I was mulling over various ideas for the book when I saw an article on the "stolen generation," where during the 1950's over a hundred thousand Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their families and adopted by whites. Most of these children were mixed-race, and although some of these children have been reunited with their families, some still have not. Several things struck me about this. There was the sceptre of genocide, to "breed" the Aborigines white. There was the struggle of the "stolen" child being brought up in an alien world, only able to trace their blood relatives when they were adult. And what of the parents of these stolen children? The grandparents, the cousins, Aunts and Uncles? What would happen if a whole Aboriginal family went missing today? Would anyone contact the Missing Person Helpline? Who would take up their cause if it wasn't a relative? The police? The authorities?.
The more I delved, the more possibilities appeared.
I'd wanted a setting that would excite me and keep my interest, hopefully a reader's interest too, and the harshness of the Australian outback seemed to fit the bill nicely. I'd stayed on a sheep station in the outback ten years previously and quickly dug out my photographs to remind me of the dry heat, the interminable flies, sand clogging the back of my throat, coating my lungs . . . yes, I remembered.
I was also interested in how a character reacts when they're in a strange place and caught in events beyond their control, being accused of something they didn't do and nobody listening, nobody wanting to listen. (I can give myself goosebumps all over simply by picturing myself alone at the Malaysian-Thai border when the guards find a kilo of heroin in my backpack.)
So I put my heroine, India Kane, in a perilous position. On holiday one minute and accused of murder the next. Accused of her best friend's murder, in a dusty outback town she's never seen before, India is faced with not only proving her innocence, but seeing justice done.
Blood Junction is a thriller, and writing thrillers, I've discovered, is right up my street. Not just because of my love of adventure (I am addicted to long-distance car rallies ever since I completed the London to Saigon Challenge in 1992), but probably because I've been scared witless a few times and know how it feels.
Isn't that what us new writers are always being told? Write about what you know? I am thinking of a Cape Buffalo I met in the African bush. How he rose out of nowhere, and made to charge. How hard I ran for a tree, a skinny little tree in the distance, hearing the crashing and snorting of that massive bull right behind me . . .
In Blood Junction, India Kane runs like stink too.
Crocs are incredible creatures. They have the art of camouflage down to a fine art, are intelligent, and make great parents. Considering they've existed in a virtually unchanged form for 65 million years, they obviously got something right. Unfortunately, they also attack and eat humans, which doesn't go down too well with many of us.
When I first visited the Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory, I was warned against sunbathing or swimming in the same place twice.
"The first time," a ranger told me, "you'll be wide awake and looking out for them. You won't see them, but they'll have seen you. Next day you go, you relax a little more. Day three, when you're soaking up that sun and thinking you're all alone, that's when they'll come for you."
Since a 24-year old German tourist had been snatched and killed by a large saltwater crocodile in the same area recently, I decided against risking the local waterholes and stuck to the swimming pool instead.
The next time I was deep in the rainforest of Far Northern Queensland in a small tin boat, cruising a river the colour of caramel. My guide pointed at a tangle of mangrove roots a couple of metres away and said, "Bull croc."
I couldn't see anything that resembled a crocodile until he blinked, and then a massive armour-plated form sprang into view. For a second I thought it was two crocodiles he was so big. Around twelve foot long, if he'd gone for our boat we wouldn't have stood a chance. The saltie is territorial, highly opportunistic and wouldn't hesitate to bite off your outboard motor.
I just knew I had to include one in my latest book, DEAD HEAT. After all, crocodiles kill, but it is only man who can murder.