INSIDE THE MACHINE
“Geez, you churn them out,” I’ve been hearing a bit lately from those surprised by my output of scribblings in recent years. And yes, when you look at my novels in a bunch, it does seem I’ve made quite a lot of them – five so far and another due out later this year.
But I wince a bit each time I hear that word ‘churn’. Churning suggests I have some simple mechanism that neatly spins the stories out of me, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Each of my stories is driven from within me by love and a mad curiosity that sends me along vast uphill treks through uncharted wildernesses. Each journey through story and discovery is different, and not once have I returned to the real world unscathed or unchanged.
Right now, I’m in the middle of editing Jewel Sea, that next one, and my gathering nerves at her impending September arrival are jangling against a new story that’s already pushed its way into my heart and taken up residence in my mind. This one is so pushy, and such an unexpected visitor, I woke up at five a.m. on Monday morning with a character literally talking to me.
That character is called Richard Ackerman, and he’s a doctor at Canberra Hospital in 1954. He’s also the youngest son of Daniel and Francine Ackerman, the heroes of my first novel, Black Diamonds. And he won’t leave me alone.
This pushy thing is the Snowy Mountains story I blogged about a few weeks ago – a sketch of a tale of secrets and spies I’d almost forgotten I’d written. Somehow – and I don’t know how – it’s insisted it must be written, as in right now.
Pushing aside my 1860s gold-rush novel waiting to be taken to a final draft and the other story I’d just begun on early twentieth-century circuses in Australia, I’m now deep in the Monaro high country skiing and plotting acts of espionage.
This little machine here doesn’t so much churn as send me at some giddying velocity through time, through dreams, through all I’ve learned and am yet to know.
Making me a little bit insane with weariness every day. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.