The first idea for my book Found, Near Water came from reading about the Wests in the UK. When the police dug up their back yard trying to find the body of Rose West’s oldest daughter – which in family rumours was buried in the backyard – they started to unearth bones. There was a point, when they uncovered three thigh bones, that the realisation dawned not only was the daughter’s body in the backyard, but other women as well.
I also wanted to have a moment like that – to have someone searching for something specific, not even sure that they’d find it – and then to discover not only what they were searching for but to have that ‘three thigh-bones’ moment when the fact hits them that they’ve discovered more than they went searching for.
The second idea was to do with the woman who later became Christine. It was from the Boxing Day tsunami footage where so many people had died all at the same time. I watched a colleague from work – on an anniversary, not at the time – and they were talking about the clean-ups in the villages, the bodies and how they were handled.
It sparked an idea about how I could take something that usually caused so much grief – the loss of a child – but embed it in a tragedy that was so large that the individual grief wasn’t recognised. When there’s a quarter of a million people dying the fact that your daughter was one of them doesn’t earn you the same recognition as when they’re the only one dying that day.
That sounds really awful when I type it out, but that was the genesis of Christine. Someone coping with an overwhelming individual grief lost and meaningless in the scope of an over-arching tragedy.
My next idea was around the protagonist of the story – Rena – and the abduction of her daughter. I was watching a few minutes out of a soap on television before the news came on – I’d guess that it was Home and Away just because of the timing but I wouldn’t put much money on it - and the scene ended with a woman sitting upright in bed asking ‘Where’s my daughter?’
I don’t know what the storyline for her was, but I instantly filled in the starting characteristics of Rena’s story. There was the attraction of something bad happening – something that would usually be widely advertised and appealed – and instead, nothing.
The crime scene that would usually be scoured for clues hadn’t even been cordoned off, the witness identification and records that would help the initial parts of the investigation hadn’t been sought out let alone recorded. And then I wondered how far I could push it out. What would happen if she told people, and they didn’t even believe her? How would you start an investigation when every starting point was already wiped clean?
So that’s where I got the main three ideas that formed the base of the storyline and characters from Found, Near Water. A devastating tragedy that occurred a decade ago; a half-watched glimpse from a soap opera on television maybe eight years ago; and a paragraph description from a book on true crime that I read six years ago. All stuck in the back of my head turning over and over until they started to coalesce into one storyline.
Makes you wonder what’s brewing back there now!