I was born and raised in George Town in northern Tasmania. It is an industrial town having a shipping port and a huge manufacturing district nearby. It is also one of the first settlements in Australia and has a thriving history and tourist trade.
We lived on a wide tidal river perfect for sailing and swimming and only a twenty-minute drive to a coastal surf beach. We also had bush over our back fence, so I grew up outdoors, an active member of the local Scout group and yacht club.
Being the third of the four boys, I always consider myself the odd one. The others played the guitar, were good at sports, believed in God, started their careers as electricians, and had girlfriends. I was quiet and shy one. I walked out of high school into an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Eventually writing gave some purpose to my life, however, it did not seem to go anywhere until very recently.
I worked as a carpenter until I was about thirty, working mostly around Tasmania, with a few years in Canberra and Sydney too. But there was something about Sydney that drew me back. Being surrounded by four million people, I was never more alone in my life there. Yet I felt more at home in that big dirty, noisy, all-consuming city than I did in Tassie. So, I returned and remained there for twenty-five years.
Soon after arriving, I met my first wife, whom I married a year later. We tried for kids, but they never came for us, eventually doing respite care for foster kids for many years until she contracted cancer. We were married for fifteen beautiful years, enjoying many European holidays, and running our very successful baby portrait photography business. I also had my own real estate photography business taking photos of houses for sale. After she passed, I completed a drafting diploma and continued in that field for many years.
After meeting my current wife, we moved to Brisbane, where I now work as a facilities manager for a seventy-story residential tower in the CBD.
For someone who nearly failed English in school and can honestly say that I had never read a book from cover to cover until I was about twenty years old, writing a novel was the last thing on my mind. I never sent cards at Christmas or birthdays, always preferring to phone my messages because I could never get my words out on paper.
In my late twenties, as I lay in a hot bath daydreaming one evening, for some unknown reason, I just had to write my thoughts down. At the time, I was working as a carpenter six days a week, ten hours a day. Despite my physical exhaustion, I hand-wrote about four pages every night for several weeks. After about one hundred and twenty pages, I realised I had the makings of a novel, so I bought a second-hand laptop and have been tapping away ever since. Thirty-odd years later, I have completed eight novels.
About twelve years ago, I was working as a real estate photographer, living in Umina Beach just north of Sydney with my first wife. I took photos of houses for sale to agents. I shot everything from dilapidated fibre shacks to ten-million-dollar mansions. I loved the work because it combined my love of architecture and my creative skills as a photographer. With the freedom of working for myself and having the privilege of exploring some of the most impressive houses people only dream about living in, those six years were some of the most memorable of my life.
For one project, an agent rowed me across Patonga Creek to photograph a shack. Patonga is an idyllic seaside village and is exactly as I described throughout the story. I remember standing on the deck overlooking the water and thinking, “gee, wouldn’t this be a great place to escape to.” I completed the photo shoot and never gave it another thought.
A few years later when I sat down to think of a story for my seventh novel, I remembered the shack and added a second thought, “and imagine the intrigue and suspicion it would create in the villager if a strange guy stayed in that shack on the other side of the creek by himself during the off-season.”
Bang! There was my story. I saw it all in an instant.
But this time I wanted to do it right, to plan it all out the way you are supposed to write, instead of the totally unplanned way I had written the first six. So, I wrote out a sketchy plot from start to finish. Then I created character profiles and fleshed out the plot to include chapter headings and themes. I could stop and start writing at any time, and the story was always there. I did manage to stick mainly to the plot.
Riley’s back story exploded to dominate the central theme, and I cut it down considerably after many rewrites. I wanted the story to be about Patonga, about the quiet, small-town mentality of how they would relate to a newcomer. That’s why I introduced Riley to the locals from their points of view, so the reader formed an opinion of him from their perceptions and beliefs and not so much from the narration. Well, that was the plan anyway.
After numerous edits, I sent it twice to a manuscript assessment service who utterly destroyed it, but I learnt so much, and the result was greatly improved.
Most of my novels were sent to publishers and agents but were unsuccessful. Discouraged, between each book, I would give writing a break, sometimes for many years, only to suddenly start bashing at the keyboard again. The stories were bursting to get out of me. I always felt a sense of achievement when completing a novel, knowing I had expressed a part of me I may not have, or could not have, expressed vocally.
Slowly over the next few years, I hope to publish my other novels. I have a few more ideas and have many short stories that could one day become books.
I’m not done yet!
Travis is an Australian Author based in Brisbane.
He has been writing stories for decades and has finally released the first of many titles: ‘Escape’.