How did Shadow of the Boyd come about?
I’d been reading Wade Doak’s book The Burning of the Boyd and Thomas’s plight must have got to me because one night I dreamt I was Thomas. He was being held behind some flax, watching the ships boats row away and he was gutted. I woke with my heart beating wildly and knew then I had to tell his story.
The book focuses on a turbulent event in our past. What did you do to ensure you captured this event as accurately as possible from all sides?
I explored every available reference, Alexander Berry’s journals, newspapers of the time, books published soon after with accounts from people who had spoken to Te Aara (George), a letter from George and reference books and maps on all aspects of life at the time.
Have you ever been on a sailing ship in a storm? If not what techniques did you use to help create the feelings not only of the ship on the ocean but also the crew?
Not on a sailing ship, but on a yacht, and it was easy to recall how frightened I was. I also watched a lot of DVDs about sailing and series that were set on the ocean. I lived by the sea for nearly five years so am familiar with the sea, it’s moods and character and this also helped.
What experiences of your own, if any, were you able to draw on when writing the book?
I’ve answered this in part in the previous question, but I also am familiar with Northland bush. I was once lost in the bush on our farm and that feeling of being alone helped. I also think having sons and grandsons helped me get into the mindset of Thomas.
When asked what is the most important thing a budding writer can do to improve their writing, many authors suggest reading as much as possible and/or keeping a journal or ideas notebook on hand at all times. Besides these two excellent suggestions what would be your top tip for writing students?
I think rewriting – or revision- is a great way of improving writing. When you first write something it is from the heart, all the emotion and instinctive words flow, and this is how it should be. Then, after a break you need to take a fresh look at the writing – work with your head – put on the editor’s cap and apply the skills of our craft to the text.
What writing project are you working on in 2012?
Trying to finish my new novel about a boy called Gilly and the Silver Mines at Puhipuhi in the 1890s.
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