Memory is such a tricky fish, I say it all the time – unreliable, selective, eccentric – and mine sometimes leaves me completely baffled.
Almost three years ago now, while I was waiting for publisher feedback on the first draft of Paper Daisies, I scratched down the opening third of another story, one set in Canberra and the Snowy Mountains high country. It was a tale of soviet spies and shifting identities, full of suspense and political intrigue – and skiing. I’d written it quickly, thrilled by the pace and the taste of something a little different, for me.
Then I gave it to someone to read, and that someone said, ‘Hm. It’s a bit too masculine, this one. If you publish it, you should use a pseudonym. It’s not a Kim Kelly novel.’
I was disappointed at the response but I didn’t have much of a moment to worry about it. Apart from my husband Dean being very ill at the time, I was soon busy with edits for Paper Daisies, and I forgot all about my snowy spy story.
Well, not quite entirely. It’d flit through my mind every so often, but whenever it did the words ‘too masculine’ forced it to flit out again. It was a silly idea, the whole thing, I decided, and I put it away – literally, I filed it on my laptop under ‘story junk’ and didn’t open that file again.
Then, earlier this year, desperate for a holiday, I randomly booked a much needed week away – where? In the Snowies.
Last Sunday, driving out of Canberra, with the wild slopes of the Brindabellas kissing a grey sky, I had a flicker of what seemed like déjà vu before the story came to me again, and I said to Dean, ‘Remember that thing I was writing ages ago? The spy thing? I should look at it again while I’m here.’
‘Yeah,’ Dean laughed. Because of course I’d taken my laptop with me.
And of course I wasn’t going to do any work on this holiday. Was I. No. Neither was Dean.
Driving up towards Charlotte Pass the following day to gaze out at the highest peaks in all Australia, I’d given myself over entirely to the superlative beauty of this country, precipitous shards of craggy granite riven by a thousand sparkling streams – there was little going on in my mind but the theme song from The Man From Snowy River.
Then, while Dean was taking a work call on the side of the mountain in a pocket of clear reception, I found myself looking out over a mad blue creek and thinking, ‘I’ve got to set a story here.’ I even posted a photo of said creek on Facebook, as you do.
Before I realised, truly realised, I already had written a story here, or at least I had begun one.
So, last night, when we got back to our little bolthole in the alpine village of Thredbo, I dared to finally open that file.
And I read the first few chapters in blinking wonder. It’s not how I remembered it. Somehow it’s even better.