Today I welcome my good friend (and the editor of both my published novels) Jeff Gardiner, who’s here to talk about his new novel, Pica. Good to see you, Jeff. Tell us all about it!
In my new YA fantasy novel, Pica, teenager Luke is obsessed with violent computer games and hates anything to do with ‘boring’ nature. His favourite game, ‘Organik Apokalypse’, allows him to fulfil certain self-obsessed fantasies of his own:
What once had been jungle, river, and plains was now filled with shining towers and concrete blocks. Cities soon joined together to make mega-regions, until the entire planet became a mass of concrete; one giant urban conurbation ready to be filled with humans who would bow down to me as the master of their world.
When his parents take him reluctantly on a country walk he’s not too impressed when his parents identify a rare flower:
Watching my parents stroll off hand in hand, I waited until they were out of sight, then I stepped over towards where the precious orchid displayed its colours in the midst of the browned grass. Standing directly over it, I undid my flies and directed my spray of streaming yellow liquid over its blossom and leaves. The orchid immediately flattened as several petals dropped off.
‘Not so pretty now, eh?’
A new boy, called Guy, arrives at Luke’s school, but his odd appearance and mannerisms lead to him being bullied.
He looked a bit of a freak. You know the sort – a saddo. Not a geeky type or a boff – more a bit of a loner … a victim. His clothes looked slightly grubby and his hair was totally uncool; greasy and parted down the middle.
However, Luke finds himself strangely drawn to this enigmatic boy who seems to have the power to attract animals to him. Luke decides to get to know Guy, but hanging around with him isn’t in the least bit straight-forward when he always acts so weirdly.
I felt his hot breath. It smelt stale and its reek clung to the insides of my nostrils. But still I couldn’t move. His black hair fell in matted curls around his eyes and his teeth were yellow and jagged. To my horror he leaned in until his nose touched my cheek. And then he sniffed me. I swear it. He sniffed me! Like he was some kind of dog testing to see if I was friend or foe. His cold blue eyes scanned my entire face; covered the whole area only a few centimetres from my skin. And then he suddenly pulled his head away from me and scampered back to the middle of the glade now filled with rabbits.
My fascination grew as Guy fell over playfully onto the grass. The rabbits swarmed over the clearing. He lay on his back and the rabbits came to him. They clambered on top of him, nuzzling his hands and face and hopping out the way happily when he shifted or rolled over. He played with them as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They appeared to respond to his every movement and sound. The rabbits crowded the space in their hundreds and yet all their movements were synchronised like liquid, flowing this way and that.
Guy shows Luke some amazing creatures and aspects of the natural world, which gradually convince Luke that perhaps nature is worth exploring. At one point he says to Guy:
‘I didn’t realise such amazing things happen all around us every day.’
Guy seems to have a great deal to teach him and Luke befriends him at great cost to himself.
Meanwhile, a magpie has been tapping on Luke’s window, returning again and again. In fact, he begins to see magpies everywhere. Is it the same bird? It doesn’t seem to be scared of him, and it appears to be tapping because it wants Luke to let him in.
Steeling myself for a fright I whipped back the near corner of the curtain and glanced at the window pane. Something stood there leering at me, but not a human face. On the window ledge stood a magpie. I was being haunted by a black and white bird. I dramatically pulled back both curtains hoping to scare it off with larger movements, but it stood its ground and continued pecking at the glass. Did it hope to be let in?
I put my face directly opposite the bird so my nose touched the cold window. Its beak tapped a few centimetres away, making me glad about the double glazing separating us. I made a few faces, leaving fogged imprints and condensation on my side. The bird watched me with definite curiosity – its sideways stare like a camera trying to autofocus on me. I got the impression of it processing still-images in its tiny brain – as if it possessed a photographic memory.
Then I tried to scare it by making sudden movements and pulling faces. It hopped around impatiently, trying to get its beak in the tiny gaps of the frame, as if it was strong enough to prize the hinge open. I smiled, shook my head, and stuck two fingers up at it. The magpie flicked its tail with great agitation, and looked at me, first with its right eye and then with its left. With a harsh ‘chack-chack-chack’ it returned to its tapping on the window, and this time it did so with surprising vigour until I feared the glass might crack.
Then one day Luke lets the magpie in, and from that moment his world is turned upside down…
Pica explores a world of ancient magic, when people and nature shared secret powers.
Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.
Set in a very recognisable world of school and the realities of family-life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy where transformations and shifting identities become an escape from the world. Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.
Jeff’s website: http://www.jeffgardiner.com/
Publisher’s Link: https://www.accentpress.co.uk/pica
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pica-jeff-gardiner/1123361258
Amazon Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/Pica-Gaia-Trilogy-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0191ZKCT8