I research my novels I take my journal, a hand-held tape recorder and
a camera. Research takes me to footy fields, Vietnam, islands in the Pacific
Ocean, rivers and even the odd restaurant. Here are some of the photos
that I have used to get places and people just right. I also often write
with them stuck on the wall next to my writing desk.
I asked, ‘Lang Bao?’ pointing at the two forks. She
replied by directing me to the left, which ran downhill into a small
valley. I set off, the sugar giving my legs new strength. The path
was overgrown with vines, roots
and spiked branches. On the floor of the valley below, a woman in
a conical hat methodically hoed a field of volcanic brown earth.
She felt my eyes on her, raised her head and waved.
short distance behind her, I saw the village. (p.171-2)
passed under a roof of gnarled, carbonous rock, cool drops of water
plinking in the dark, and re-emerged into a quiet lagoon surrounded
by soaring cliffs and waterfalls that echoed in steaming gullies.
bay was guarded by two rocks, between which a narrow channel of water
led us into a village of sky-blue plywood dwellings with orange tiled
roofs and Vietnamese flags flying aloft. Makeshift work boats buzzed
here and there. Several fishing boats were tied to one of the larger
houses where a group of kids leapt into the water. (p.95-6)
the right and as far as the eye could see, thousands of rocky islands
floated on a metallic sea where grey clouds hung low. The mere sight
of the islets drummed up postcard images of Chinese junks, pirates
and magic dragons. (p.86)
was easy to see why Joe had come up here. Off to the left, gravelly
streams ran from the mountains and winding dirt tracks led to dark
and mysterious places.
Joe could’ve chosen any one of these
roads, I thought. (p.156)
. . at the entrance sat the ancient head monk (‘the Most Venerable’)
in yellow robes and hooded cape who, according to one of the novices,
was ninety-eight years old. I found myself staring at his hollow-cheeked
face and dark eyes shadowed by bushy white eyebrows. What times he
must have seen. What things he must have reflected on. What peace
he must’ve found . . . (p.170)
. . and a swarm of boats laden with bananas, coconuts, melons and
oranges coming at us from all sides. A small girl in a pink parka,
her cheeks flushed by the wind, offered up some green leafy vegetables.
With little or no haggling, Monique bought the vegies and some small
bananas as we weighed anchor and slipped away from the wharf. (p.91-2)
I found number 34 next to a bakery. It was a narrow three-storey place
painted pale yellow, with a tangle of greenery spilling down from
the second-floor balcony. (p.71)