I thought I’d try something a little different than what I usually do, and release some small fun facts about my debut novel ‘Port Arthur’… I thought the following 5 facts are quite interesting things to know!
1. “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”
A few of my characters were originally named differently – however, in final manuscript submitted to the editor, I had to change their names because the names I had were the same names of people who used to live back in the 1800’s – the Commandant of Port Arthur, Commandant Charles O’Hara Booth, as well as the Superintendent, were all named as so, but because of the nature of their characters, to avoid offending anyone related to them, I thought it was best to change their names. Peter Wilkins was originally named Walter Paisley, the person who Peter Wilkins’ character is based on, and I was going to keep it because he had no descendants, however, Paisley sounded much like ‘Maistry’, and some thought it would be best to change to avoid giving readers the impression that I was related to the convict. Because of name changes, other names had to be changed in return, and soon I had been in a swamp of changing names. My characters became quite estranged to me as their creator, and it took me a while to go back and read it because I didn’t feel I’d enjoy it as much as I originally did.
I actually changed Tara’s name in one of the edits to make it sound more ‘1800s Georgian/Victorian Era’, but because I was so used to her, I had to change it back!
2. Based on a true story…
So we all know Peter Wilkins was based on Walter Paisley, but two other characters were based on real people too – friends of mine, actually.
The loud Charles Brynes was based on a mixture of personalities from two of my high school friends, one of whose parents were Irish, he himself able to do a mean Irish accent, and he loved to drink, really blowing up the Irish stereotype. The other friend is loud and possesses a strong personality similar to Charles, and is well known for his unbridled tongue when it comes to talking about, well, anything in general. He would rather speak first and think about what he said later, but we couldn’t help laughing at some of the things he’d say. I still keep in touch with both of them; one is now a motorbike racer… And he promised me that if he became famous, he’d mention my name as long as I did the same in my novel, so now it’s his turn to keep to his promise!
The gentle Matthew Purcell was also based on another high school friend who I’m still in touch with as well. He was known in our group to be the quietest, though when he said something, it was always funny or witty and said in the right moment. He’s quite a friendly guy, though he’s still quiet, and it took a while for him to warm up to us all, but the wait was worth it!
3. Rewrite rewrite rewrite…
Out of every draft I’ve written (a total of six), four of them had different story lines because my research kept revealing that my story lines were historically impossible. But I’m happy about it, I must say, because I think the storyline as it is, is much better than what I originally had – such as Tara being in a female prison at Port Arthur, stealing a key off a guard and breaking herself out to find her father in the male prison nearby!
4. Film Cast?
I think I’m the same as any author to dream of my novel being made into a movie. As an author, it’s amazing to imagine being invited to sit in on script writing sessions, filming and editing sessions and even actor auditions. Despite this, I personally found that my descriptions of my characters most likely would resemble people I knew or I’ve seen before, and in saying that, I personally have a few actors and actresses in my head who physically resemble my characters in the novel:
• Peter Wilkins: Freddie Highmore
• Jeremiah: Edi Gathegi
• Mathias Harford: Idris Elba
• Matthew Purcell: Nicholas Hoult
• Elyse: Vanessa Ferlito
• Commandant Robert Hughes: William Fitchtner
The actors I assigned to Elyse and Commandant Robert Hughes automatically jumped into my head without me having to actively go out to search for people who looked like my characters. I was amazed at how the human mind works; that we can only create things out of that which we’ve already been exposed to – sort of like that whole thing about how all the faces you’ve seen in dreams are actually faces you’ve seen in real life.
5. “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”
In this case, the opposite is more accurate. The background image of the book cover art is actually a real convict record. Sadly, the name at the top was cut off during printing, but the record belonged to a Mr Walter Paisley. It’s quite high definition, though, so if you ever get a hard copy, you can try to read the cursive script – it’s actually quite legible, and you’ll find that the story of Peter Wilkins is based on Walter’s records – his misdemeanors and his punishments are all written; and yes, there’s even another page!