My daughter and I are painting when the knock comes. Inka is two years old, and learning to splodge spots and stripes onto the paper. I am trying to paint a picture of a troll, in fluorescent colours with a brush thicker than my thumb. I get up and hurry to the door and it’s a courier, dressed like he’s in the military (why do delivery companies costume all their staff like bomb disposal experts?). After signing for the package he hands me, I return to Inka feeling strangely nervous. This all takes some forty seconds – ample time, it turns out, for a toddler to splash paint everywhere.
I wait – somehow, I wait – until Iona gets home before I open the parcel. We sit on the sofa with a glass of whiskey (apple juice, for Inka) and I can’t find a way into the cardboard so Iona hunts for scissors. Snip snip snip, and we’re in. The book looks amazing, I think. Some of the foliage that makes up the fox on the cover has been spot-laminated, and gleams in the light. Inside are some of the pictures I drew as an exercise while writing it. They look much better than the originals, touched up and shrunk and photoshopped a little. I press my nose between the covers and inhale, for tradition’s sake, although if I’m honest it doesn’t smell all that much.
This book has taken some four or five years to write – which, coincidentally, is about the same amount of sleep I feel I have lost over it. I’m very proud of it now, though, despite my terror at its imminent public appraisal. It’s a very different beast than my other two novels, but they’re all my precious monsters. After I’ve been leafing through it for a minute or two, Inka scurries over to her own books and returns with her current favourite. ‘My turn,’ she says, scrambling up onto my lap. We set The Trees aside, until the tenth of March.