So, I was on my last school visit for Book Week, at a small Catholic high school near Hobart. The audience ranged in age from Grade Seven to Ten, and they were all lovely, lovely kids. They were attentive. They laughed at my jokes (and even at some things that weren’t actually meant to be jokes but hey, that’s still okay, right?).
I gave my usual spiel about how I got to be an author – the many jobs I had and was atrocious at, the terrible “books” I wrote when I was first starting out, and the Sunday morning when I was sitting at home in my pyjamas eating corn flakes and watching Rage and a lovely lady called Nanette rang, offered to be my agent and changed my life (I also told them about the subsequent screaming and running around like a chicken).
Then, I started talking about Thyla.
I told them that the main character was called Tessa. When I said this, a little ripple went through part of the crowd. Strange, I thought, but I carried on.
When I introduced the character of Rhiannah, who befriends Tessa in the story, another, stronger ripple went around. I was starting to wonder if, maybe, I had my dress tucked into my underpants, or breakfast in my teeth. But, if so, why did the kids only react when I mentioned Tessa and Rhiannah?
I found out after I’d finished my talk.
Two young girls came up to me. One had long, sandy blonde / brown hair. The other had black hair, dark eyes and pale skin. “I’m Tessa, and this is Rhiannah,” said the girl with the blondey brown hair. “We’re best friends.”
If you’ve read, Thyla, you can understand why I nearly keeled over then and there. It was, honestly, the strangest and most wonderful moment of my life. To have a Tessa and a Rhiannah in the same school would be enough. To have them in the same class, best friends and looking exactly like the characters in the books?
Life is crazy and astonishing, isn’t it?