It was called Birds of Passage, and I wrote it for the MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University (the IIML). It wasn't published; it never will be published, and I am unlikely to mine much material from it for future books.
Don't get me wrong; it wasn't a bad book, but ultimately, it wasn't the kind of book that I wanted to write. My big epiphany came half way through it when I realised that the kind of books I should be writing are not the ones I thought I should be writing, but the kinds of books I like to read. That was when the idea for TSOB was born, but I wanted to finish the job at hand first. I needed to write a novel in nine months for the MA, and knew that TSOB would take me several years.
Loosely, it was about the young kiwi OE experience. How so many people of my generation drift off to the UK to see the world, and have a slight yearning to discover their roots all over those fair isles. In the case of my novel's protagonist, it was Ireland, where her estranged father lived. She travelled around Ireland with him, getting to know him and a few family skeletons. The writing of the novel coincided with a trip I made with my own (non-estranged) father; in fact, it was the upcoming trip that gave me the idea for the book in the first place. But the protagonist was not me, and the father was definitely not my father. I often thought that if I'd had it published, people would possibly buy it to get an insight into my own father. They would be severely disappointed. Either that or they'd be misguidedly excited - the father in my novel turned out to be gay, which was the reason for the estrangement. At the end of course they made their peace, on top of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, a set piece that I'm still rather proud of and may have to turn into a short story one day.
If I'm honest, I would say that if I hadn't written that book and someone else had, I would have picked it up in a bookstore and put it straight back down again. Although it's a novel that would have reflected my own experiences, I realised that in the end, that's not what I want to read about, so how could I write those kinds of books? I want to read books that aren't about my experience. And those are the books I would like to write as well. The truth is that my writing is better when I can step outside of myself and use my imagination.
I would like to say that I stuck it nobly in the drawer as soon as I'd finished it, but I did try a few publishers, and received very encouraging rejections. I am so glad that it was never published. The Sound of Butterflies had a much better impact for a first novel than Birds of Passage ever would have. So my thanks go out to those editors that turned it down. You know who you are.