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Monday, 23 January 2023

Constantine & Simone Pakavakis' Earthrunner and the War of Water - Q&A




Co-authors and father daughter duo Constantine Pakavakis and Simone Pakavakis created Earthrunner and the War of Water, a great entwining and thought-provoking story of family, war, peace and resolve. How did they do it you may ask? And what were the ups and downs of collaborative composition? Fear not, we asked for you!

Q: Was it a difficult process to distribute the writing of Earthrunner between each other? 

Con

It was quite an organic process that seemed to go through different phases as needed.

At the very start we discussed ideas of what could happen and gradually built a backbone to the story. It was pretty clear from the outset that we would build it around the idea of twins as we didn’t want the story to have a stereotypical appeal limiting it to only boys or girls. We wanted it to be realistic as possible and so having different writers for Leeta and Patish would help give their personalities more individuality.

Yet there were times when we called on each other for joint drafting, which seemed to work well too. We would often finish each other’s sentences or revise a sentence in a more engaging way. It was always about the best writing, not who wrote it. So, really, there were three authors, Simone, Con, and Simone & Con combined.

Simone

Splitting our novel between our twin characters, Leeta and Patish, made distribution a natural process, particularly after we’d created a structure of the story and key events for each chapter. We had different times and systems for our writing; Dad would often get up early in the morning before work and dedicate himself to a chapter, whereas I preferred to write sporadically during the day and sometimes into the night. At intervals, we’d come together to edit, rewrite and polish different sections. 

One time, I remember writing the dialogue between Leeta and Anula as if they were 21st century teenagers; lots of ‘oh my gods’— probably the way I was talking as a fifteen-year-old myself. Dad not so gently highlighted my five pages of writing, days and days of work, and said, ‘um, this won’t work for ancient India, Simone’ and told me to start again. My teenage writing ego was crushed many times over, but for it, the better writer I became.

 

Q: Where is your favourite place to sit and write? 

Con

This story was written in so many places…at home on the couch if we were writing together, at the State Library Victoria, on holidays at Daylesford, Lorne or Byron Bay, at Byron Bay library, at Mr Tulk Café at SLV, at our friends’ property at Malmsbury, the Botanical Gardens, and even while holidaying in Paris and Crete. I guess the single most used place was when I wrote intensely for a year getting up at 5am every morning to write for an hour before work, sitting on the living room couch with a cup of black tea as dawn broke. In the silence, and before the day’s activities began, I would read back over the last few pages to help me re-enter the land of Gandhara, 330 BC, and allow the story to write itself.

Simone

Earthrunner was written with Dad in so many places and especially during so many summers on school holidays, but, most memorably, together on the couch at our home in Richmond with our toy spoodle, Alby. Alby often would often sleep in an awkward position alongside — or on top! — of us on the couch as we wrote, circling his body between our two laptops. His gentle snores would often ease any editing tension as we debated the placement of a full stop or the best direction for a paragraph. When writing alone, I adore the bustle of a café or the gentle hum of a library. There’s something soothing about the happy chatting of voices and the wafting smell of caffeine, and I love noting others as they carefully study their own projects; there’s something inspiring about surrounding yourself with other creatives.

 

Q: What is the major message and takeaway you wish to give to readers of the Earthrunner

Con

You are never alone or helpless. Whether it’s a personal matter like being teased or bullied, or a global issue like climate change or war, use whatever agency you have to solve the problem in a peaceful way. Ask questions, get help, collaborate, you do not have to face it alone. And trust the wisdom in your heart.

Simone

Young people have the agency to make positive, peaceful changes on a local or global scale in the world. Find your voice and, with others, discover how you’re going to use it. 

 

Q: Would you or have you ever considered making Earthrunner a series? 

Con & Simone

Yes, from early on, once we decided on the setting of ancient India, we wanted to highlight the concept of Ahimsa or non-violence that has such a strong influence in the culture and philosophies existing in the Northwest of India at the time of the arrival of Alexander the Great. Most historians and novelists have concentrated on the personality of Alexander and the strategies he employed in his conquests, but there are great, little known stories about the Indian population and their perspectives that we want to highlight. And these stories are important historical examples of how war was averted, stories of non-violence that need to be known. War is often claimed to be inevitable by the rulers or politicians who have their own motives for going to war at the expense of the common people who are the ones who will die or be maimed or lose loved ones. So, the story of how the people in the kingdom of Gandhara made a decision to avert a war with Alexander deserves to be examined more broadly than it is.

 

Q: After this experience can you imagine working as co-authors once more for future projects? 

Con

Absolutely. Of course, it will be different as our living conditions, availability of time, knowledge and skills are continually changing, but we know we respect each other’s ability to cooperate and trust in each other’s creativity, honesty, and reliability.

Simone

Definitely. Our lives have changed a lot since when we worked on Earthrunner – I was a primary and high school student, and now I’m a teacher myself! — but we have grown significantly as co-authors in writing our first novel together and doubtlessly would be able to use these newfound skills for a future project. 

 

Q: If you were to meet Patish and Leeta in real life, what advice would you give them? 

Con

I met them while writing and said “I’m glad you didn’t listen to me and followed your own hearts. Oh, and your Way of Peace sounds pretty cool. I wish I had known that stuff when I was your age.”

Simone

I think I’d begin by congratulating Leeta and Patish. In Earthrunner, the courage they found to follow their inner voices, and stand up for those they cared about, was brilliant.

I’d encourage them to continue demonstrating this courage in all aspects of their lives. In addition, I’d remind them to let the other Shaktin kids know about the monkeys down at the mangoes. Saving cheeky monkeys instead of throwing stones at them might just have unexpected value…

 

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