I have just returned from a research trip to the area around Wahgunyah and Beechworth where my great grandfather settled when he came from China to Australia in 1853. It is a beautiful part of Victoria and is a significant gold mining region. Beechworth has been extremely well preserved and still carries the old world charm of the mid-nineteenth century. It was easy, therefore, to imagine I was back in 1864, the period my WIP is set.
For many months I have been researching and writing using books and photographs. But actually going to the places I am writing about was so exciting. When I saw a place name that I recognised from my research, it was like seeing a movie star in the flesh. The names of rivers, towns and the various gold rushes suddenly came alive. I had been to this area several times before but never thought I would write about it. This trip made me look at every detail with new eyes.
I took my camera, ipod (which has a tape recorder gadget on the end) and a notebook, so I was very busy recording every aspect. I didnt want to miss a thing. I had the curiosity of a child and my quest for more information was insatiable. If only I could bring this ‘way of seeing’ back home with me. But it is so hard to remember to do when you are in familiar surroundings. The mind numbs once more. Being in the moment is the key – the power of NOW.
Im enjoying this writing – of fusing fact and fiction. I never thought I would like writing historical fiction until I wrote Little Paradise. All my other books have come straight from my imagination with little research necessary.
In this series of four novels I’m working on, my young heroine, Poppy, meets some real historical figures like my great grandfather Jimmy Ah Kew Chen, the famous aboriginal artist, Tommy McRae, and the infamous gentleman bushranger, Harry Power who tutored Victorian’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly.