The ebook launch of The Never Never Land, CSFG’s speculative anthology of
Australian myths, yarns and campfire stories, is coming on 1 July 2016.
We interviewed some of the authors to hear what inspired
their unique version of the sunburnt country.
‘Looking for Ben’ by M. James Richards is a steampunk recounting of the hunt for the notorious bushranger Ben Hall.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an instructional designer/graphic artist/developer working mostly in the eLearning field. I also have a background in film and video, specialising in editing and directing. I also do a bit of acting on the side and I have produced and co-produced a number of short films
Writing prose is relatively new for me. I have been writing scripts since I was a teenager and I have been writing training material for years, but ‘Looking for Ben’, as prose, was something new for me and also my first published story.
What was the inspiration behind your Never Never Land story?
I had been mulling over several ideas. I wanted to write something in the steampunk vein. I also have an idea for a modern day take on Capt. Thunderbolt, the bushranger, and I wanted to write an Australian time travel story involving historic figures. The final story contains elements from all of those ideas.
Are all of the characters in ‘Looking for Ben’ based on real people?
No, Angus and his wife aren’t. But everyone else is.
Mad Dog Morgan was sadly very real and a complete terror. If he had been born 150 years later he would have been diagnosed as suffering a range of psychiatric problems. In real life he was a cruel, murderous thug, and a pyromaniac.
John Donohoe was the real name of Jack Doohan. His name in the song was changed when the government banned the original version of the song. In real life he died at a young age well before the time period of this story.
Sir Fredrick Pottinger was really a police officer that had attempted to catch Ben Hall. The attempt failed, he lost his job and earned the nick name ‘Blind Freddy’. In real life, he died shortly after failing to catch Ben, on his way to defend his reputation in Sydney. His pistol went off as he stepped into a carriage fatally wounding him.
Edmond ‘Toby’ Barton is most famous for being Australia’s first prime minister. While he would have been a teenager in the 1860s he probably didn’t run away to be a bush ranger.
Was there anything you found hard about writing this story?
The opening was the hardest. I think the version that appears in print is the third complete rewrite of that scene.
The other hard bit was to get up the enthusiasm for yet another rewrite. The first draft came, as ideas sometimes do, almost wholly complete and was written in one sitting in a tiny notebook because I was at my in-law’s house and that was all I could find at 4 am. What at first felt like a breezy experience quickly degenerated into something that felt like actual work – how dare it.
Why did you decide to submit to the TNNL anthology?
The story which was originally drafted in 2011 was just sitting on my hard drive. I had been distracted by work etc. When the anthology was announced this story seemed to tick all the boxes, so I decided to submit it.
What did you learn about the writing/publication/editing process from your experience in being involved in The Never Never Land?
The most valuable thing for me was working with an experienced and talented editor. A really good editor is like a coach, and Ian was fantastic. He was able to get more out of me than I thought I had.
What was your favourite other story in TNNL?
‘Against the Current’ by Dan Baker
What are you working on now?
A ‘maybe’ time travel vengeance/redemption short story. The title keeps changing but the tag line is “I’m a mass murderer, Doc, but I only ever killed one man”.
I also have a non-steampunk Victorian era horror/fantasy story. Originally it was a short film, then a short story and now I am leaning towards a feature film format.
Where do you want to take your writing? What are your writing goals?
While I have been ‘writing’ professionally for several years, it is writing a specific form of non-fiction – training material to be delivered via eLearning. I would eventually like to be writing fiction professionally.
Where can we find you?
Somewhere in Canberra, Sydney or Bega! If you want to contact me however, I am a member of the CFSG and can be reached through the group.