Sunday, October 28, 2012

Writing where you Work, and other forms of Research

I'm delighted to welcome Dean Mayes to my blog today. Author of Hambledown Dream, he's just released a new novel, Gifts of the Peramangk.

I read and reviewed Hambledown Dream a while ago, an intriguing romance with hints of reincarnation and redemption, set in the US and Australia. Gifts is set in Australia too and centers on the music of violins rather than Hambledown Dream's guitars, but it promises the same deep questions of identity and separated cultures that made Dream such a good book. I'll look forward to reading Gifts of the Peramangk one day. Meanwhile, here's the author's fascinating post on the problems of researching for your novel.


So, Dean, what research did you need to do before writing Gifts?



The research curve for Gifts Of The Peramangk was on a whole other level to The Hambledown Dream because, this time around, there were three big factors I had to consider.

Firstly was the musical aspect, specifically the violin, which is an instrument with which I was only casually acquainted. Not only did I have to delve into the performance of the violinist and build up a repertoire of musical which I could use in the novel but I also had to delve into such minutiae as construction techniques and what sort of timbers make a good instrument great. And while those little things might only get a passing mention in the novel, I had to have an appreciation of them in order to give gravity to the story. With the musical aspect, I wanted this time, to 'compose' an original piece of music for the novel and given that I have very little musical ability beyond playing the piano - badly - I had to work out a way of translating a musical experience into a literary one, but with the added challenge of describing a piece of music that doesn't actually exist.

The second big thing was the decision to set the story in Adelaide, where I live and work. On one hand, it made the job of writing much easier because I had locales and environments that I could physically immerse myself in. On the other hand, however, was the fact that I had those locales on hand. I had a responsibility to really take them in order to present them in the truest possible sense. So I made multiple excursions out to the places I had chosen for the novel - Elder Hall for example, in Adelaide's arts precinct, the Adelaide Hills town of Mount Pleasant which is the heart of Peramangk country and it's where the novel begins, the northern suburbs in which Ruby's family lives. I embedded myself in those places, spent a lot of time walking about and talking to people, making notes. I rode a suburban train from the northern suburbs into the city to get a feel for the kind of journey that Ruby took each time she travelled into Adelaide herself. I drank at a couple of pubs, sat at the bar with a notepad and made written observations about the environment and the people. That one almost got me into trouble a couple times. I watched rehearsal sessions in Elder Hall and listened to how students played and interacted with one another. I built upon these experiences in order to make the story live and breathe.

Finally, and this was perhaps the most significant aspect of writing the novel, I had to immerse myself deep into the recent history of Australia's treatment of its indigenous population which included researching the Stolen Generations and the White Australia Policies of the early to mid 20th century. This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of writing the novel because I had to treat these with the upmost respect and handle them with a great deal of sensitivity. There is still a great deal of bridge building going on between black and white Australia - especially given that there is around 200 years of appalling treatment of Aborigines to address and reconcile. Aborigines remain among the poorest and most disadvantaged first nation people in the world. I had to educate myself on this history and the present circumstance of Aboriginal Australians in order to portray them with respect and sensitivity.

Hambledown Dream was beautifully evocative, and it sounds life Gifts of the Peramangk will be too. I'll look forward to learning more of Australia's indigenous population, and as an English American, I'll look forward to exploring the collision of cultures too.

 Thank you so much for visiting my blog, Dean, and I wish you much success with both Gifts of the Permanangk and Hambledown Dream.

Dean Mayes has established himself as an author of great passion and literary style since releasing his first novel “The Hambledown Dream” in 2010. When not writing, Dean practices Intensive Care Nursing in Pediatrics. He lives in Adelaide, Australia with his partner Emily and his children Xavier and Lucy. The books of Dean Mayes are replete with music, find the trailers, playlists and information on the artists that are currently capturing Dean’s mind at: www.deanfromaustralia.com.

Synopsis of Gifts of the Peramangk

In 1950s Australia, during the height of the divisive White Australia Policy, Virginia, a young Aboriginal girl is taken from her home and put to work on an isolated and harsh outback station. Her only solace: the violin, taught to her secretly by the kind-hearted wife of the abusive station owner. However, Virginia's prodigious musical gift cannot save her from years of hardship and racism.
Decades later, her eight year old granddaughter Ruby, plays the violin with the passion Virginia once possessed. Amidst poverty, domestic violence and social dysfunction, Ruby escapes her circumstance through her practice with her grandmother's frail, guiding hand. Ruby’s zeal attracts the attention of an enigmatic music professor and with his help, she embarks on an incredible journey of musical discovery that will culminate in a rare opportunity. But with two cultural worlds colliding, her gift and her ambition will be threatened by deeply ingrained distrust, family jealousies and tragic secrets

1 comment:

Sylvia Stein said...

Dear Sheila,

Wow, what a great interview with author Dean Mayes! I really loved how he shared, his inspiration for his latest novel. I have his first one and I have to say it is amazing , and can not wait for his newest book! Thanks Dean Mayes! Great interview Sheila!


Syl Stein