Well, that’s a lie, of course. All that’s finished is the first draft. The first two-thirds have been revised any number of times, but the last one third needs a mountain of work still – and it is due in to HarperCollins by September 4th. Hmm.
Still, the relief is colossal. This will be my seventh published book – coming out in Australia next year and 2008 in the UK.
I was working on the ending at Mesilau last weekend. Imagine this – I wake in the morning and there is a bird looking in through the window at me from the balcony railing. It’s a Sunda Whistling Thrush. Only a birdwatcher would understand the extraordinary nature of that statement – this species is not renowned for hanging around balconies.
I watch, entranced, and when it’s gone, I step out onto the balcony – only to find myself inside a wave of laughing-thrushes.
They are everywhere around me, squabbling their way from branch to branch, ground to tree to the railing, gleaning insects like vacuum cleaners from the tree ferns that grow next to the staff quarters we are staying in.
I raise my eyes, and there is Kinabalu, presiding over the forest like a great artefact forged in some god’s furnace and then abandoned to the elements. The rainforest beseiges it on all sides, but has to admit defeat. Kinabalu rears its head above the tree line, forbidding, ruggedly neutral. Lord, did I once climb that thing back in the days before my knees gave out? A red Langur sits in the crown of a tree, impassively ignoring the view, grooming his bright red hair. The sun catches him and he glows.
Anyway, I spent the weekend there, writing on that balcony, alternately battling with words and being distracted by Indigo Flycatchers and Sunda Bush-warblers among the vegetables in the garden, mountain squrrels and tree-shrews scampering up and down the steps, and the cloud coming and going over the mountain face. Sometimes those jagged peaks seem to be disembodied by cloud, floating in the air like some unmoored celestial land of fantasy.
It was cold (1,800m in the tropics can be damp and freezing), there was no hot water in the bathrooms, and I loved every minute.
And now I have a book to polish.