The third book in my Australian trilogy needs a title. I am a year off finishing it so you might think it’s early days but I want to create a Pinterest Board for it. My working title has been Sadie because she is my protagonist. But threaded through the story are rivers starting with the Canning near Perth Australia; the Yarra (or to give it its full title Yarra Yarra (meaning ever-flowing river); The great Murray River, The Torrens in Adelaide and last but not least, the Humber. My feeling is that I should try and include Yarra in the title so that it attracts my Australian readers. So, I would like your opinion on the following suggestions.
- Dreaming of Yarra (or Yarra Yarra)
- Yarra Holds my Heart
- Ever flows the Yarra
- Other suggestions welcome
I have been wanting to read this book for ages. It won the Debut Indie Book Award and I had read great things about it from an Australian Writer’s Blog I subscribe to. Well, the library did me proud. It was not in stock, not even published in the UK until now. I put in an order online and it arrived last week.
The setting is both Chichester and South Australia; how apt. Reminiscent of The Poisonwood Bible in some ways, although we hear only one point of view, that of the eldest daughter, Hester, this tells of a devoutly Christian man, improvident and deeply flawed, who destroys his family by degrees. Pride, stubbornness, blind faith, lead him to drag his family to the Coorong, in a last-ditch attempt to rekindle his fortunes, first as a dairy farmer and latterly a sheep farmer.
This multi-layered book will live with me a long time. Key to the book is the family’s relationship with the Ngarrindjeri natives who live on and around the family’s ‘property’ and in particular, Tull, a half-caste boy, who has more native intelligence and humanity than the father can ever know. It is, of course, a story of the white man’s arrogance, but it is subtle, in as much as Hester’s father considers himself to be doing good until disappointment turns him evil.
Characterisation and an acute sense of place thread their way through the book. Of the area around Chichester ” the interlacing of hedgerows .. meander through unblemished fields. Of the Coorong, we live the seasons, cold, wet winters, hot, parched summers “the wind was coming in hot breaths from the north…. I watched it ruffling and stroking its way across the water”.
As well as being a fabulous read, this is a book with raw intelligence and understanding. A book to keep and savour.
Joseph Timms, railway magnate, pastoralist, race horse owner etc. etc. was an entrepreneur, a man of many interests, completely self-made and very much a family man. All his children and his brothers were involved in the business. He lived in some of Australia’s great houses and liked to splash his money around, especially on
St Hubert’s c1905
race horses. I have been doing some research on one house this week, St Hubert’s in the Yarra Valley. It was a winery and is now again, begun by Hubert De Castella, a Swiss immigrant, it was also owned by David Mitchell, the father of Dame Nellie Melba. Joseph bought it in 1905 with an agreement to leave the vines for 5 years. Thanks to a lovely lady at Yarra Glen Historical Society, I was sent links to some photographs taken around 1905. I have tried to enlarge the photos, with no success because I have a feeling that the lady in the cart may be Joseph’s 2nd wife, Isabella, and in that case, the only photo we have of her. In the second photo, a man and a woman are present, tiny figures beneath the clematis-clad veranda. Once again, could they be Joseph and Isabella? They peer out, ghosts from the past and I long for them to speak to me.
St Hubert’s c 1905
This image came up on a Facebook Page, I follow. It is a photo of Yarra House in Cleethorpes. Built around 1840 by a clergyman, I am really intrigued by how it got its name. Was it the first owner or one of its many subsequent owners? It must have been fairly early because they named the road after the house. Also, the house is built in the colonial style, notice the wrought iron balconies, so redolent of houses in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia. What’s so strange about it, you may ask? As far as I am aware it’s the only road with the name Yarra in the UK and Yarra is the name of the river which runs through Melbourne. Here’s the coincidence. Stanley Timms joins the Australian army in 1915. He grew up in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne. He is seconded to the British army in Egypt and joined the Manchester Regiment. They were sent to Cleethorpes in 1916 before being sent to the Somme. Stanley would have been billeted in the Officer’s Mess which is in Yarra House. This house named after the River Yarra which ran through the bottom of his garden. I feel a scene coming in my WIP with a letter being sent home about this coincidence.
With my first three books, I researched, did minimal planning and set off writing. Yes, there were points in the story when I was unsure how to proceed but I usually sorted it out within a day or two. A walk on the beach is good for clearing your head. Having begun my fourth
book at a random chapter, I have been struggling and now have five random chapters, separated by years and beginning to think it should be two books because I couldn’t see the way through the woods. I know the story because once again the inspiration is a real person.
In these circumstances, what you should do is to go back to first principles. Get the instruction book out (as I keep telling my husband when something doesn’t work). in reality – it means google it.
So, for the first time, I have created a story arc and guess what – it works. I have the beginnings of structure and I’m also clearer about motivation How much of what I have already written will go in the bin, I’m not sure. Some of it will need reworking but I can see how book 3 in the Currency Girls series will work.
To prove the point that it is better to have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised, as a late entrant, I had to take the workshops that were left. My afternoon one was on Screenwriting – something I have no interest in. Let me qualify that; my only interest would be if someone wanted to adapt my books for film. Flags would fly then.
Julie Everton, a professional screenwriter, playwright and lecturer at Brighton University, gave us a masterclass which, both confirmed my view that I would never make a screenwriter but which will inform my writing for ever.
The fundamental differences –
1. All character thoughts have to be visualised – obvious when you think about it.
2. The screenplay has to be written in the present tense
3. Active verbs rather than adjectives or adverbs (yes, I know -authors should be doing that too).
4. Objects can be used to plant ideas or clues which can be paid off later
5. Paint a picture of the environment so that the director can visualise it
6. Camera angles should never be specified but implicit – when to use close-up or panning.
Julie used various exercises to help all this sink in. First, we had to write a premise which could be used to approach film makers. This must contain 4 things.
- The main character and their problem
- The location
- Obstacles the character faces
- The hook
Think blurb – could it be distilled down into these four elements? I think so.
Our second exercise was to think of an opening scene in two colours and write down the elements which could be described by those colours. – How simple, how useful. I am most certainly one who needs to be taught such tricks.
Finally, Julie gave us an example of screenplay writing – Misery by Stephen King, screenplay by William Goldman. We had to write our opening scene based on this and using what we had learnt so far. It made me think far more visually which I hope I can bring to my writing.
Ninety minutes of pure gold.
I joined West Sussex Writers in time for their 80th birthday Workshop celebration yesterday, complete with cake. Am I glad I did! My only gripe with the day was that too much time was spent on teas and lunch. I would have loved to fit in another workshop.
The two which I attended were both inspirational. Stephanie Norgate, poet and lecturer and the University of Chichester asked us to examine poems and a piece of prose about the sea. With these in mind, we drew upon our own experiences of the sea, its sounds, smells, shapes and colours etc. Using Derek Walcott’s poem, Midsomer Tobago as an example, she asked us to write our own poem based on a seaside place we knew. I was amazed at the quality of writing within the group, which put my small effort to shame.
Inspired by my previous post, I worked on this poem I have called.
Shell strewn strand, soft underfoot
Echoes of laughter and innocence
Distant ships await the tide
By brooding wartime forts
Sweep of light fades,
Morphs into plaintive foghorn
Seafret encompasses, swallows, dulls
the cries of the lost
Forever burnt into memory,
Our hearts ache with loss