Desperately keen to get back in the writing zone, I thought I’d begin with revisiting my research scrapbook – the history that inspired me to write the story to begin with …
Many local Tasmanians – and former Taswegians, along with visitors to the state – might recognise this image. It is the remains of a crumbling arch, located on the Midlands Highway just south of Ross.
When I first saw this relic, I was immediately obsessed. (And yes, I now like to think of myself as the next Hannah Kent ;) ). Perhaps many were intrigued by the mysterious arch; some even interested in what it represents. How many people know that it once was this building?
This building was, in fact, an elite boys’ boarding school in the mid to late 19th century: Horton College. Somewhat starstruck by the magic of such a place, I began researching in earnest! Trove, Launceston LINC and a phone conversation with a former Scotch Oakburn archivist with insightful knowledge of the College led to a gradually accumulated wealth of knowledge and inspiration on the school, its history and its context.
Studying my Master of Arts in Creative Writing - under the guidance of the brilliant Rohan Wilson and a peer group of inspiring and amazing fellow writers – offered me the opportunity and structure to really immerse myself in this ‘cracker of a setting’ (cheers, Rohan).
An array of articles, photographs and the Journal of Horton College document have provided me with so much information and so many ideas! I just LOVE the idea of recreating history through fiction (yes, I am musing on the idea of a future PhD along these lines!)
I visualised a student, William Learoyd, of an eminent family, who had been sent (exiled) to Horton from Wesley College in Melbourne after witnessing a terrible crime. I sought to blend his experience as a traumatised sixteen year old with factual information I had uncovered about the College. This has been such a challenge and a delight! Flash floods, fake masters, court cases and questionable student deaths have provided so much material to work with. What a gem!!!!
On a trip to Melbourne, I spent a transporting afternoon roaming the banks of the Yarra River and elite streets of Hawthorn – Shakespeare Grove, Isabella Grove and Coppin Grove – imagining from where my protagonist, William, had been sent. This experience also led me to formulate a ‘present story’ – yes, I am now writing what I want to read – in which a contemporary relative of William is uncovering his life story. Yes, I confess that her voice mirrors my own, and it adds a contemporary and contrasting dimension to William’s story that I love.
I will be back with more :)