5 Ingredients that make up Rosewater: Characters

Welcome to day three of the ingredients which make up Rosewater. Today Tade is going to talk about the characters of Rosewater.


Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

Characters

My secret is that in ROSEWATER I’ve written a stealth character-based novel, but don’t tell anyone. It would have been career suicide to pitch that to a core science fiction audience which is used to massive world-building, technology-porn and space battles.
At its core, ROSEWATER is a character study of Kaaro. Everything else is built around him and the exigencies of his existence. I wrote about two periods in his life to create the illusion of a different character, since he changed significantly from his youth.
I read in all genres, and what I’ve always enjoyed is how writers approach character. My favourite books focus on character. Even Frankenstein is more of a study of creator of the monster if you forget what you see in the adaptations.
I’m not a fan of the cheap character arc, and I don’t believe people change significantly (sorry, self-help folks!). I just like to know how people become…people. Were they secure in their childhood? Did their mother love them? Did they fight or appease bullies in the playground? Who do they love and why?
This was the kernel from which ROSEWATER grew. Who is Kaaro? Where does he live? What does he want? Why does he want this? Does he get what he wants?
That is the simple premise of the book. The aliens are incidental.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson is published by Orbit Books, and is out now. It’s really really good. You should read it.

Stealth – Hugh Fraser

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Hugh Fraser’s Stealth, the fourth book in his bestselling Rina Walker series, following on from Harm, Threat and Malice. Today I’ve got a short extract from Stealth for you. London 1967 I’m sitting at a corner table in a pub in Wardour Street waiting for Bert Davis. It’s Friday night and the place is heaving. I look at my watch, see it’s near closing time and I’m wondering if he’s going to turn up. He wants to talk about a bit of work his governor George Preston has got for me. I’ve been able to stay well out of the game since I scored the money my dad left behind from a blag he pulled off before he got shot, but George, who ran a big firm with my dad, has got so much on me he could have me away for life anytime he wants. Even though I doubt if he’d break the code, I can’t risk turning him down. The landlord shouts time and I’m about to finish my drink and leave, when I see a face called Jack Fenton coming through the crowd with his eye on me. He’s big man with a long reach and I’ve seen him do some damage in the ring. He sits down and leans across the table until his ugly red face is close to mine. ‘You think you’re so fucking clever, you slimy little bitch.’ I put my hand in my jacket pocket and slip my fingers into the knuckle duster. ‘I know you offed Charlie and I’ll have you screaming in pain with a blade up your drawers before I do you the same way you did him.’ Stealth, by Hugh Fraser is published by Urbane Books on 4th October. You can buy a copy here.
When a step out of line means a fight to the death… London 1967. A working girl is brutally murdered in a Soho club. Rina Walker takes out the killer and attracts the attention of a sinister line-up of gangland enforcers with a great deal to prove. When a member of British Military Intelligence becomes aware of her failure to fulfil a contract issued by an inmate of Broadmoor, he forces her into the deadly arena of the Cold War, with orders to kill an enemy agent. Rina needs to call upon all her dark skills, not simply to survive but to protect the ones she loves.
Hugh Fraser is best known for playing Captain Hastings in Agatha Christie’s ‘Poirot’ and the Duke of Wellington in ‘Sharpe’. His films include Patriot Games, 101 Dalmatians, The Draughtsman’s Contract and Clint Eastwood’s Firefox. In the theatre he has appeared in Teeth’n’Smiles at the Royal Court and Wyndhams and in several roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also composed the theme to Rainbow!

Sleepwalking, Synesthesia and other Stories – guest post by Ruth Dugdall

Delighted to welcome Ruth Dugdall to the blog today to celebrate the launch of her new book, The Things You Didn’t See. It’s a tense psychological thriller, a novel about families and love. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence. It is about the secrets we keep, especially from ourselves.

But more about the book later. First Ruth will be telling us a little about sleepwalking, synesthesia and other stories.

Over to Ruth…

When my mum was a girl she would inwardly groan if any relative ever bought her a book. As an adult the only ones she ever opened were cookbooks, and yet she is a natural storyteller. She likes dark tales, and she likes to tell them again and again. And she’s good at it – I haven’t watched Coronation Street in years but I know exactly what’s happening! I grew up with Mum’s stories, and would ask for specific ones the way you might ask for a favourite food or film, enjoying the familiarity of it.

One of my favourite stories was about my great Uncle George, who died before I was born. He was a poultry farmer, living in rural Lincolnshire. He was also a sleepwalker. His sleepwalking was well known locally, especially after the time he jumped through an upper floor window thinking he was still jumping fences on his horse.

One day, so the story goes, George had been culling chickens for market. Wringing their necks and tossing them into a steaming pile of feathers. That night his wife awoke in a panic to find hands tight around her neck. Someone was trying to kill her. She fought and screamed and, luckily, George woke up. He had been dreaming about those chickens.

Years later, I learned about people who had committed grave acts in their sleep, including murder. Some were terribly sad – one boy had killed his father, whilst dreaming he was defending the home from a burglar. Other cases seemed less believable, like the murderer who drove many miles to his victim’s home whilst apparently asleep.

Non-insane Automatism is the legal defence used when someone kills whilst asleep, meaning that they aren’t culpable because they were unconscious. When this defence is used, which isn’t often, the stats show that a jury will believe the suspect only half the time, the other half they convict. It is this defence that Hector Hawke gives in The Things You Didn’t See, after his wife Maya Hawke is discovered at the bottom of the stairs, shot in the head.

The second trait featured in the book is synesthesia, a neurological condition in which wiring in the brain works differently so the senses are blended in an unexpected way. Some synesthetic taste words, others see sounds as colour. There is an argument that we all have a little synaesthesia; many of us listen to music and experience emotions, or associate a smell with a place, or dislike certain words because of how they make us feel. It is a diverse trait, and studies have recently discovered a genetic link, but there is still much more to understand about it.

Holly Redwood is the paramedic who arrives at the farm after Maya’s shooting has been called in. She has a form of synesthesia, known as Mirror Touch, which means that she can feel what others feel. If she sees someone get slapped, her cheek stings. If she sees a couple kissing, she experiences that too.

When Holly sees Maya, who is unconscious and in a critical condition, she can feel her pain. But she can also feel emotions, and within the house are Maya’s husband and daughter. As suspicion builds about what really happened to Maya, Holly must work out what her overloaded senses are telling her, and establish if they can be trusted. For someone wishing to solve a crime, synesthsia can be a talent, so long as they know how to interpret their feelings.

The title, The Things You Didn’t See, refers to both traits: sleepwalkers don’t see clearly, even though they move with their eyes open. Synesthesics sense things beyond their vision. The crime at the heart of the book can only be solved if these two things are addressed, and Holly and Cassandra must work together to do this.

I don’t know if my mum will read my book, but I’m grateful to her for sharing her stories. And thank you for letting me share mine with you.

Thanks Ruth. The Things You Didn’t See is published on 24th April 2018 by Thomas & Mercer.

Her instincts are telling her something isn’t right…
On a chilly morning in rural Suffolk, Cassandra Hawke is woken by a gunshot. Her mother is clinging on to her life, the weapon still lying nearby. Everyone thinks it’s attempted suicide—but none of it makes any sense to Cass. She’s certain there’s more to it than meets the eye.
With her husband and father telling her she’s paranoid, Cass finds an unlikely ally in student paramedic Holly. Like Cass, she believes something is wrong, and together they try to uncover the truth. But is there more to Holly’s interest than she’s letting on?
With her family and loved ones at risk, Cass must ask herself: is she ready to hear the truth, and can she deal with the consequences?

Ruth Dugdall studied English at university and then took an MA is Social Work. She worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker then as a probation officer. Her novels are informed by her experience, tackling human relationships at their most dysfunctional. She lives in California with her family.

Hall of Mirrors – guest post by Christopher Fowler

Today I’m delighted to welcome Christopher Fowler to the blog as part of the tour for his new Bryant & May book, Hall of Mirrors.

Without further ado, I shall turn the floor over to Mr Fowler…

ARTHUR BRYANT: ‘These hippies are selfish and irresponsible. I’ll tell you what made our nation the bastion of patrician morality it is today; the ability to be profoundly miserable. It’s one of our greatest strengths, to be ranked beside shutting the boozers at ten thirty and regarding the waterproof mackintosh as an acceptable item of clothing.’
– From ‘Hall Of Mirrors’

In case you haven’t encountered them before, the Bryant & May mysteries are a bit different. Readers often ask me what they’re most similar to, and I’m really hard pushed to think of anything they’re like.

You could say that Arthur Bryant and John May are Golden Age detectives who’ve been left behind in a modern urban world. They head the Peculiar Crimes Unit, London’s oldest specialist police team, a division founded during WWII to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest. (My father worked in something very similar.) They’ve been there forever but won’t leave – and why should they when they still solve the cases that defeat everyone else?

The technophobic, annoying Bryant and smooth-talking modernist May, together with their glamorous sergeant Janice Longbright, head a team of misfits who I suppose are just as likely to commit crimes as solve them. The books are written chronologically, but I’ve cunningly arranged it so that they can be read out of order (in fact, some volumes benefit from doing so).

The cases take on the different styles of the classic detective stories.
The latest one, ‘Hall of Mirrors’ is, incredibly, the 16th volume featuring my senior detectives. This one, according to Bryant’s deeply unreliable memoirs, is set back in swinging London, in a grand country house called Tavistock Hall. Back then the detectives were young and energetic (they’re always playing silly word games) and are ready to solve a proper country house murder.

The interesting thing about writing flashback cases is getting immersed in the period and writing about the recent past with a fresh eye. I had a lot of fun with the fashions! Although ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ is very mischievous, comedy still requires a moral viewpoint. Humour and tragedy go together very well in crime novels. However, I have to follow a set of rules, one of which is that the serious parts of my plot are taken seriously, while the comedy comes from character.

It helps that my detectives are facing mortality, as it lets me use graveyard humour. I’m very careful to respect victims and honour them over villains. I don’t like books in which women are always the victims, and even when I’m being funny there is a serious intent underpinning the laughter. The mysteries reflect the way we learn to deal with life, and you’ll always find a strong underpinning of reality in the books. There are often arcane details about hidden or secret London that I’ve discovered in old libraries. Many of the weirdest facts I use are absolutely true.

Having said that, I love writing Arthur Bryant most of all, because he’s so mischievous, and is usually described as looking like a disreputable teddy bear. He gets away with being rude to people because he’s everyone’s cheeky old grandfather, and knows that people will miss him when he’s gone.

You can find Christopher Fowler on Twitter- @Peculiar.

Hall of Mirrors was published in hardback by Doubleday on 22nd March 2018.

The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house at Tavistock Hall. But one
amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder…
The guests also include the young detectives Arthur Bryant and John May – undercover, in disguise
and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a
massive bribery trial. Luckily, they’ve got a decent chap on the inside who can help them – the one
armed Brigadier, Nigel ‘Fruity’ Metcalf.

The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. For the good times are, it seems, coming to an end. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate (complete with its own hippy encampment) to a secretive millionaire, but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case. It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems…
So gentle reader, you are cordially invited to a weekend in the country. Expect murder, madness and mayhem in the mansion!

Christopher Fowler is the author of more than forty novels (fifteen of which feature the detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit) and short story collections.
The recipient of many awards, including the coveted CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’, Chris has also written screenplays, video games, graphic novels, audio plays and two critically accalimed memoirs, Paperboy and Film Freak. His most recent book is The Book of Forgotten Authors, drawn from his ‘Invisible Ink’ columns in the Independent on Sunday. Chris divides his time between London’s King Cross and Barcelona.

Wrestling with character – guest post by James Stansfield

Today I’m delighted to welcome James Stansfield to my little blog. James is the author of Anaconda Vice, which is published by Manatee Books.

The main character in Anaconda Vice is Lucas Winter, a retired pro wrestler who finds himself stranded on a lonely highway late at night, out of gas, near the small town of Anaconda, where nothing it quite as it seems.

More on that later – first, over to James!

Wrestling with Character

My debut novel Anaconda Vice introduces the world to Lucas Winter, a man whom on first glance may make for an unlikely action hero. Lucas isn’t a cop, a former soldier or hard-boiled marine; he’s a wrestler. More specifically, he used to be a wrestler until an injury cut his career short.

So why did I choose to make my protagonist a wrestler?

The old adage is that you should write about what you know. I’m not a cop, former soldier or hard-boiled marine and whilst I’m not a wrestler either, I have been a big fan of pro-wrestling since I was fifteen. Over the last twenty-five years I’ve followed wrestling through it’s good times and bad, initially cheering for Bret The Hitman Hart and Shawn Michaels, through being a Triple H fan boy and now enjoying the thriving UK scene with the likes of #CCK and Will Ospreay. I’ve read countless interviews in magazines such as the now sadly defunct PowerSlam and several autobiographies. In short, it was a profession I felt knowledgeable enough about that I could write a character who came from that world.

Making Lucas a wrestler played very well into the kind of character I wanted to have in my lead and allowed me to make him suitably different to his peers. As a wrestler, Lucas could be in good shape and physically capable of handling himself in a confrontation but without having to make him an authority like a soldier or policeman. Wrestling is an incredibly physical form of theatre that takes years of training, but ultimately that’s what it is, a performance. Having Lucas come from what is essentially an entertainment background helped form the wise cracking element of his character. I like to think he’s a cross between John McClane, John Cena and Chandler Bing.

A few things happen to Lucas in Anaconda Vice that were informed by his former occupation. At one point he is challenged by the notion that wrestling is “fake”. This is something that is certainly familiar to wrestling fans and no doubt those who step into the ring too. It’s an all too common reaction when a person finds out you like wrestling for them to tell you it’s “fake”, like this is going to be some huge revelation to you. I’ve always found this a rather odd reaction as there’s no way these same people would go to the theatre and boldly proclaim to everyone there that the play on stage isn’t real, but with wrestling it seems fair game. Lucas’ defence mechanisms against this kind of attitude are already firmly in place by the time he reaches Anaconda. It these traits that on occasion don’t help him dig himself out of the holes he finds himself in.

My own view on wrestling is reflected in Lucas’ in the book. When wrestling is done right, it is a form of entertainment that is like nothing else and can lift an audience in the same amazing way as books and movies. I’ve been in wrestling crowds where people have been moved to tears by what’s going on in the ring. I’ve witnessed matches that were so exciting, most recently Wild Boar vs Will Ospreay at Attack Pro Wrestling in Cardiff last January, that I couldn’t sleep once I got home. WWE, the all conquering behemoth of the wrestling world, may be going through something of a creative low at the moment but there’s still a lot of great wrestling out there for fans to get emotionally invested in.

The coolest stuff in wrestling is undoubtedly going on in Britain and Japan right now. The UK has a massive wealth of talent competing in promotions such as Progress and the aforementioned Attack. The shows are getting bigger and WWE have begun raiding the talent pool for their own ends.

Wrestling is a world that is chocked full of different personalities, ideas and stories. It’s a place where people come to cheer the ones they like and boo the ones they don’t and be entertained by a physical spectacle of timing, stunts and storytelling. It’s the place that spawned Lucas Winter and hopefully some of the fun that can be found at the shows has translated into Anaconda Vice.

Thanks James!

Anaconda Vice by James Stansfield is published by Manatee Books. You can find James on twitter @jestansfield

When Lucas Winter, a retired professional wrestler, runs out of gas on a dark and desolate road, his only thoughts are on getting to the lights of the small town up ahead, getting some gas, and getting out of there…only things aren’t quite what they seem in the tiny town of Anaconda.

Before he has a chance to solve his transport problem, Lucas finds himself in trouble with the law after a local man picks a fight with him…and then ends up dead. Innocent, Lucas fights to clear his name, tangling with the local law enforcement and the family of the dead man, who seem set on taking their revenge. Can Lucas get out alive? And just what is it that the residents of Anaconda are hiding…

My route to getting published – guest post by Daniel Culver

Today I’d like to welcome Daniel Culver to my little corner of the internet. Daniel is the author of White Midnight, which is out in mid-March from Manatee Books.

Daniel is here to talk about how he got published. Over to you, Daniel!

My route to getting published

I was never a bookish kid – the only thing I read religiously when I was younger was Tintin. I was pretty much illiterate up until the age of fifteen. But for some reason, I was compelled to be a writer (my life if fraught with things I wanted to do on a whim, many of which I’m still paying for). I wrote my first storey at 15 on a rickety old typewriter – a thriller called The Dowder Pieces. I had no idea what I was doing and God knows what the title meant, but at the time I thought it was a masterpiece. It ended up as a stack of disorganized papers, which probably made no less sense than the story itself.

If you’ve ever seen The Simpsons, where Homer is doing or talking about something important and then he gets distracted because he sees a bird outside, or starts picturing a monkey playing cymbals, that is my writing journey.

I did a lot of travelling when I was younger (more whim-ing) and in 1999 I spent six months in Asia writing and researching my first full novel – something called The Lumbini Tree. (Again, no idea?)

I was convinced this was going to be the next The Beach. It wasn’t. After a year or so of sending it (by post) to every agent in the Writer’s and Artists’ Yearbook, every one of them passed. I shelved the book – the floppy disk the thing is saved on is now a coaster in my living room. I’m too scared to look at the words I wrote again.

I then decided if I couldn’t get published as a writer, I at least wanted to work in publishing somehow, so I did (blagged my way on to) a degree in Publishing and Writing – which was the first time I ever read any of my writing to an audience aloud. It didn’t suck and actually made the whole class laugh. Although I wouldn’t end up attempting another full novel for a number of years, it did leave me thinking I might at least have potential, albeit as a side-show clown. What I lacked was an idea and any motivation to write a full novel again.
By this time I had begun working in publishing as an editor, which strangely killed any desire I had to write again and I wouldn’t attempt another novel for at least half a decade.

Several years later I had moved on. I left publishing for a bit and was working in the art industry, where I finally got the urge to write again. Entitled Vespertine Prowling, my second full novel attempt was a satire of the artworld, about an artist who fakes his own death to get famous. I thought it was amazing. But again, after being rejected by every single agent I could find, I gave up. I figured this was it, the last time. My ideas were always a little too abstract; I have always been drawn to the indie, the cult of things, over the mainstream, so I was beginning to suspect I was just not publishable.

After more setbacks and another long break from writing anything, I began to get the itch again a few years later. It just kept coming back, like herpes. I saw an ad for The Curtis Brown writing a novel course, and had an idea kicking around, which wasn’t really a novel – more a scene – but I thought what the hell. I decided to give it one last (last) shot. I told myself that if I wasn’t published before I hit 40, then that was it. Kaput. So, I did the course, started writing the novel which would eventually become White Midnight (originally called Corrosive Lemonade) and I finished the course, rushed the rest of the book, and again started submitting. To my surprise, I actually started getting full requests. A least ten of them. This was it, I kept telling myself. Until it wasn’t. One by one, most of the agents came back with rejections; some never got back to me at all (which is a different rant altogether).

But despite the rejections, I did feel closer than I ever had, so I wasn’t done yet. In a strange turn of events, at the finish of the Curtis Brown course we were invited to a ‘meet the agents evening’, which was a massive let down. It was clear the agents had little interest in any of our novels. But one agent did mention how they had recently acquired novels from two Faber Academy students. So, instead of feeling discouraged, I went home and immediately applied to do the Faber Academy course, which was due to begin a few months later. In all honesty, I did it on a whim (again) and almost forgot about it. I didn’t have a new book idea, so just submitted a small extract from White Midnight. Then I forgot all about it.

A few weeks later I got an email. I had been accepted onto the course. A course I realised I couldn’t actually afford to do, but I had started writing an outline for a new story, finally, and even had a couple of scenes. I started the course anyway (sorry), not knowing how I would be able to afford the payments, but I really wanted to do it. Then my mum passed away about a month or two into the course; she left me about enough money to cover the remainder of the course fees (thanks mum). The course was really helpful and as well as writing a new novel, I used everything I had learned to revise my previous book and on another whim, I heard about Manatee Books, so decided to submit it to them.

They replied the next day saying they would like to see the full and that was that. After several rounds of edits the thing is ready to go out into the world (and just before I turn 40, hurrah), while I am currently writing a follow up book entitled The Vacation Killer, and a third novel, as well.

The moral of this story is, don’t give up, kids. And don’t spend all your university grant money going to Asia to research a book unless you’ve outlined it first!

Excellent advice! Thanks Daniel.

White Midnight by Daniel Culver is published by Manatee Books in March 2018. You can find him on twitter @DanielCulver11.

Elizabeth Nowicki, a British woman and self-confessed stoic, settles down in the seemingly idyllic American town of Midnight, with her new husband and his two children. Six months on, life as a step mom is harder than she thought, and the shine of the American Dream has already worn off.

Bored and lonely, Elizabeth is drawn into a nightmare when someone in a duck mask murders two local cops…and the investigation reaches her new neighbourhood. When this is followed by strange happenings across the street, leading to another death, Elizabeth starts to conduct her own investigation….but can she find the killer before the killer finds her?

On the Road to Riverdale – Guest post by Campbell Jefferys

Today I’m delighted to welcome Campbell Jefferys to the blog for a guest spot. Campbell is the author of Rowan and Eris, but more of that later. Without further ado, take it away, Campbell!

 

On the Road to Riverdale

Say the words “road trip” and each person will get a different mental picture. Having just read that sentence, I bet you are imagining specific road trips of your own.

The words transport me back to Australia in the 70s and 80s, to the countryside on the outskirts of Perth, where the car is stinking hot and air-conditioning is something they only have at cinemas. I’m wedged between two older siblings on the back seat and the radio has AM only.

I’m too small to see over the dashboard at the road ahead and I feel constantly queasy, yet I’m told motion sickness is something I will grow out of (not true). The kilometres tick over slowly. The roads are straight, the speed limit is 110 km/h and it feels like we’re crawling. Arriving seems like a distant fantasy.

On these early (TV-less) road trips, my father encouraged me to pack a few of his battered Biggles books, so I could enjoy daring escapades like Biggles Goes to the Loo. My mother suggested the Famous Five, so I could lose myself in the mystery of Five Go through Puberty. But what I read were Archie Comics. And while the characters never ventured far from their small town in the U.S.A., each time I cracked one of those comics, I went on a road trip to Riverdale, and it was a trip far more interesting than the one I was on.

Then, I was seven years old, wanting to be seventeen. I also wanted to see America, presented in the squares as colourful, interesting and changing. There was snow, there were love triangles, there was weird football played wearing padding and helmets. They had lockers at school. And there was humour. In the Archie Comics, America was a place that was exciting and fun, and I wanted to go there.

This is what great road trip literature does: it makes us want to go along for the ride. Sure, it’s a stretch to call comics literature, but bear with me. At the very least, I was “reading” when I was a kid, rather than trying to master Donkey Kong.

Road trip novels might even succeed in getting us to one day travel down those very roads, which is what happened to me. As a young adult, I ventured across America, looking for Riverdale. That is, I was trying to find the place that would fulfil my childhood fantasies of Riverdale. What came closest was Ashland, Oregon.

I eventually grew out of the Archie Comics (though I’m loving the sublime absurdity of the TV series Riverdale), but the books I was drawn to as a young adult remained stories involving the road. Not simply someone jumping into a car and driving from A to B, but someone embarking on a journey that changes them, or perhaps even defines them. From these books, I think it was the escapism I liked the most.   

A road trip, as participant or reader, starts off as an escape. It’s packing a bag in the middle of the night and then jumping in a buddy’s car at dawn before anyone can stop you. It’s busting out and breaking free. It’s windows down and the stereo up. It’s throwing stuff out the window. It’s pure freedom. Open roads and unknowns. It’s reckless and haphazard, maybe without a specific destination; just get me away from here, from this job, from this town, and give me back some hope.

That’s important: hope. It’s what comes after the escape, because that feeling can’t last forever. Hope says that down the road things might be better. I can reinvent myself at the town just around the next corner. I can wipe the slate clean and start again. Or I’ll keep going, keep moving, keep experiencing, keep myself open to the world and to whatever opportunities might come.

Because somewhere, up ahead, is Riverdale.

How to write a road trip novel

I could easily fill this space by lauding the road trip books I’ve enjoyed over the years (thank you, Maugham, for all those great stories), and by slamming the ones I didn’t like (Kerouac, I’m looking at you). But these are opinions, and let’s face it, the internet has enough of those.

Instead, I’m going to confess that it is very hard to write a road trip novel. The crux being: how do I make this person’s journey special and interesting enough that others will want to go on the journey with them?

My latest book, Rowan and Eris, is my attempt at a road trip novel. Whether I succeeded at writing a good one, well, I’m too close to it to judge. I did, however make some creative choices in the hope of making Rowan’s journey more interesting for the reader.

Yes, it starts with an escape, a mad dash to the airport to catch a flight to America. Rowan, an aspiring musician, is glad to leave Perth, to break the routine, to get a change of scene. But rather than blazing a well-worn trail, Rowan’s American road trip takes him to places like Little Rock, Arkansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Salt Lake City, Utah; Bozeman, Montana; and Dinosaur, Colorado.

His trip has an objective: to find Eris, who may or not be his daughter. But the journey matters just as much as the destination, if not more so. Because it’s on the road that Rowan grows as a musician. Inspired by his adventures, he writes and records his first album.

When writing the book, I knew that Rowan’s songs had to be produced, somehow. Because what’s a road trip without a soundtrack? Melbourne musician and fellow Hamburg resident Joel Havea took on the challenging job of bringing Rowan’s music to life. The resulting seven-track CD One Hand Clapping is absolutely brilliant. It’s more than a soundtrack; it’s an extension of the book. Readers have said it’s wonderful to listen to the songs, before, during and after reading the book.

And maybe one of those readers will tuck the book and CD into a pocket of their backpack, and set off in search of the places that inspired Rowan. Maybe, like Rowan, they’ll end up at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, wondering what on earth they are doing there, or dodging Highway Patrol on the back roads of Idaho and Wyoming in a car full of dope, or hitching a ride in the back of a pick-up with a dead deer. And in doing so, they’ll have a memorable road trip of their own.

I hope so.  

Rowan and Eris by Campbell Jefferys is published by Rippple Books and is out now.

It’s a simple story, a journey, a search, a pursuit. There is a man from Perth, an American woman, their daughter. The woman is intent on creating chaos wherever she goes, through urban art, and her work extends to creating chaos in her own life by having a daughter. The man is intent on finding his daughter and in doing so finds himself and the songs inside him. It’s a road trip novel, starting in Perth, Australia, and traversing America, Canada and Europe. It is also a meditation on art, creativity, success, growing up and taking responsibility.

About Campbell Jefferys 
Originally from Western Australia, Campbell Jefferys backpacked around the world working for prestigious travel publishers and as a journalist. He now lives in Germany where he runs a media company working in film, music, TV and books. His journalist has appeared in the likes of the Sunday Telegraph, the Globe and MailDecanter and Adventure. He has won four independent publishing awards. A keen athlete, Jefferys represented Australia in triathlon at the World Age Group Championships in London in 2013 and is a dedicated cricket tragic.

Joel Havea is a singer songwriter who cut his musical teeth playing live from a young age on Melbourne’s eclectic music scene.  He developed his own brand of reggae and soul-infused  accoustic songwriting with pop sensibilities, influenced by his mixed Tongan and Dutch heritage. He is now based with Hamburg and touring with his album, Setting Sail.

Beate Kuhlwein is a Hamburg artist who studdied at the Armgardstraße in Hamburg