Writing adventures with Jen Banyard
Fremantle Press author Jen Banyard shares how her father inspired the third book in her Riddle Gully series in this behind-the-scenes look at writing Riddle Gully Secrets.
When I first held my paper-and-ink copy of Riddle Gully Secrets, I had a queasy sense of disbelief, as though one false move and it might vanish. You see, writing it had been a bit of a nightmare. My husband and I had just moved from the family home of 25 years into a one-bedroom yet-to-be-renovated townhouse. The view was amazing but all my familiar spaces – ‘happy places’ I didn’t know I’d had, even my desk – had gone.
But I plugged away because (a) one has a lot more time to write in a one-bedroom home, (b) I like things in threes and two Riddle Gully books just wasn’t right, and (c) Pollo and Will had barely hit puberty – things weren’t yet awkward between them and there were all those underground caves nearby for a plot to tap into. (Three reasons, see?)
There’s a lot going on in Secrets and my distracted brain nearly fried at times. Pollo and Will spy on strangers, explore scary dark caves and tangle with baddies. There’s the spiritual versus the rational, historical family shenanigans, respecting different values and beliefs, and a good old-fashioned race to find treasure. A turning point in the writing was when it hit me that the two baddies should be comical. It added sparkle and space to breathe, and writing them was fun. I got there in the end with everything (plot-wise and personal) hanging together.
I dedicated the book to my father. Dad spent four of his first nine years in the Parkerville Children’s Home with his little sister, so didn’t have much time for pleas of boredom. He taught us to push our limits … and to appreciate the bush.
He loved heading off the beaten track and as a scientist – a seismologist – he knew his way. Signposted picnic areas were for the timid: people who wore socks and sandals. From time to time we’d be awakened in what felt like the middle of the night and we would pile into the old green Falcon. Eventually we’d bump up to some obscure spot – a disused quarry, a deserted bit of beach – and slide out of the car. From the battered camping box that lived in the boot, Dad would fish out eggs, bread and his trusty jaffle iron. We’d eat like kings … and then go off exploring.
Dad got it wrong sometimes. Also in the car boot was photographic fixer in the same type of container as the water. Gulp. Gag. Blagh! And when I was eleven or so, he suggested I was too old for my beloved Famous Five books. Naturally I went cold turkey.
Now, instead of reading adventure novels, I write them (tee hee!) And I’m glad that when I was young I got dirty and scraped and sometimes scared. It’s precious experience I can bring to my books that kids – some kids anyway – love to share.
Jen Banyard, author