I haven’t been captivated by a book for a long time, but as soon as I picked up Wildflower Hill, by Kimberley Freeman, I was completely lost amongst its pages.
Kimberley Freeman, is actually, Kim Wilkins, who writes fantasy/speculative fiction. These books, as well as her lecturing, are legendary in the writing world. She has degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing. Her book The Infernal won the 1997 Aurealis Awards for Best Horror Novel and Best Fantasy Novel. In 2000 The Resurrectionists won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel, while Angel of Ruin won this award in 2001. She’s actively involved in the Queensland Writers Centre/Hachette Manuscript Development Program and her talents as a writer, span most genres including children and Young Adult Fiction (read more about her books here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Wilkins).
Kim has started to move her writing talents out of the speculative fiction genre and focusing on commercial women s fiction – hence Wildflower Hill. She published DUET in 2007 and GOLD DUST in 2008.
Here she talks about writing Wildflower Hill:
Writing Wildflower Hill was a huge challenge for me, because part of it is set in the 1930s in Tasmania, which isn’t a place and time a great deal is written about. In many ways, it would have been much easier to set a book during the Regency period in England, because we’re all so familiar with what it looks like, what people wore, and so on. But I wasn’t even sure if the places I was writing about had electricity and gas. I wrote the whole story assuming they did not, but then a chance sighting of a 1930s photograph in a Hamilton pub had me rewriting the whole thing (there were visible power lines). In fact, the whole book was researched backwards for reasons beyond my control.
I’d been to Tasmania a few times, and had planned a long trip to the area the book is set in for easter of 2009. This was timed so I would be researching that part of the story directly before writing it; but then two days before we were due to leave (I was taking the whole family) my then 2-year-old daughter came down with a violent gastro bug. It was round the clock vomiting and diarrhoea for the poor thing, and it became apparent we couldn’t travel. She ended up being seriously ill for nearly a week, but when she was well again and I could turn my mind once more to the book, I realised I had done NO research and my deadline wasn’t going anywhere. We couldn’t rebook until July. The book was due in August.
So I wrote anyway. I put square brackets in every time I hit a place where I’d need a detail, and I just kept going, writing furiously, to get a first draft completed before the trip. A blog entry from about two weeks after the aborted trip reads: “Some of the writing is horrendous, I must confess, but just yesterday as I was telling my mum about the story, I got a real sense of what the book is all about… Put simply, it’s a story about a girl who thought her grandmother was a nice old lady, and discovers–when she inherits her grandmother’s old house in Tasmania–that Gran was a lot more complex than originally thought.” The story gathered momentum, and I finished the first draft in a white heat: “Some people compare writing a novel to giving birth. I usually roll my eyes when this happens, especially when men say it, because unless you’re squeezing a hardcover out your left nostril the comparison is flawed. But this close to the end of the process, there is the same kind of awful momentum, the same irresistible compulsion to get something outside yourself that has been growing within for a long time. I have lost the world; there is only the story. My family talk to me and all I hear is ‘bwah bwah bwah’ like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons. My brain is finding the ends of threads and pulling them together, tying them, untying them, retying them different ways. I shouldn’t be allowed to drive.”
Then I printed it out and took it to Tassie with me. We stayed on a working sheep farm in the midlands, and it was the middle of winter so utterly freezing. But beautiful and still and quiet. I duly wrote down bird and tree names, wove in descriptions of frost or the way the clouds made shadows on the rolling hills, and secured a key detail (about eucalypts!) that made a special thread of the book sing. I can’t imagine having written the book any other way now. I can procrastinate a lot in research, so doing it backwards worked beautifully (on this occasion anyway).