WRITING A BOOK IS QUITE A TRIP!
At the end of October, Di Morrissey’s 23rd novel, Rain Music, was published. The novel is set in far north Queensland, and Di travelled extensively for research.
Read on for an exclusive look into Di’s research process.
Starting a new book is a journey, in every way. It begins with the research. That’s the fun part. I amble around, following my instincts, yarning to people, discovering the local history, legends, and lifestyle today. People are always very accommodating and pleased I’m interested in where they live.
Later comes the wrangling of all I’ve seen, heard, read and imagined, while sitting at my desk for the next seven months!
By the time I’d travelled through the north, stopping along the way, and landed in Cooktown, I knew I’d found a magical location. This was where Captain Cook’s Endeavour
foundered and where he camped for seven weeks to make repairs and lay formal claim to this great south land. Later came the pioneers, then those lured by the goldfields – where the Chinese outnumbered the Europeans by thousands and reminders of their sojourn can still be found in the lonely bush.
I was intrigued by the former convent, now the James Cook Museum and I spent hours there imagining what life must have been like for the Sisters of Mercy who came from Ireland to this remote place one hundred years after Cook. I decided I wanted to have a young Nun as one of the characters and when I researched those intrepid first Sisters I found one was called Evangelist Morrissey!
Discovery of gold saw nearby towns spring up in the wilderness. Maytown, close to the Palmer River rush, was a bustling township of many pubs, hotels and businesses.
Karen and Andrew Stewart who now run the Palmer River Roadhouse offered to take me to see current-day Maytown. What a shock! Virtually nothing remains but some rusting mining equipment, some slate kerbs, old bottles, and the detritus of a community long gone and forgotten. It was immensely evocative, though rather sad. All that remains are ghosts, yellowing photos and many stories in early pioneers’ letters and books from writers like Ion Idriess who was also captivated by the place.
I tend to start with an idea of characters, but not much of a storyline. For Rain Music
I decided to write about a brother and sister, as siblings is one family relationship I hadn’t yet explored in a novel.
Ned is a troubled man in his thirties, a singer/songwriter with big dreams. But due to an event in his personal life, he has taken to the road and dropped off the family’s radar, who are back in regional Victoria. His widowed mother wants him to attend a special family event commemorating his father. But as Ned’s contact with her as been sporadic, Bella, his younger sister, decides to take leave from her job to go and search for him. Bella is a bubbly but determined young woman, who has a successful professional life, owns her own flat close to their mother, and has a boyfriend who adores her, but she is beginning to feel she is at a crossroads in her own life.
Her search for Ned leads her to Far North Queensland, but the journey hasn’t ended when they finally meet. Instead they face a series of dilemmas and danger which brings them closer together – until a long-hidden family secret threatens to drive them apart if revealed. Threaded through this contemporary story is Ned and Bella’s discovery of their own history and that of the Far North of Australia – knowledge and experience which gradually changes their perceptions of themselves, each other and their country.
This twinkling creek becomes a raging torrent in the wet – thirty metres across or more! Impossible to cross in the rainy season.
The famous old Top Pub - the Toppie - where Yolanda rules!
At the James Cook Lookout above Cooktown spread below and the Endeavour River where Captain Cook stayed for repairs.
This is the now lovely lake which was a dam for the gold mine in the 1980s now abandoned.
The remains of crushers and steam driven stampers from the early gold days at Maytown (where Bella might have hidden!).
The diggings at Maytown 1880s where prospectors pegged their leases cheek by jowl some living in tents some in bark humpys or swags on the ground.