Today is the publication date for Wanderer, the brilliant new novel by one of Australia’s greatest storytellers, multi-award-winning author Victor Kelleher. It is his first new middle-grade novel in over fifteen years, and we are so proud to be publishing it!
Wanderer is not only an exciting, immersive adventure, with unforgettable characters, set in a brilliantly-imagined alternative world: it is also a lyrical love song to the power of books and stories. You can read more about the story here, and watch a great trailer for it here, but here below too are some words from Victor to readers, about the book and its themes.
I wrote Wanderer while living in the Channel Country of southern Tasmania. It grew out of the waterways and landscape I looked onto every day, and more or less demanded to be written. So like all my fantasies, it is grounded in a real place. Only the time has shifted, from the present to a not-too-distant future, when the world is learning to heal itself again.
The notion of healing runs right through the book, from the main character, Dane, who has been mentally wounded by the manner of his mother’s death and his own feelings of guilt; right through to the animal kingdom, which has turned against humanity after millennia of ill-treatment and neglect. Then, too, there are the abandoned children who, for me, symbolise the plight of poor kids everywhere.
The stories told by Lana, and the books she and Dane are trying to rescue, can also be seen as a part of this healing process – though they clearly symbolise much more. Again, for me, the image of the lost kids sitting around the campfire listening to Lana tell her tale is central to so much of what I was trying to convey. Stories can heal us, as First Nations people throughout the world have known for many, many centuries.
In this respect, let me confess something here. I hadn’t written a novel for some years and telling Lana and Dane’s story helped restore my writerly self. It reminded me of a part of myself that had been missing. Does that make sense? I hope so, because it’s the simplest truth I took away from this act of authorship.
But that’s enough about healing. Readers can further explore that theme for themselves.
Just a final word about one of the many other issues raised by the novel, and that’s the thorny problem of violence. In and of itself, violence is a nasty thing. On the other hand, it’s something we’re all capable of. Why does, say, Lana show restraint at critical moments, while her father, Karl, gives free rein to his basest passions? What constrains her? Or Dane come to that? Or to look at it in another light, why do the people of Skull veer one way, and the people of Elysia another?
Much greater writers than myself have tackled this problem, and it even arises in many fairy tales. So it would have been foolish of me to pretend that Wanderer supplies all the answers. It doesn’t. But at the heart of my young characters’ quest, there are, I hope, some clues as to how and why we become who we are.
By Victor Kelleher
Cover and internal illustrations by Lorena Carrington
Published August 2022 by Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press
Available in all good bookshops.