Stone Girl (Published May 2018, Penguin YR) drew its first breath while I was at university.
It began as a non-fiction story about kids living in homes, what they got up to with no adults in charge and how they survived when the only constant is change.
The idea come to me as I sat listening to my Deakin University lecturer – the late Peter Davis. He was a giver of inspiration. I’d leave his talks in a hurry, rushing to the car, driving with a head full of thoughts to my little flat not far from the sea… where I’d write for hours.
He had a way of unlatching creativity.
On this day the lecture was about the secrets we all held; ours or someone else’s life story. We were tasked with writing something true and told that those things we fear to write are usually the most interesting to read.
As I sat before my laptop, what I wanted to say about my story flowed almost without interruption.
I wrote about being a teenager and what it was like to live in Government run homes. About making friends with a drug dealer and becoming someone he trusted and relied upon. About not being a part of society but peripheral to it.
In my experience kids who live in Government facilities don’t feel like they belong. They are often told either directly or indirectly that they’re destined for nowhere; that great things in life like careers and opportunity are for other kids who have parents.
They are a taxpayer drain.
Nothing but jail, teenage pregnancy and – as I witnessed – early death awaits.
The social workers often did their best but in such a broken system the ‘best’ didn’t really make much difference.
After I left the homes I didn’t speak about that life very much. I was ashamed. The couple of times I mentioned it were awkward. People didn’t know what to say and I really didn’t want to come across as a victim. I’m not! I’m lucky and have had many opportunities.
A close friend to me at the time said, ‘Where you came from makes you who you are today.’ I loved that because I was trying my hardest to be better.
A few weeks after I handed in the assignment, Peter Davis called me into his office. I’d been given top marks, a High Distinction. He said, ‘There’s a book here. Have you thought about writing it?’
And with that the seed was sown. It would dominate the next decade.