There are three places I do my best thinking. In the shower, in bed and in the car. Fearing that In bed with Tab and In the Shower with Tab might not convey the right tone for my blog (because quite frankly neither image is one I'd subject anyone except my husband to), I went with Tab's Roadtrip with Writers which I'm sure you'll agree was a much safer and tasteful title.
But just to be clear, this blog is not about road trips per se but a metaphor for a place where creatives are confined in an imaginary space to contemplate and chat about the literary path ahead, and the backroads that bought the past to the present.
So today I want to talk about connections, and I don't mean hooking the caravan or boat up to the towball, I mean the connections we have to people and place, and how it fuels what, and how I write.
As I'm sure anyone reading this will agree, if you linked all the dots of the connections you've made in your life from beginning to today, you'd have something that looked like a child's dot to dot drawing that went horribly wrong. Now add every place you've ever been to and there you have the mind map for the story of your life.
People and place are crucial to my writing process as they form the basis of my stories. While it isn't always glaringly obvious to the general reader, each chapter is laced with tiny clues that reference the real life people and situations that inspired certain scenes. It's like being part of a secret club, that only those who are privy to the special handshake are part of.
Connection, coincidence and comedy are the three consistent themes in my work. I am facinated by the first two and the third is simply a deep set urge to make people smile. If we can't laugh at the craziness of our existence, then really, what's the point?
So what are the strong connections in my life? First and foremost, family.
In fictionalised form, my relatives feature heavily in both my current works in progress. My Mum and Dad in particular are the inspirations for the main characters in The Sunbeam Alpine.
Three very significant choices my parents made as young adults, are pivotal to who I have become as an adult and as a writer.
1. They chose each other (and if I ever finish writing my novel *The Sunbeam Alpine you'll understand the significance of that.).
2. They immigrated from England to Australia in 1971, making me the first Aussie born in our family.
3. They chose to only have one child. Me.
Then there's my Nanna and Pop. I don't have enough space in a blog to convey aptly how positively they impacted my upbringing. My late Pop, Victor Hugo (no relation to the one who wrote Les Miserables, much to my disappointment) but nevertheless, he's the one I inherited the writing and performing gene from.
Their's is an incredible love story about a British soldier who meets an Austrian farm girl in the months after WWII ended. *The Girl from Arnels will see me attempt to write an historical romance, but seriously that book is a long way off.
When I was eighteen I left home and moved from Perth to Coventry in a kind of reverse action to what my parents had done 20 years earlier. If I had never had the ancestral connection to Coventry, I may never have gone there and I would never have met another group of people that have been instrumental in shaping who I am. I auditioned for YOG (The Coventry School of Music's Youth Operetta Group) within weeks of my arrival in the UK and remained part of the musical theatre company until I was 24.
I returned to Australia in 1995 and while I've been back several times for past reunions, last year was special as I went back to perform in a sell out 40th Anniversary reunion show. It was a huge blast, one of the best times of my life so far. I'm not sure I can ever express eloquently enough what that connection means to me and how magical it is to return to Coventry and feel as if I was there a week ago. To say I love these people is an understatement and I can't begin to picture a life that didn't include them.
The journey back last May, is the inspiration for my current novel *The Second Husband. While the circumstances of how Lexi Lorimar (the main protaganist) ends up back in the UK are embellished greatly, there are certainly some very fine lines between what really happened and what is made up.
They say that most novels are made up of three parts; the writers truth, a truth the writer has borrowed from friends and acquaintances, and the pure made up parts. This is the formula you will find in all of my work.
Over the years I've added more and more friends and acquaintances, places to my spaghetti chart of connected lines. Each one giving me ideas for new scenes, settings, character traits or of course conflicts, essential to any good plot.
Stuck by sucker-pads to the wall of my shower is a things called 'Aquanotes'. Its a waterproof notepad for capturing ideas in wet places. 'Don't let your ideas wash down the drain' is its marketing tag line. (Admittedly sometimes I write 'Don't forget school disco this Friday and pay ballet fees instead.) But right now it has 5 other ideas for books with titles scrawled upon it. As I said in the first paragraph, I do some of my best thinking in the shower.
On that 'coming full circle' note. I will bid you farewell for this week. Please tune in next week as chat with a willing writer on a road trip.
Drive safe and happy writing.
* These are the working titles of my novels in progress.