Over the Christmas/New Year break I took some extra time off work so I could begin and complete the latest draft of See what I have done. To make things more interesting, I took the Bordens with me to Tasmania with the hope that distance from my usual writing places would allow me to discover a few more things about them.
I get sea sick. I remembered this as soon as I stepped onto the Spirit of Tasmania. Needless to say I was ill prepared for the night journey out at sea. As we rocked over waves and my stomach swam toward my chest, I remembered that Bridget and Lizzie had taken ships to and from Europe. Here was a moment to transpose my experience into the book. I clung to the railing, looked down into depth and tried to see the ocean from their point of view.
I wish I could tell you something profound happened.
I managed to take this photo of the sun setting over Bass Strait before I was defeated by the sea:
So things continued.
Tasmania proved to be exactly what the book needed. Walking around unfamiliar surrounds all day and writing for a few hours each night, I was able to give my characters something new to feast on.
The most surprising revelation for me happened when I was exploring the Tasmanian botanical gardens in Hobart. I came across this magnificent Wellingtonia (California):
How I wanted to climb. This tree was young, around 120 years old, and I thought of ways feet could damage limbs. I thought of Benjamin, how he would tackle this wooden ship of the garden. It’s here I got the idea of how he would prove his merit to uncle John.
Next to this tree was a redwood (although now I question memory…was it a redwood or something else?) and as I skinned the trunk, it occurred to me that I hadn’t considered the type of wood Andrew and Abby’s coffins were made of. I walked on, thought of Mr Borden, his tastes, his thoughts on sturdiness. As a young man, Mr Borden used to be an undertaker. I knew he would’ve chosen wood that kept dirt out of his heart. And so after ten minutes of sizing up the North American trees in the gardens, I found the coffins.
Small revelations that can only come from exploration.
I admit I became sidetracked throughout the draft. One evening I went out searching for something Bridget could claim as her own. I came across this decomposing rabbit:
This fur and bone wasn’t for Bridget but it was perfect compost material for the next novel (which, by the way, has started to rear its head again. So much to write…)
Neither was this cheese purchase afterward:
(have I talked about my cheese addiction yet? No? Oh, boy. Aren’t you in for a treat one day…)
Tasmania was full of writing treats – I’ll save the rest for another post – but the most satisfying thing was that this particular draft was completed in a way I hadn’t anticipated back home in Melbourne. I think the Borden’s and I really needed to get away for awhile.
All this to say, don’t underestimate the necessity to take your characters out of their daily routine.