Michael Thomas celebrated the release of his first novel The Map of William this month – here’s more about it
The Map of William is a classic rite-of-passage novel that follows one young man on his journey of growth and self-discovery. We asked author Michael Thomas to take us behind the scenes of his writing journey.
The Map of William is inspired by true events in your personal history. What made this history a story worth reimagining?
I clearly remember my great-uncle Percy Thomas. He was born in Roebourne in 1890 and was laid to rest in Carnarvon, aged eighty-two. In 1905, Percy’s father, Alexander Thomas, fell from his horse on the road to Cossack and died a short time later. Alexander was thirty-seven. My family history is embedded in the country where William walks, and his journey of discovery is bound to my own search for knowledge and understanding. The Map of William is a deeply personal reimagining and, if nothing else, the telling of the story has changed me.
Where did you come across the inspiration for the characters of Rover and Walala? What challenges did you face writing them into the story?
My father was a shearer and I spent my formative years bouncing around the Gascoyne, Pilbara and Murchison regions of Western Australia. Childhood memories are often clouded, but certain people and events leave an indelible mark, even after a lifetime. I was taught to ride a horse by an old Indigenous man – Rover was his name. It was only fitting that a man of such boundless humour and patience be acknowledged in William’s story. Years later, and with the benefit of hindsight, I can understand a little of his sadness. To convey the sense of pain and loss experienced by men such as Walala and Rover was my greatest challenge in writing The Map of William. There were other challenges, certainly, but none quite so daunting.
What did you learn from the process of writing The Map of William? What do you wish you had known before you began?
In 1980, Carl Sagan stated, ‘You have to know the past to understand the present.’ To know the past – particularly one that is masked by misinformation and secrecy – is an exercise in persistence. It requires a fair amount of digging and the ability to recognise a rabbit hole when you find you have fallen down it. History is about facts and details, but those with vested interests also write it. As a first-time writer, the challenge of sorting the wheat from the chaff was a great learning experience and one that caught me unawares. My success, or lack of it, was not through want of trying.
What’s next for Michael Thomas?
The Map of William was published in my sixty-sixth year. I’ll write every day between now and whenever, with the sole aim of honing my craft and writing stories that have been bubbling away in the previous sixty-five years. I’ll flip between genres and time periods, change my style more than likely and travel the world to find my characters. Love will always be at the core of what I write, and any day without humour is a wasted one. My heroes will be selected from the great ocean of good people, considered ordinary by some, but their stories are no less worthy or compelling.
The Map of William is available in all good bookstores and online.