Author's Commentary


WARNING - The following material contains spoilers. If you've not yet read the book proceed at your own peril!



Part 1: The Course of History

Back in the early 90s I started writing a short story about a group of barefoot university students who uncover the secret to faster-than-light space travel, ultimately leading to Earth becoming a member of the galactic community. Called Barefoot to the Stars, it took the best part of a decade to complete and was eventually placed on my website as a contribution to the Society for Barefoot Living. Many of the foundations for Barefoot Times can be found in that story, including fractal crystals and the Eridanians.

In 2001 I began mulling over ideas for a new story based around the Aboriginal boy in the drawing by Diane Sharp that adorned my living room wall. In this head-and-shoulders portrait the boy is shirtless and that gave me the idea that maybe something in his family's heritage would prevent him from ever wearing a shirt (or shoes for that matter!). Later I called this trait 'autothermia' and realised if I took my fractal crystals from Barefoot to the Stars (which could extract energy from subspace) and put them inside living cells I had a ready explanation for both this and the Emu people's ability to flip themselves across the subspace fold to Earth's twin on the other side of the galaxy.

Billy's ancestors had no knowledge of genetics or fractal crystals but were aware of their heritage through the Dreaming story of the flightless birds falling to Earth. This led me to thinking that Billy and Peter might in some sense be long-lost twin brothers, and their reunion (and its consequences) became the fundamental theme of the story.

Before Peter first met Billy the only outward sign that he also carried an autothermic heritage was his dislike for shoes and his small appetite. But as they begin spending time together his hidden Dodo spirit begins to emerge, and by the time of their mid-winter bushwalk he has no need for the heavy clothing and food stocks his mother had packed for him. Conversely, in the other time line where there's no Billy at the school, Peter's Dodo heritage has diminished or been lost and when he does the bushwalk with Jim he wears all the clothes, eats all the food and yet is still hungry afterwards. Likewise later on, the split in time that occurs when Todd is saved leaves behind another version of Peter who has again lost his heritage and taken to wearing shoes. This Peter is the narrator of Husks and eventually becomes the character Pedro in Part 10.

In the chapter Barefoot Astronomers, Billy and Peter discover the existence of a 'subspace' in which the 'quantum phase' of all the fundamental particles is shifted by 90 degrees. I'm sure all the quantum physicists out there are laughing their heads off, but I based this idea on a commonly-used technique in communications systems where two signals with a phase difference of 90 degrees can be sent down a single channel and, with proper receiver design, are invisible to each other and don't interfere. I liked the concept of an invisible subspace at right angles to real space, and it had the added bonus that two 90-degree shifts is 180 degrees, and a 180-degree shift is the same as just putting a minus sign in front of everything - in geometry you move to the opposite side of the origin, and in my universe you move to the opposite side of the galaxy. Neat, huh?

The concept of "fractal" crystals was something I first developed in Barefoot to the Stars. Fractal is short for fractional dimension, and is often illustrated by Mandelbrot pictures that expand in ever-increasing detail as you zoom in closer and closer. My crystals were supposed to be somewhere between three and four dimensional and thus provided a suitably exotic-sounding key for accessing subspace. The crystals could also be used to harvest the energy that stars leak into subspace and thus became the universal power source in my post-fossil-fuel world and also the origin of Billy's and Peter's autothermia.

I learnt about optical isomers in first year chemistry at university, where two different molecules have the same chemical makeup but are mirror images of each other. They differ in the way they rotate polarised light, twisting it either clockwise or anticlockwise. This tied in neatly with my fractal crystals rotating the quantum phase in either a positive or negative direction and gave me a neat way of making Peter's arrival the catalyst that propelled Billy's research forward to its successful conclusion.

When I first wrote the chapter Resolution I got to the end where Todd tells Peter that he doesn't understand why the rewritten course of history hadn't endured, and the only answer I could come up with was that it was just wrong, and things weren't supposed to end like that. It wasn't very convincing, though, and I later thought that maybe it was Peter's Dodo spirit who, in clutching at straws trying to save his destiny, propelled Todd forward in time and thus prevented him from setting off the chain of events that led to the house fire. This at least is consistent with Elko's later revelation that the Firstborn have the ability to manipulate time cusps.

I always like stories with a little postscript at the end showing how things turned out a few years down the track so I added one here, thinking that this was the end of my story. Little did I know then what lay ahead for me.


Part 2: The Bane of Eridani

In February 2002 I began writing a sequel to The Course of History in which I looked at Todd's back story and fleshed out Billy's time at university and his romance with Julia. As I approached the end of the second chapter I began to get an inkling of what lay in store for Todd. The clue was in the peculiar geography of Eridani, with its moist fertile northern hemisphere and desert southern hemisphere. I wondered if perhaps there had once been a southern ocean and if so, what had become of it. It didn't take long to realise that Eridani had once had a twin with an undersea subspace tunnel linking the two worlds, and that with the destruction of the twin the ocean would have poured out into empty space. I wrote furiously as everything fell into place, including the motive I now had for Andrew Schilling wanting to silence Todd.

The climax, I realised, would be the failure of the remaining shields and the subsequent loss of Eridani's atmosphere, and that led me to wonder how long it would take to depressurise a planet through such a hole. As it happened, in the aftermath of September 11 there was debate going on at the time about sky marshals and the danger of discharging a firearm inside an aircraft. An aeronautical engineer pointed out that it would take quite some time for an aircraft to depressurise through a bullet hole as the air couldn't escape faster than the speed of sound, and I immediately set about calculating how big a hole would be needed to depressurise a planet in a relatively short time, say a few years. The answer (assuming my maths was correct) was about ten kilometres across. Later, given the difficulty in visualising someone digging a trench and laying a cable around the perimeter of such a large hole in just one afternoon, I compromised, making the hole two kilometres across and changing my decompression time scale to a few decades.

Although my opening line in the final chapter of this part, "The funeral service was thankfully short", was an attempt to mislead the reader into thinking that Peter and/or Billy had died, I had no intention of killing either of them off just yet as I'd already decided to write a third instalment and thus make it a trilogy.


Part 3: Emu and Dodo

I knew even before I began writing this part that it would be called Emu and Dodo and would reveal the nature of those spirits that Billy and Peter carried, but I had absolutely no idea of how it would pan out. Having already committed myself to it in the final words of Part 2, I decided to just start writing, picking up the story shortly after Billy and Peter returned to Earth. The holiday on the Queensland coast and Peter's close encounter with the dolphins was really just to add a bit of interest while waiting for the storyline to develop and I had no idea at the time that it would become such an important theme for what was to unfold in the later parts. This is something that happened on a number of occasions during the writing of Barefoot Times and it still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

My ramblings led to the emergence of yet another time cusp in which Billy had been kidnapped and Peter killed. I expected that Emu and Dodo would join forces to end the cusp, but that seemed a bit obvious and hardly worthy of what I'd naively thought would be the conclusion of my saga. Then in a flash of inspiration I realised that if I turned everything on its head and made that alternate reality the real one I had a much better story, and so I proceeded along those lines, using Jason's emerging sixth sense to guide them to the Emu cave where they would discover the truth.

Elko's speech about the opposing forces was vague (much to Julia's despair) as I still had no real idea of what was going to happen. The escape from the dungeon and their hike along the river allowed me to ramble for a bit longer, hoping that a viable storyline would emerge. Ultimately Elissi led them out onto the verandah and I had to come up with something.

The first idea I had was the "common ancestor" one. It provided a neat way of explaining why the Eridanians looked human, though I must admit my thoughts did turn to a certain Star Trek episode where the existence of ancient race called the Preservers, the creators of all the humanoid peoples in the galaxy, was revealed. But then I remembered a scary dream I'd had when I was very young, about a small cluster of stars that the shape of the Pleiades later reminded me of. In another more recent dream I'd looked up into the night sky and seen a huge ball of stars, so in desperation I put those two dreams together and made them Billy's. That at least gave me a destination for them to go to and another journey to describe as I hoped for that elusive storyline.

By the time they'd reached the Eighth Sister the voices inside my head had gone quiet again, so I landed them on the planet and sent them off exploring. To add atmosphere I made that place feel like a graveyard with the total absence of animal life and then took them inland to the waterfall and the cave behind it. I knew the answer would lie in there, but it remained elusive. Mysterious steps leading down into the darkness and the lack of any torches gave me a bit more breathing space, and then to add a bit of unexpected drama I dropped Jason in the pool and almost drowned him. Again it was one of those spur-of-the-moment things that took on enormous significance in later parts.

Finally I reached the cavern at the end of the passageway under the hill, with its fountain and the pictures of how that world used to be. I realised by then that the Emu and Dodo spirits carried by Billy and Peter were survivors from that world and that their destiny was to bring them back to reclaim it, and I thought for a little while that Billy and Peter would actually become Emu and Dodo and live out the rest of their lives there. I didn't like that, though, so instead I let Emu and Dodo's physical bodies be preserved in stone, and had Billy and Peter bring them back to life as the spirits flowed into them. Incidentally, Emu and Dodo's real names were derived from the zoological names of their respective birds (Dromaius Novahollandiae and Raphus Cucullatus).

I let Dromaius and Raphus describe how the erupting blue star had wiped out their civilisation (which tied in neatly with the dream about the ball of stars) and then in a flash I saw the possibility of that star's remnants going supernova. At last a storyline! Everything fell into place, with Jason drawing the parallel between defusing the star and the loss of Eridani's ocean and the ultimate stalemate when the Barradhim ships appeared. Lots of drama, including a fight between the newlyweds Todd and Elissi. I must admit though that Peter's solution was actually inspired by a scene from the movie Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan where Kirk used a remote command to lower the shields of Khan's stolen ship.

Having reached the climax and saved the galaxy, I moved on to Jason's birthday party and the final confrontation with Barrad which was to be my sting in the tail. I'd just been reading Raymond Feist's novel Magician and was deeply moved by the scene where Tomas, upon seeing the face of his long-lost childhood friend in the Tsurani boy he is about to execute, confronts and defeats the ancient spirit that has possessed him, and I wanted to try to capture something of that essence in Jason's confrontation with Barrad. I'm not sure how well I succeeded but at any rate the confrontation allowed me to identify the mysterious old man as Elko and also to develop Jason's character a bit more. In my first draft it ended with Billy telling Jason he couldn't see the eighth star anymore, and it wasn't until I started writing Part 4 that I added the epilogue with Elko and Barrad walking off into the desert and discussing their fears about Jason's growing powers.


Part 4: For the Love of Jason

I'd finished my trilogy and had started work on a completely different story about a young man who is haunted by the ghost of a woman. Ultimately he would track down her past and discover she was in fact still alive but lying unconscious in a hospital bed following a road accident. In a dream, planted into his subconscious by the ghost, he saw a young boy step out onto the road in front of a bus, which in trying to avoid him ran out of control onto the busy footpath. Some weeks later he sees those events start to play out right in front of him. Realising the dream was a premonition, he grabs the boy and pulls him back onto the footpath just in time to prevent the accident. It turns out that the boy is none other than a nine-year-old Peter Thorpe and I moaned as I realised that Barefoot Times just wouldn't let go of me. I put my ghost story aside and decided to write a fourth instalment, which I set a few years after Jason's marriage to a girl named Jennifer and the birth of their son David.

As it progressed, Jenny receives a phone call from Billy telling her that Tom has suffered a stroke, and they all return to Narrabri. There Jason meets up with an old school friend named Aaron, a Star Wars guru whose elbow was damaged in a childhood accident. David fixes it and then ultimately revives Tom. I then move forward to when Matthew Hardcastle, who is standing as a candidate in the forthcoming Federal election, enlists Jason and Jenny's help in his campaign. The campaign manager takes one look at David and decides to make him the star of their television commercials, and Matthew's party is swept into power in a landslide victory. Slowly, inevitably, David takes control of the party, the government, the country and ultimately the world. But in the end I just couldn't make it work.

Then in another flash of inspiration I merged my ghost story ideas with Jason's coming of age and before I knew it Part 4 was rolling out in front of my eyes. I slipped easily inside Jason's head where I found a young man striving for anonymity in a world where he is constantly being thrust into the limelight, leaving him in a state of almost perpetual embarrassment. Unintentionally aiding the latter is his best friend Aaron whose uninhibited antics might just be hiding some special powers of his own.

What Jason sees as his own shortcomings are what make him so lovable to everyone else and that love is the theme of this part, from the love of his family that we see on Christmas Day, the love of his devoted friend Aaron, and Jennifer's adoration that ultimately develops into true love when they finally meet. I finished off my love story with the wedding vows and Aaron's move to Sydney, closed the file and walked away happy with the result. Thirty minutes later I knew it wasn't finished.

A thought came into my head that something really bad was going to happen to Aaron. I saw him losing his job, getting drunk and, believing he was really a Jedi, leaping from the roof of the hotel, and then I saw Jason reading the newspaper report of his death and Jenny coming home to find him sobbing on the floor. It is revealed in the newspaper that the person responsible for Aaron losing his job was the new AusScience Director, Dr Billy Collins. That his father had been responsible for his best friend's death would be as devastating for Jason as the death itself, I realised as I typed out those terrible four paragraphs. It turned everything in my saccharine-sweet love story on its head and sent slivers of doubt right back into the core of all that had gone before it, and as much as I wanted to, having written those words I just couldn't take them back.


Part 5: Troubled Times

My determination not to bring Aaron back from the dead lasted all of three weeks. In the end I relented, simply because I couldn't stop thinking about it. But while the initial motivation for Part 5 was to facilitate that, it also allowed me to explore Jason's powers further and build on the fear Elko had expressed at the end of Part 3.

The chapter The Empress, with its theme of power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely, had its roots in my original ideas for Part 4 where the boy David was going to take over the world. It gave me a way of exploring the dark side of Jason as well as providing a lead-in to the next chapter, Time's Orphan, which was really the crux of this part of the story.

The time line in which Peter finds himself is our own reality, well almost. As far as I know there won't soon be a supernova explosion in the Pleiades, but then again even if there was we wouldn't find out about it for another four hundred years anyway. At any rate this little sojourn into reality allowed me to vent my concerns about global warming and its consequences while at the same time introducing the character who would ultimately shape the remainder of Barefoot Times.

Mark was modelled on the boy David from my earlier draft of Part 4, but I don't recall now why I changed his name other than to say that his personality as it developed felt more like a Mark than a David (whatever that's supposed to mean!). The blackness into which Peter fell in Journey's End provided me with a melodramatic finish to this part, and my naming that place Sheol was inspired by Anne Rice's story Memnoch the Devil which I was reading at around this time (although her Sheol wasn't dark). At the time I had absolutely no idea that these last two chapters of Part 5 would provide the springboard for the second half of the book, as I didn't even know then that there was going to be a second half.


Part 6: In the Fullness of Time

The title for this part was taken from one of Sir Humphrey Appleby's most commonly-used expressions in that wonderful British comedy Yes Minister and its sequel Yes Prime Minister, and seemed appropriate to this instalment even though in my case it wasn't an excuse for inactivity but rather the ultimate fulfilment of an ancient prophesy.

My initial concept was that Mark would have extraordinary powers (like my earlier David) and would be required to use those powers to right an ancient wrong that had led to the arrival of the Firstborn on Genesis. Again it was a case of largely playing it by ear and letting the story evolve in its own way. I borrowed heavily on ideas that had surfaced in earlier parts, most notably the dolphins and Sheol, although actually putting the dolphins in Sheol was quite unexpected.

Aaron's recollection of his encounter with the dolphins while in the company of Mandy was written just as a nice little side-story that followed naturally from Mark saying "The dolphins told me", and I wasn't aware of its significance until much later when I was working on Part 7. It's another of those eerie the-story-was-telling-itself things that I can't really explain.

The appearance of Maleena at last gave me a way of explaining Aaron's "Jedi" powers, and while "Elves" are grossly overused in modern fantasy fiction I simply couldn't think of a more appropriate name for her race. At least I avoided the temptation of making my Elves immortal!

The Enemy's name has proven a tad embarrassing. I chose Morgoth because it sounded evil with a nice undertone of dread and foreboding, but it wasn't until much later when I was watching Fellowship of the Ring on DVD that I realised why it sounded vaguely familiar - when the fellowship comes before Galadriel and Celeborn in Lothlorien, Legolas explains that Gandalf was taken by a Balrog of Morgoth. Agh!!

Mark's confrontation with Morgoth just played out as I wrote it, with no real forethought, although it probably didn't need a great deal of imagination to go down that path. I hope making Morgoth Mark's "grandfather" wasn't too reminiscent of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker though! The "Mark the Bewildered" moniker happened quite by accident as I was looking for a word that was the opposite of enlightened, but it had me in stitches for hours (and days) afterwards.

The love that developed between Aaron and Maleena was also quite unexpected but once I sensed it was happening I happily allowed it to flourish through to the final scene where she says "to hell with this place". I also enjoyed bringing Harry and Maud back in from Part 5, both for their heckling at the beginning of the journey through Sheol and for that nice little banter at the end.


Part 7: A Collision of Times

I began writing this part three months after completing Part 6, with the initial drafting of the first two chapters which I wrote in reverse order. I knew something big was going to happen at the moment that time line from Part 5 ended, but I didn't know what it would be. I got to Mark's dream about what happened after Peter went through the portal at the back of the cave and then faltered. It was to be a further three months before I finally picked up the thread again, but what followed was one of the most enjoyable periods of writing in this whole saga.

Although the personalities of Mark and Jason are quite different, I found it just as easy to slip inside Mark's head as I did with Jason in Part 4. His light-hearted banter with Chris and Lorina and his moments of self-doubt just flowed so naturally, and once I was underway it only took a couple of weeks to complete.

I must admit that when Peter suffered his heart attack at the end of the second chapter I was in two minds as to whether he would live or die, but sanity quickly prevailed. The interlude with the arrival of the ambulance allowed me to bring Jason firmly into the story, almost as a second narrator, but this became something of a sticking point as it would've been too confusing to have had two narrators telling the story in the first person. Therefore to clearly differentiate them I elected to leave Mark in the first person present tense and told Jason's side of the story in the third person past tense.

The events on Bluehaven and Earth unfolded easily enough until I reached the point where Farley's men were assembled outside the Temple and Mark was standing on the parapet asking "Who comes here?", fully expecting it to be his last words. The image in my mind was from Peter Jackson's splendid depiction of the Siege of Helm's Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but I really didn't want to have to write an all-out battle scene. After all, how could the Delphinidae possibly win without Gandalf and the Ents to help them?

The answer came quickly enough with Farley believing Mark to be his lord, or at least pretending to believe, and really from there everything else fell neatly into place. The quake (I couldn't very well call it an earthquake, and bluehavenquake was too much of a mouthful!) that occurred as the other time line ended was inspired by a scene in Stephen King and Peter Straub's book The Talisman, where Jack's taking hold of that glowing ball triggers a similar seismic disturbance, and it added a bit more drama to the climax.

The scene with Mark and Lorina on the beach becoming for a moment Martyn and Loria was difficult for me. I wanted there to be a definite link between Mark and Lorina and Martyn and Loria, but not to the extent that Mark and Lorina were just Martyn and Loria reincarnated. I hope my final choice of wording achieves that right degree of satisfying ambiguity.


Part 8: Barefoot Roots

In Tom's speech at the birthday party in Part 7 he makes reference to his student days with Peter's father, and my friend Ray Foret Jr suggested this might make an interesting story in its own right. So the idea formed of Peter finding his father's old diary, and Ray offered to write Michael's entries in it while I wrote Tom's lead-up (Emu Child). Ultimately, and with Ray's blessing, I rewrote the diary entries to maintain consistency and style with the rest of the story, but I tried to retain the essence of his storyline and thank him once again for his contribution.

Michael's diary gave me the opportunity to explain how the Thorpe family came to be carrying the Dodo spirit, and to also further develop the increasingly ambiguous Andrew Schilling. The presence of the dolphins at Billy's and Peter's conception was an afterthought but again it tied in nicely with the rest of the story.

I also took the opportunity to describe the Thorpes' departure from Brisbane through Michael's eyes, tying it back with fourteen-year-old Peter's opening paragraphs in Part 1. Even though the destinations were different (Narrabri in Part 1 and Sydney in Part 8), I reasoned that the workings of the universe would try to eliminate any non-essential differences between time lines, so Peter's sombre outing to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks with his friends would be the same in both versions of reality.

The chance meeting between Billy and Peter at the agricultural show in Brisbane arose out of my earlier discussions with Ray and allowed me to focus back on these two main characters again. It also suggested to me that the underlying theme throughout this part was Elko's efforts behind the scenes, and it seemed an opportune time for the "old man" to depart from the story in an honourable and moving way.

In Tom's musing about what Mark and Lorina might have been doing in the tent, I seized on the opportunity to clear up something from Part 1 that had bothered me for some time, namely that if Eridanian blood is green, why doesn't their skin have a greenish tint? My solution was to make it pale red while flowing in their veins (thus giving them an anaemic appearance) but when exposed to the air it turns bright green. This also came in quite handy later on in Part 10.

Perhaps this is also a good time for me to address the vital matter of Aaron's hair, for it was while writing this part that my image of it always hanging down over his eyes like a sheepdog's really took hold. At around this time on my way to work I frequently saw a teenage boy on the railway station who always had his hair covering his eyes, and one day it occurred to me that this was how Aaron would look. So I went back over the earlier parts and added this to his description wherever appropriate. I hope it contributes to his character in a silly and mysterious way.


Part 9: Old Ghosts

In Part 8 Tom was asked if he ever found out who killed his father, and in his reply he said it was best not to stir up old ghosts. I pondered this for a while before deciding I should write another instalment to investigate this question.

I was also intrigued by Maleena's words that Sheol was dark because if you could see what was in there it would drive you insane. I thought that maybe this would play on Chris's mind and he would eventually enter Sheol with a torch to see for himself and thus be driven insane. I began writing with him waking from a nightmare and wandering out into the kitchen where he is confronted by Mark who has been transformed into a leather-jacketed, head-shaved, tattooed motorbike rider. As Mark is about to plunge a knife into Chris's chest he wakes again, only to find himself in yet another nightmare. It didn't really lead anywhere, though, and I put Part 9 aside for a few months.

What reawakened my interest was Peter Straub's book "lost boy lost girl" in which a boy named Mark is seduced by a beautiful mysterious girl and is last seen walking barefoot with her on an alien beach under a red sky. At first I was going to have Chris reading that book and wondering if it really had a prophetic connection with Mark Collins, but to do so I'd have had to reveal too much of the plot of Straub's book. Instead I decided to invent the fictional movie that Chris and Aaron had watched the night before.

My writing went smoothly enough until I reached the point where Mark, Lorina and Chris had returned to Earth, but I was becoming increasingly concerned that it was turning into just a rehash of Part 7 only with the roles of Jason and Mark reversed. It was then that I looked a bit more closely at Damon, whom I'd introduced much on a whim, and realised my description of him suggested that he might be autothermic. I went back over what I'd written to make this just a bit more prominent, added a little to Cloe's contemptuous attitude towards him, and then looked in amazement as all the double meanings in Halliday's earlier ramblings became apparent.

This gave me a new and interesting storyline, but I still couldn't quite see what it meant for Damon. I got to where the three boys were sitting on the beach as the stars and galaxies wheeled overhead, and retired for the night. While waiting for sleep to take me I suddenly thought that he might actually be a reincarnated Delphinidae priest, and from then on everything just fell into place.

I'd known from the start that Part 9 would end with Mark's wedding and so it was, but with the added bonus of having Damon officiate at the ceremony. Feeling benevolent (after all, it was a wedding!), I decided that Halliday really wasn't a murderer and so I got him to stop teasing the boy and tell how John Collins really died. All's well that ends well, or some such thing, and Mark's gift to Chris at the end added a nice touch to finish on, I thought.


Part 10: Full Circle

With Part 9 ending happily at Mark's wedding and no obvious loose threads left hanging, I thought I'd finally completed my saga. A friend suggested the nine parts made it a trilogy of trilogies and that had a nice ring to it. Nonetheless, as I read back over it I felt it lacked a sense of completeness, as there was little in the conclusion of Part 9 that really related back to the beginning of the story. I soon realised that to achieve this I would have to write a tenth instalment.

I looked back over Part 1, trying to find a suitable anchor to tie my conclusion to, and settled on Jim Hamilton. His description as being tall, thin and anaemic-looking suggested that he might be Eridanian (even though when I first wrote his description I had no idea Eridanians looked like that). I'd also been playing with the notion that Damon might try to create a direct tunnel through Sheol between the temples on Bluehaven and Earth, and so these became my two subplots as I began writing.

Another loose end I discovered in Part 1 was the alternate time line that Peter had dreamt about shortly after he and Billy had flipped themselves across to Eden. Peter's dream began with him lying injured on the side of a dirt road and I thought it might prove interesting to find out how he'd ended up being there, and whether Jim Hamilton might have had something to do with it.

I toyed for a while with making Jim the son of a Barradhim operative, but in the end became too fond of him to do that. Instead I made everyone else believe that he was, and then finally had him reveal that he was actually one of Elko's people.

With Peter's dreams and Jim's story I was able to better explain some of the back-story behind the multiple time lines in Part 1, but then I had a new problem. With Jim now one of the good guys I was missing a villain. Eventually I remembered the cigarette man from Part 8 and realised he would do nicely, thank you very much. But who was he, and where did he fit into the story?

I went to bed with those questions in mind, and once again while waiting for sleep to come I stumbled upon the answer. Here I had a wonderful link back, not just to Part 1, but to the very first sentence of Part 1. From time to time there are momentous events that change the course of history. He was Peter from that time line in Husks and it was exactly what I was looking for. I jumped out of bed and scribbled down a page of notes in case I forgot again by morning, and then spent a mostly sleepless night thinking through it all.

In my notes I concluded it with a fight between Jim and Pedro, with Jim eventually overpowering him and dragging him unwillingly into the light. But when I came to actually writing it a few days later the fight scene didn't really feel right so instead I let Jim and Billy convince Pedro to let go of his hatred of Peter and be redeemed.

The final chapter, Curtain Call, was suggested by Norrie's earlier remark to Jenny about how standing naked in front of the galaxy while receiving an Eridanian award wasn't all that bad. I added in the bit about Jim's real name being Jimmac Tulee for a bit of a laugh, even though it is really rather corny. The final scene with Billy, Julia and Peter standing on the beach at dusk came to me while I was under the shower, and I ran out to the computer still dripping water to get it all down before I lost it. Billy's response, "I saw them too," gave me goosebumps and I hope it worked as well for you.


Thank you for coming with me on this journey behind the scenes of Barefoot Times, and I hope you've gained as much enjoyment from the book as I had in writing it.

Jeff Pages