All posts tagged: Process

Will the real Lizzie Borden please stand up

This past week I have been talking about Lizzie a lot. When this happens, she tends to dig deep holes in my mind, leaves a trail of herself behind. I’ve been dreaming of her again: there she is at the end of my bed, there she is eating a scone, eating jam, there she is at my breakfast table, there she is holding my hand. That warmth. It wakes me. I was in Sydney last week. I blame that trip for Lizzie’s return. Every time I thought about Lizzie, how I wrote my book, all that, I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that pinged at the the base of my neck: what part of Lizzie is me and what part of me is Lizzie? Let me explain: I think it’s natural for writers to inject some of their own experiences into their work, give their characters some real life meat. This is definitely true for me when writing about the Bordens. I needed to find a way into that family and as I started to think about why …

You have no choice but to take the Bordens with you

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. …

The Boon of Keening: how being lazy led me to character insights

I’ll say it now, writing is terrible for your health. I’m taking a few weeks off work to work on the novel. The last time I did that, i wrote 70 + hours a week and finished with a severely blocked ear, limited sight in my left eye (I’m already short sighted, so this doesn’t help) and enlarged glands. I was also unable to sleep properly. This happens every time I write in huge concentrated blocks and I’d love to figure out what, if any, is the connection between intensive creativity (or simply longer periods of time of concentration) and the weird eye, ear and throat things I get. I decided this time around, I’d slow it down and try not to injure myself. Two days in, my ear became blocked and by the end of the week my throat looked like goitre city. So i took a morning off to visit my good friend, Netflix, and binge watch the rest of  ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’ hoping that would help my …

Hello, Bridget: redrafting the first project.

In April I put Lizzie Borden in the drawer. After 10 years with her and her family, it was time to take a long break and begin work on something new. The distance between us was easy breathing. For the first time in a long time I stopped dreaming of Lizzie, stopped thinking about the way she might move around her house, stopped wondering if she talked in her sleep. I had lost a shadow. I started sleeping in to 7 am. Around 3 years ago, I began searching for my next project. It was exciting to think about what it might feel like to experience new characters and expand on the themes that I was exploring in the current project. That’s when the recurring dream started. A single image: a woman driving to the Blue Mountains with a decomposing child in the back seat. I knew immediately this was the next book. The instinct was there, the way it sat in my body and hooked. It had been that way with Lizzie. Now the feeling was …

The Return of a Memory: Sarah Island, 2010

I remembered: the cold on my hands, wrinkle skin and dry. I aim the camera. There was something in the air, something in the quiet water. Something that felt like decimation. After taking this photo ideas began to form. Ideas belonging to the dream I had had a few months prior about the woman in a car and her child. Then this. I wrote them down. Who knows where that notebook is now (I suspect somewhere at the bottom of a box in the garage) but I have remembered this photo and now I have a visualisation. The photo has reappeared at the right time for the second project. Now I am thinking about those lost feelings again, the way they will tie back to the characters that are forming, the way they will tie to the projects different forms of decimation, different forms of trauma. The new project is slowly worming its way out from abstract ideas into something that will boom my blood. I should stop calling it the second project and begin to …

Captain S

1926: ‘At luncheon Dr. Jones said that the Mont Park institution could accommodate 1,400 patients.’ 1924: ‘In Their Own Interests. Emphatic assurances that returned soldier mental patients at Mont Park, who have been transferred from the control of the Repatriation department to the State authorities will benefit by the change, were given by the Chief Secretary (Dr. Argyle) yesterday. Dr. Argyle said that the patients would be cared for by the same medical men and attendants who had looked after them previously, and there would be no question of keeping the military cases in the same quarters as the civil cases. He was a re-turned soldier himself, and as long as headministered the Chief Secretary’s department they would be kept apart. Until the military mental cases were provided for, patients could not be removed from the Yarra Bend Asylum. The position was that nearly the whole of the Mont ParkAsylum was empty, because one wing and the kitchens were occupied by the repatriation officials. Until the State authorities obtained the use of the accommodation they could not accept any more patients for treatment at Mont Park.’ 1920: ‘Soldier claims damages. Doctors and Constable Sued.   …