Okay, the title is a bit of a misnomer, but who could resist putting those two words together? I'll get the procrastination part out of the way first (a statement that may well be an oxymoron). Those of you who related to the post I did about all the stuffing around that went on before I could finish a short story might enjoy this handy video. It explains why we procrastinate. Watch it some time, when you should be doing something else.
And while we're on the subject, if you're wanting to enter the GIVEAWAY, and you're PROCRASTINATING, it's possibly time to start work on your note for real. There's only a couple of days left.
All right! On to the swashbuckling. This is a run-on, or part III, if you like, of where I get ideas from, and the degree to which I write about what I know. This time, Saltwater Vampires gets the treatment. Unlike Raw Blue or Night Beach, Saltwater Vampires was very much born from one initial lightbulb moment. It happened in 2005, on a full moon night, when I had stayed out in the surf after dark (which people sometimes do where I live because the waves are less crowded then), and it occurred to me that if I was a vampire I could surf all night, every night.
There were some things I knew before I even started writing. I knew my vampires were going to be old school, meaning violent and horrible and murderous, and if I was taking inspiration from anything, it was The Lost Boys (that movie from the eighties with the two Coreys and Kiefer Sutherland looking particularly pale and puffy). I knew I wanted to set the story in a fictionalised version of Crescent Head - a small coastal town in NSW; I've been there on surf trips a lot. I fictionalised it so I could change stuff like national parks and rivers around to suit myself, and so I could give the place a music festival.
As for my main character, fifteen-year-old Jamie Mackie, well, he became a lot more interesting to me when I had the idea of including a near death experience in his back story. Especially in the context of a story about vampires, who are, of course, immortal.
But the vampires themselves were proving elusive, which was confusing because I'd always been fascinated by vampires. I think my problem was that I somehow needed to make these vampires MY vampires. And that's when I decided to bring something else that had always fascinated me into the mix. The real life shipwreck of the Batavia in 1629.
To give you a quick summary of the Batavia's story - after the wreck, a couple of hundred survivors were left stranded on the Abrolhos Islands, just off the West Australian coastline. What happened next was chilling. A small group of men proceeded to murder around 110 of their fellow survivors. (That summary doesn't do the full story justice at all, by the way, so if you want to know more, you can check out some of the resources I've listed on my website here.)
And with that, I had my vampires. I based them on some of the real life participants in the murder spree. After I'd made that decision, I read everything I could get my hands on to research those characters, and the events that had occurred. And even though this provided me with fantastic details that I thought could help make the story authentic, every time I tried to write a scene, I got stuck. I felt daunted. Separate to the material.
In the end, one thing got me writing. It was an account about how the survivors had nearly died of thirst in the first two days following the shipwreck (after that it rained, saving them for the time being). And when I read it, I thought, I know what thirst is like. Growing up, some friends and I got lost once down the back of our cattle property. And we got VERY thirsty.
It was such a small thing, but it gave me a doorway into the story. I started with a scene that was all about the thirst those survivors were experiencing on the second night after the wreck. It didn't make the final cut, but that didn't matter, because it had served its purpose anyway. It got me in there.
An aside: for some reason, during the first round of edits on the book, I decided to revisit the Batavia part of the story, and I ended up getting completely carried away. I think I wrote another 16,000 words or something. We ended up keeping maybe 4,000 of them. There was one part in particular that my editor and I found very hard to cut, mainly because it had lots of those little details about life onboard that I'd found in the research! But unfortunately, that's not reason enough to keep things. (You can check it out here).
Okay, that's enough writing from me. I'd best get back to procrastinating.