I was really excited this week to hear that Philip Pullman was writing a further series about Lyra Belacqua, the heroine of the Northern Lights trilogy. He’s calling it an ‘equel’ – not a sequel coming afterwards or a prequel coming before, but a series of three stories which cover several decades around the originals.
He’s going to look at what happened earlier which left Lyra living in the Oxford college where we meet her at the beginning of Northern Lights, and what happens twenty years later, when she is a young woman.
I think it’s a fantastic idea. When you write a story set in an imagined world, you have to invent some much more which never makes it into the published story. You have to understand the rules of how the place works, and have to remain consistent within those rules. And in every story, you need to understand your characters and why they would react in a particular way. For some writers, only a fraction of what they have produced ends up in the finished book, but doing that homework and building a believable world make the finished product so much richer. Joanne Rowling has an almost endless supply of back story and unpublished detail about the Harry Potter universe.
Having done all that work, it’s hard when you finish writing a trilogy. Your world is fully formed, polished to perfection, and populated with interesting, rounded characters. Closing the page at the end – for a writer – can cause a feeling of loss and grief. When I finished writing my Small Blue Thing trilogy I couldn’t really believe that the people I knew so well were never going to do anything else again in the setting which I’d created. So I can quite understand why Philip has decided to go back. All the hard work has been done. We know and understand about Daemons, that Lyra’s world is similar, but crucially different to our own. And returning to that, for a writer, will be like returning to loved holiday cottage. Everything is familiar – a little dusty, maybe, but otherwise the same as before – but the setting is there ready for a new adventure.
I can’t wait to read the new stories and find out more about the feisty Lyra and what she does with the next chapter of her life. And maybe I will, one day, return to my imagined world and explore some more stories with some of the original cast – and perhaps a few new ones!