Escape to the Country- the power of words

FullSizeRender‘My Obliging Significant Other’ (Moso) is more your arty type than your literary type  so I wasn’t entirely convinced he’d want to accompany me to yet another writers’ festival, (especially as it had been raining most of the week). It wasn’t until I mentioned the words: country roads, river crossings, vehicular ferry, pub lunch, dirt tracks, MUD that I sparked his interest. Ah, the power of words! At this point, I should mention Moso had just bought a Mistubishi Pajero 4 x 4

With my choice of words having done the trick and with a hand on heart promise I’d only attend a one hour crime writing session, we took the M2 out of Sydney and drove to the St Albans Writers’ Festival.

St Albans is a quaint, historical village on the Macdonald River, 118 kms north west of Sydney. It has links with the early colony of New South Wales (think convicts, early settlers, explorers, bushrangers etc)

The session I’d chosen to attend, ‘Writing Crime Fiction, with authors Barry Maitland, Michael Robotham, PM Newton and Nigel Bartlett’, was both informative and entertaining.

FullSizeRender 5(left to right: Michael Robotham, Barry Maitland, Nigel Bartlett, Pam Newton)

One of the topics the panel discussed was the importance of setting and place. Here is  briefly what they had to say:

PM Newton: Pam knew she had the right character but after many re-writes she realised she’d put her character in the wrong book.

Barry Maitland: Barry finds the location first and sees the character in the place. This could be because he trained and practiced as an architect in a previous life. We are all shaped by a place as are out characters.

Nigel Bartlett: Nigel said place is multi- layered, it’s more than geography, also politics, people. Events could only happen in that place.

Michael Robotham: Michael said Place becomes a character. He also said the worst advice he’s ever been given was, ‘to write what you know.’ He said you should write what interests you, what fascinates you.

Gina Amos: In my mind the springboard for a story lies in the setting. During the planning stages of my books I begin with the location, followed by the crime.  My writing project at the moment is a series of four crime novels set in Sydney. The seasons act as a backdrop to the life and career of a young female detective, Jill Brennan.

Moso and I ordered a lunch of bangers and mash and fish and chips at the nearby Settlers Arms (1836).  
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What better way for a crime writer to finish a perfect day than a visit to the local graveyard.
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18 Responses to Escape to the Country- the power of words

  1. It looks like a lovely area and a fun day. The icing on the cake is the old graveyard. Each stone is a story.

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  2. Sue Coletta says:

    Sounds like a great class. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia (number one on my bucket list), so I loved the pics, especially the graveyard. Very cool. The Settlers Arms Inn looks an interesting place too. For us U.S. folks, what the heck are bangers and mash? Sounds like something the Munsters would eat (<-I'm probably dating myself with that one).

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    • Sue Coletta says:

      Oh, I meant to add…I love your idea of using the change in season for different storylines. Awesome!

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      • gina amos says:

        Yes I think it works well because the season becomes a character and sets the tone of the book everything down to what the characters are eating and wearing and also the activities they engage in eg going to the beach in summer etc. Here’s a plug for my books -want to visit Australia? Save money on airfares, download ‘Secrets and Lies’ and ‘Killing Sunday’ from Amazon today 😜

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    • gina amos says:

      Sue – when you get to “visit Australia” on your bucket list let me know and I’ll show you Sydney. Haha sorry bangers and mash certainly does sound strange !! Bangers are fried pork or beef sausages and mash is mashed cooked and peeled potatoes made with milk and butter. Sausages usually 3, are served on top of the mash with lashings of rich brown gravy served over the top! Absolutely delicious!

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  3. Oh wow! I need to talk my “significant other” into visiting Australia. Loved that graveyard, thanks for pointing it out to me. Strangely it looks familiar and foreign at the same time because the stones are in the same style as the ones in Scotland but they are lacking the typical mosss and lichen and the vegetation in the background is an immediate giveaway. I just love this ambiguity.
    Were these “stories” put into their setting or was it the setting that waited for them???

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    • gina amos says:

      Not surprising the headstones are similar in style to the Scottish examples because the settlers were of British stock. The family names included the McDonalds, Prestons, Turners.
      If you manage to talk your SO into coming to Oz we know some interesting graveyards we could show you👻👻

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  4. Unfurling says:

    Thanks for this post Gina. I love the photos and your means to get husband on side. I was interested to read how each author perceives ‘place’ in fiction. For me, ‘place’ is a character, so much influence does it have on other characters in a story.

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  5. Unfurling says:

    I meant to say, I have an endless fascination for graveyards, especially really old ones. The story potential is enormous.

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  6. gina amos says:

    Sorry it took a while to reply Robyn. I always start my writing with a location. Fir a lot of authors characters come first.
    Graveyards are such fascinating places aren’t they. So many stories, lives lived well or not so well. Lives cut short too soon. I wonder if one day cemeteries will be a little different from what they are. Instead of a headstone or a plaque I can imagine a place where you press a button and

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  7. gina amos says:

    …the deceased’s life story is played out together with photos, emotional responses etc. haha maybe I should turn from a life of crime to fantasy!

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  8. Robyn Haynes says:

    Well now, there’s an interesting idea. You have a great imagination Gina – crime or fantasy. What indeed, will our final resting places look like? Perhaps we’ll be recycled and have some kind of virtual recognition for having lived? It’s interesting the way our lives are rewritten after we die – something we have little control over. Only nice things are said of the deceased at their funeral and yet, and yet …?

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  9. Beautiful. The scenery invites creativity. It has been years since I have gone on a writer’s retreat. Writing conferences and events are boring for the souse.

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  10. gina amos says:

    It’s a good idea to get away from the writing desk and mix with people who share your passion for books. I came home invigorated.

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