A Little Background

Everything has to start somewhere, so this post is about where this all began.

I guess the first question is; where did what begin?

My foray into the field of writing novels. Not content with one book I set out to write the Highfields Stories; a series of ten novels covering a decade, from 1969 to 1979.

The first of this series, ‘The Road Out – Highfields 1969’ is going through the painstaking process of proofreading before its publication.

The setting for the series is Highfields, a property outside the fictional town of Weyburn, somewhere in South East Queensland.

The story centers around the Reagan family, in particular Arthur Reagan, his wife Therese and their two children Jimmy and Susie.

I will reveal more as the posts continue. This first post, however, is more about the why than the what.

Three years ago I injured my lower spine, putting an end to just over thirty years of work as a tradesman in three different fields of work.

One of the many things I started to use to occupy my time was blogging; centered around my other hobbies.

A good friend of mine became a reader of one of these blogs. This man is an individual with a generous and caring nature, who took a fond interest in me as a person, not just as a companion online.

He it was who took me aside one day, telling me it was time I put my writing skills to better use than just amusing a handful of people on an obscure website.

“But I can’t write properly!” I decried.

Now, this friend may be kind and caring, that much is true. However, he is also less than obtuse when giving guidance. I was told in no uncertain terms that I can write and entertainingly well, so I was to stop stuffing around and send him a short story pronto or I would never hear the end of it.

As I sat there staring at a blank screen, I had one of those moments where life casts something into your mind from your distant past, like a piece of flotsam from the – dare I say it – quite sizable ocean of years now behind me.

An obscure event from my childhood, from when I was six years old, to be precise.

I decided that this event would be the story.

However, as is nearly always the case with writing, it started to grow from there. The story got shifted from a freezing cold November day in a suburb of the British county of Kent, to a blazing hot November day in a rural town in Queensland.

Then I got to thinking about how events within our lives are sometimes different when viewed through the lens of another persons life; say, for instance, the six-year-old boys father.

Thus did the short story become a somewhat longer story, in two distinct parts. The same day, first viewed through the eyes of the boy, and then through those of his father.

Having sat up and written the thing over a very long night, I emailed it away to my friend.

The next day, I received his response; “Loved it, very funny. You should turn it into a book.”

So here we are, a little over twelve months later, and I’ve done what I was asked to do.

The whole project has swollen into a community of characters whose stories I have allowed them to tell for themselves.

Okay, so that sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? After all, this is fiction we’re talking about and these characters exist only in my head.

Yet, this is largely how the story was written. I’d create a character with a sketch of a back story, then start researching to firm the back story up and the research would lead me down the path towards a full-blown character.

As these characters met, influencing the course of events, I would keep asking myself, what would they do now?

Let me give you an example.

Let’s take Sigmund (Ziggy) Schwarz. A diminutive but ingenious German craftsman, with more than a touch of the psychological traits that often accompany genius.

Ziggy runs the engineering workshop at Highfields, which researches and develops agricultural equipment, a large part of Highfields income.

I can assure the reader that through personal experience I know such surprising things exist in these out-of-the-way places.

I gave him an arbitrary age for where he appeared in the plot, working backward from there. He had to arrive in Australia at one point, a fair way back to make the plot work.

He had to have arrived before it was too hard to get him here from Germany, so I settled on 1934. He was an engineer, with a specialization in cars, so I had him serving his apprenticeship at Mercedes.

In the course of researching this character, I discovered the enthralling story of the Mercedes racing team and the cars they called the Silver Arrows, which had their debut in 1932.

Thus Ziggy ends up as an assistant mechanic on the team.

Then I hit a snag; how or why would this enthusiastic young man leave behind such a dream fulfilling career to end up on a cattle property in rural Queensland?

As I worked that through, what next presented itself was a logical way to assist in cementing the resolve in Arthur’s heart to accept the challenge he was faced with.

Thus I made for myself an important discovery that has been written about many times before; good fiction writes itself.

I found, as the months went by, that the more I relaxed and let the research drive the storyline, the more complex and interesting the whole thing became.

The decision to write an entire series of books came when the story arc of the first book wound to a natural conclusion, leaving several lesser story arcs unfinished.

One chapter in particular was removed, as I recognized within its pages a standalone book.

At the moment, I and my proofreader continue to pick through the pages, picking out faults in the same way a house cleaner would never think of cleaning the floors; putting away the vacuum cleaner and picking up the dust in the house one bit at a time.

I’ll keep posting my thoughts here as the process continues.

In the words of one of the characters; “Welcome to Highfields, guys.”




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