see how the new book will look and feel. The transformation from a bundle of typed pages to a real book with covers is quite magical and rates, for me, as the best part of being an author.