I cannot explain why I love writing, though at times I get bored with the process. I was never any good at English at school and could not spell at all. I often failed the subject more than past it. However, I did love composition times,
where I could let my imagination run wild. That was one thing I did have to my advantage, I suppose.
Growing up in the small community of Hay, NSW back in the sixties, television was new. We only had two channels. It was only on for about
six hours per day. There were no video games, no computers. We made our fun out side playing. From these games, we created our own games. At the time, my father’s parents lived with us. Pa would always come over about six p.m.to watch Bonanza or High
Chaparral. I would watch them with him, growing up on these western shows. I seemed to have fallen into the western genre, thanks Pa Bennett.
When we moved from the river area of Hay to the main business area when mum and dad brought
a business in town, Saturday mornings were spent going to the local movie theater. I loved the westerns that they showed. It seemed every week was a western. I later learnt that Peter, the gentleman who ran the local movie theater also loved western movies.
That is possibly why we had so many westerns.
During my early years of school, history was a subject that I was not interested in. How things change when you get older. I prefer to play around than listen.
in 1973 that the school ran a writing competition for a magazine they were printing with a student from each class having their story published. It was easter. I allowed my imagination flow and wrote about the Easter Bunny. I was published from 4B.
As a young child, I always created fictional characters and created my own stories. Like most boys of my age, I collected toy soldiers and played war games. Many of these soldiers I still have to this day. I created war games and began writing stories
about them in battle.
Another fascinating aspect of my early life, I did not like science fiction movies or television shows. What turned me off was the horror movie-‘MISSION TO MARS’, which I had night mares on for over a
year. It was early 1979, that a friend of mine, Mark, persuaded me to go to the movies where there was a science fiction flick been shown. At this time, I was not interested in Star Wars even. The movie, the theater release of ‘Battlestar Galactica’
was been shown. I agreed to go. Within minutes, I somehow had turned my hate for science fiction to the love of it. Possibly the fact that the first character I recognized was Lorne Greene-Ben Cartwright of Bonanza. The movie was like a western in space. The
Humans-the cowboys. The Cylons, the Indians. The next day, I began to write my own short story collection of science fiction stories titled-‘The Adventures of Slim Ben”. Slim Ben being me.
I fell in love with the television
show Battlestar Galactica, watching every episode and writing out a TV plot to have it as a reminder. Video recorders were not in at the time. Between writing these plots and my series of Slim Ben which I wrote over a hundred stories on, I was busy.
When my parents learnt I was writing stories with pen and paper, formy 18th birthday, they brought e a new typewriter which somehow proved more than a menace than good as I would begin writing at 4 am. Click, click, click would echo the house.
So it was back to the pen and paper.
At the same time at school, I had two great teachers who taught me history. I realized the Australian history was similar to that of America, although we were lucky we never had a blood civil war sweep
the nation. On leaving school, I continued to write my short stories till eventually I got tired of it in the early1990’s and decided to take a break. It was about this tie that I got myself involved in the revival attempt of Battlestar Galactica with
one of the stars, Rich Hatch, who was attempting to bring it back to the screen. He was making a four and a half minute trailer-The Second Coming. I agreed to help. I began writing a glossary on the language of Battlestar Galactica which was to be only a few
pages long. Twenty years later and ten thousand pages long, I still have not finished it. I am only a third of the way through it.
Somehow however my love of American western stories and the civil war kept dragging me back. In the early
nineties, the mini-series ‘North and South’ premiered. I watched the three mini-series, then purchased the books and read them, spending all my free time. I read the Kent Family chronicles. At the same time, Australia’s involvement in the
20th century world affairs were filmed in such mini-series as ‘ANZACS’ and ‘The Corwra Breakout” along with the movies ‘Gallipoli’ and “The Light Horsemen’ were released along with the ‘Man From Snowy River.’
American film makers too were returning to their past with movies such as ‘Glory’ and ‘Gettysburg’ being released. Many western television shows also appeared along with up dated versions of classics such as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Lonesome
Dove to name a few.
Just after I moved down to Tasmania in 2011, I was watching a documentary on the history channel regarding President Abraham Lincoln’s journey from Washington to Gettysburg to present his famous ‘Gettysburg
Address’. The documentary told of plot by Confederate sympathizers such as John Wilkes Booth, yes the same John Wilkes Booth who assassinated the President in 1865, planned to kidnap the President on route to Gettysburg. Like so often when watching something
that brought up an historical reference, I would gather the volume of the encyclopedia set my parents brought me years before and read the story. By now however we had the internet, so I looked it up and yes it was true. John Wilke Booth had planned to kidnap
President Lincoln. At the same time on television, the classic channel was running a series of Erol Flynn movies including ‘They died with their boots on’ ‘The charge of the light brigade’ ‘Robin Hood’ and a lot more. Earlier
that day I had watched They died with their boots on. I had always been fascinated by George Armstrong Custer due to the movies but did not know his true self. I read up on Custer and learnt how actually he was glory hunter.
good writers, I picked my topic and began researching the Civil War and those who participated in the conflict. I also learnt that the Native American, who were always portrayed as the baddies were actually the true victims of the American west, like the Australian
Aboriginal. I also learnt that even though the Civil War was fought over slavery, many who fought for the Confederacy, fought as the Australians had in both World Wars- for their country. I began to look at the whole concept.
I tossed the idea of writing a book on the plot to intercept President Lincoln’s Train, but there was so much out there on the internet. At this time, there seemed to be a lot of movies being released about Lincoln, fact and fiction. So I decided to
have a new crack at writing-fiction again. A second battle of Gettysburg-no. Where? At the tie I was having trouble trying to keep custody of my dog, Jettena, from the family I moved down to Tasmania to live with. Getting Jetty back was the best thing that
Christmas, so I named the fictional town as ‘Jettena Junction.’ But how do I start. I was told to get an Arts Council Grant. The local member, Rebecca White and her staff helped me with this. I spoke with the team at the Arts Council. Everything
was set incept for the important piece, the manuscript. It took me twelve months to research my material and a further two years to put the first lot together.
Should I use all true characters or use a mixture of fictional characters
with true characters. When applying for the grant, I was asked had I had anything previously published. I said now, but as we spoke, it became clear I had. I wrote for the local paper in Hay, the Riverine Grazier over a number of years. I telephoned my friend
Peter ‘Parra’ Montgomery, the owner of the paper who gave me a lovely reference in which he stated how much on long football trips, they would read my short stories, picking out their own names as I used my friends as characters. My hindrance with
characters was solved.
500 plus pages later, book one of ‘THE BATTLE OF JETTENA JUNCTION’ titled ‘Destination: Jettena Junction’ was sent to the publishers. But that was the beginning of my worries. As an Australian,
educated in Australia, I was taught to spell words such as ’colour’ with the letter ‘U’ in it along with any other words. The Publishers, an American based firm, wanted in American without the ‘U’. I also wrote out the dates
in words which had to be changed to digits.
At the same time, I was luck I met Ben Lewis who read over the manuscript, correcting the errors as my proof reader. Thanks Ben. So as I write this article today on the eve of having the first
book released. Will it be a two part series or three parts-who knows?