Volcano Child - A YA Novel in Progress by Candy Gourlay
Two weeks ago, Mouse decided to dig his way to London.

25 August 2006

Waiting for Calamity

Father once told me that animals knew when calamity was imminent. Dogs barked, roosters crowed, water buffalo abandoned their mud holes.

I glanced at Bowow, who lay flat on his back at the foot of Mouse’s mat, snoring, mouth open, paws limp in sleep. Ridiculous dog. No sign of calamity there.

Excerpt from Volcano Child

Albert Garcia's image of an eruptionAlbert Garcia emailed to wish me well with the website. He's the photojournalist who snapped the van escaping the pyroclastic flow. He apologised for the un-updated state of his website – "I've been away for a month photographing Mayon," he wrote in Tagalog,"just hoping I'd strike it lucky again!"

Oooh, Albert, be careful, man. Looking at that amazing pic of the van fleeing the eruption cloud, what you don't realise is that Albert was in the vehicle in front, hanging out of the back door, breathing sulfur and composing his shot, instead of whatever it is you're supposed to do when death is staring you in the face.

The volcano they were running away from is Mount Pinatubo. I based the eruption in my story on Pinatubo. But Pinatubo was not much to look at - in fact, now that it's erupted, Pinatubo is more a lake than a mountain. View slideshow

So I had to look elsewhere for a nicer looking volcano to describe and I chose Mayon. That's Pinatubo on the left (not quite sure which lump is the actual volcano). And that's postcard-perfect Mayon on the right in Per-Andre Hoffman's postcard perfect photo.

Pinatubo did not look like a volcano But Mayon was a postcard-perfect volcano. Photo by Andre-Per Hoffman


To tell you the truth, I had no idea Pinatubo was a volcano until it blew its top. Literally. It was a catastrophic eruption, one of the largest and most violent in the 20th century! The sort of thing you would see on those Extreme Volcano shows on cable TV. But more about Pinatubo later.

Strange coincidence that Mayon Volcano decided to wake up just as I was finishing my book.

Mayon is a busy volcano, erupting once every ten years which is plenty often – especially if you live on its slopes as up to 50,000 people do. It's not a Krakatoa but it makes up for it in its persistence. Here is a video of it huffing and puffing last July from MysteriousGreenEyes over at YouTube:

Beautiful but scary. You can also check out the news videos on the BBC. It didn't in fact erupt, but stones the size of cars flew out of the cone. Residents are this minute making their way home again fed up with living in uncomfortable evacuation centres, oh dear.

Living next to a volcano must be like having an unexploded timebomb in the next door bedroom.

Like living with a teenager really.

Joke only, as we say in the Philippines.

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23 August 2006

Reading is not dead. Kids are just busy doing other stuff

We authors used to moan that you kids would rather watch TV than read. But now it turns out kids would rather go online than watch TV.

“What will the world come to if kids don’t’ read?” we blub as we dunk our heads in the toilet in despair.

I beg to disagree. The fact is you guys today are more than literate – you are transliterate! You’re writing more than you ever did before the idiot box was invented. You are creating images, videos and music that you share with each other online. You can photoshop, download, upload, fade in and fade out. You are more connected than we middle-agers ever were in our heyday (the truth is, our generation was the couch potato generation – and eighties TV really sucked) !

So as an author, I think I’ve got to raise my game. If I want you guys to read my books, then I’ve got to do it at your level. Which is a really tough act to follow but I’m going to try.

Albert Garcia photographed a vanful of photographers racing away from the eruption of Mount PinatuboSo this blog is about the making of my book Volcano Child. A bit like the online production notes Peter Jackson kept when he was making King Kong.

Volcano Child features a witch, a volcano with a legend that hangs over it like a curse, a lonely girl, and a little boy trying to tunnel his way to London from the other side of the world.

A lot of it is based on true stories. I was a journalist in the Philippines and I spent a lot of time with witches (guess what – nobody would publish my witch stories because they were too weird!).

And of course there is a volcanic eruption based on a really scary volcano that blew up in 1991. The picture above was taken by Alberto Garcia, an amazing photographer colleague from my days as a magazine editor in Manila. Gives me the chills. Don’t worry they outraced the volcano – all that smoke is called a pyroclastic flow by the way and it travels at speeds up to 100mph and is more than 1,200 degrees fahrenheight. Roasts you faster than a microwave.

Every other mountain in the Philippines is a volcano because it sits on the Pacific ring of fire – the world is cracked and the crack runs over Indonesia and the Philippines all the way up to Japan, round the top of the world down the California side of the Americas – which means leaking magma, which means earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

But more about that later.

Volcano Child is a finished manuscript. 55,460 words at the moment and I’ve rewritten it twice already and I’m probably going to rewrite it again – so you’ve got a chance to get involved in the making of this novel. I could sure use some help with plotlines and characters.

But no, it isn’t published yet. So this is where you can follow my travails as I try to sell it to agents and publishers. I’ll try not to whine too much.

And then maybe someday, if and when it's published, you'll want to read my book.