It’s an old piece of writing advice to write what you know. And luckily most writers have never taken it literally. I’m more of the “write what you feel like, and research what you don’t know” school. Otherwise all my books would be about someone who sits in front of their computer most days, often not wearing any pants. And there’s just not a lot of drama to be had there, honestly, except for when a parcel delivery arrives and I have to get to my bedroom to get pants on before they look in the front window.
Last year at GRL, the fantastic Amelia from Riptide (and I’m not just calling her that because I got drunk and she let me bum a cigarette) asked me to write a series of books set in Australia, about first responders. Cops, paramedics and firefighters, basically. Or, as I prefer to call them: coppers, ambos, and hot firies.
And what’s ridiculous about this idea is the fact that it had never even occurred to me, even though I cannot stress enough to entire lack of research I would need to do, since I work with a bunch of coppers in a police station in Australia, and also have friends who are ambos and hot firies. Well, regular firies. Point is, why had I never before thought to write what I know?
The first draft of what is tentatively titled Two Man Station is now with the good people at Riptide, where I am sure they are making faces at the sheer amount of typos in it. Seriously. I read through that thing a gazillion times, but these were the sneaky sort of typos that only show themselves after a thing is emailed. It was an interesting process writing Two Man Station, because I didn’t want to weigh it down with extraneous detail like taking two pages to explain the basic conditions of a Domestic Violence Order, what QLiTE does, or the rank structure of the Queensland Police Service. There’s always a temptation when you know something to throw it on in there, just to prove you really do know it, even when it’s not necessary for the story.
There was also the added bonus in writing this story that I’m afraid my colleagues will take me aside and ask, “Is this character based on me?” I’m just going to tell them all yes, and let them fight it out amongst themselves.
So with Two Man Station I think there is definitely an authenticity there that I’m quite proud of, and it’s definitely very Australian. It’s so Australian in parts that I think it might need a glossary for some words. And yes, Vegemite is mentioned more than once.
Two Man Station is probably also my first book where a child character is quite integral to the plot — unless you count Dark Space and Darker Space, although I think Lucy was much more in the periphery than Taylor is. I’ve never written a main character as a dad before, and it was very new to me. As a reader, child characters are very much hit or miss for me, so I hope I’ve got the right balance with Taylor.
Here’s a brief excerpt with one of my MCs, Jason, and his son Taylor. I’m hoping it makes the final cut in edits:
Taylor’s face scrunched up in concentration as he lined the tomatoes up on the chopping board and reached for the big knife. Jason watched closely. There was always a part of him that worried Taylor was still too little for this, too clumsy and uncoordinated, and it would all end in tears and bloodshed, but he was ten. Jason had been handling knives when he was ten. A part of him knew Taylor was easily old enough to do this, since he’d done it. Another part of him wondered the hell his parents had been thinking.
“Watch your fingers,” Jason reminded him.
Taylor nodded seriously, and began to slice the tomatoes. “Hey, Dad, you know on TV when the chefs just go chop-chop-chop like Fruit Ninja?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Jason cautioned, and Taylor grinned at him. “Pay attention, mate.”
“Can I do the onions too?”
“If you don’t cut your fingers off doing the tomatoes.”
Taylor snorted, but squinted with concentration as he worked. Jason watched him, warmth creeping through him. This kid. This exasperating kid. God. Alana wouldn’t believe how tall he was now. What a little smartarse he’d grown into. Okay, well maybe she would have believed that. Taylor had been talking back since before he could make proper words.
The blade of the knife slid through the last of the tomatoes and landed with a dull thock on the chopping board. Taylor looked around for Jason.
“Go on then,” Jason said, and Taylor whooped and scurried to get an onion from the fridge.
I don’t have a release date yet for Two Man Station, but I’ll be sharing it as soon as I do. In the meantime, I’ll get stuck into writing more Aussie emergency services personnel. I think the next one off the starting blocks will be an ambo with attitude, a copper who is doing his best not to like him, and a town ravaged by flooding from a cyclone.
And a Happy Easter and/or a Happy Passover to those who celebrate!