The first lines of Locust Summer were jotted in the margins of a notebook while I was bored at a travel conference in Porto, Portugal in 2012. The essence of those lines were carried through a nine year long writing process with the bulk of the first drafts tackled whilst travelling through Asia with my wife.
After a few years back in Perth where I continued to work on the manuscript, we packed up and went traveling again, this time with our baby daughter in tow. I continued the writing process, revising the manuscript significantly after a two week long fellowship at Varuna, the National writers’ House in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
I typed ‘the end’ on a beach at Kalbarri, then embarked on a lengthy editing and rewriting process under the tutelage of Dr. Laurie Steed, a good friend and brilliant writer who helped me shape Locust Summer into the story I wanted to tell. Check him out if you need help with writing, he’s the best.
When it was accepted for publication with Fremantle Press, the MS underwent a final revision process overseen by razor-sharp editor Georgia Richter who developed the story into its final version and ushered me through the publication process with empathy and
All told, that’s over nine years. A long time. But a great journey that I wouldn’t shorten by a day. Because everything that happened brought me here.
What was the inspiration for your story?
My first job as a journalist was to be the Mid West reporter for the news service on a TV station called GWN that broadcast to regional Western Australia. Based in the coastal city of Geraldton, I roamed all over this sun and wind-blasted section of Western Australia, where fishing boats ply the seas and farmers tilled the soil.
A few years later, working in Kalgoorlie for the ABC, I took up the chance to work on a mate’s farm over in New South Wales, bringing in a wheat crop over two hectic weeks.
Then my beloved grandfather got sick, and the family businesses and houses that had shaped my life began to disappear as his health deteriorated.
Three threads. Twist them together and you have the beginnings of a story.
What writers have shaped your writing?
As a child I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, Tintin, Asterix, The Famous Five and Secret Seven, Anne of Green Gables and Commando comics. By my teens I’d moved on to sci-fi by Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, and then embraced American literature from Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Mailer, with social realism from Tom Wolfe bringing it all in focus.
In my twenties I read a lot of British literature, everything from Greene and Durrell to modern masters like Hillary Mantel and Patrick O’Brian. These days I read anything and everything from business books and non-fiction to the latest commercial releases and Booker prize winners.
Above all I have always read lots of history books, with Barbara Tuchman and Max Hastings particular favourites, expanding my understanding of the darker side of humanity and the passions we all have.
All of this has shaped me. But my favourite writer of all would have to be Lawrence Durrell for his Alexandria Quartet, a writer who ignored the advice to “kill your darlings” and instead raised them up. He inspires me to take risks and seek the truth wherever it leads.
Do you do speaking engagements for schools?
English, Politics, History and Drama were the only subjects I really paid attention to in school. So to come full circle and come back to schools to talk books and writing is something I’m always keen to do.
I’ve spoken at a few High Schools schools over the years and would relish the opportunity to engage with students and discuss everything from my career as a journalist to the travel, writing and entrepreneurial work I’ve pursued. You can book me through Fremantle Press’s Author Booking service or send me an email through my contact page.
Do you offer mentorships to writers?
I’ve been very fortunate to have been shaped and influenced by many mentors. Some extraordinary people freely gave their time and expertise to help me along over many years. Even the rejection emails helped!
I’m always open to helping other writers and would relish the chance to offer mentorship. I’m part of a few private and public Facebook writing and reading groups, and in regular contact with a few younger writers as they go through their journeys. So always keen to chat writing and share the knowledge.