Drugs in Boats

Bundaberg made the national headlines recently, but for all the wrong reasons. Police seized 300kg of cocaine from a boat that had arrived at the Bundaberg Port as a finisher in the annual Port 2 Port rally and arrested four Spanish nationals.

Customs Officers check every boat that comes into the Port, but in this case they probably would have only given a cursory inspection as the Australian Federal Police had been tracking the drug syndicate for some time and were waiting to catch the Australian-based members with their hands on the drugs.

But don’t think that that means that the drugs would have been easy to find. When I was writing Deadly Tide, I spoke with a lot of the women involved in the trawling industry and they were aware that rumours abounded about trawlers that were involved in drug smuggling, and one even said how she and her husband bought a second trawler and discovered many secret compartments when they began refurbishing. This was wonderful background information for me, even though my villains weren’t smuggling drugs.

Truth can often be stranger than fiction, but it’s how a writer presents it to the reader that gives it authenticity. The scene where Chayse falls overboard when trying to free a rock caught in the nets during rough weather actually happened, but to a local trawler operator. His wife told me how terrified she was, watching his yellow raincoated-figure disappear under the water as she tried frantically to turn the boat to go back to get him. Fishers trawl at night, so the chances of finding him again were slim, but luckily he was able to discard his raincoat and boots and float to the surface.

I love talking to people when researching for my books. Sometimes they reveal fantastic stories that are like manna from heaven for a writer, and I’m very very grateful to them for sharing. So if a writer asks if they can interview you for research purposes, don’t worry that they will find your life boring – everyone’s life has something in it that will be interesting to someone else.

Picking up a Swedish backpacker

Would you believe I picked up a Swedish backpacker the other day? Okay, all you romance and crime lovers, stop the drooling and getting suspicious. She (yes, she) was a lovely young woman who hadn’t seen anything of Bundaberg and was going to be working at least 6 days a week for the next four months so I gave her a tour of all the wonderful beaches here. From Mon Repos where the turtles come to lay their eggs (it’s the season now) to Bargara and Innes Park. Didn’t get as far as Elliott Heads but made it to our only hill, The Sloping Hummock, for an all-over view of the countryside. At 20 she has come alone to Oz on a working holiday. And if you’re thinking of her as a tall, striking blonde with blue eyes, reverse that. She was even as short as I am! And we took the same shoe size. I found that out when she asked me where she could buy some sneakers. People with tiny feet aren’t always catered for well in the footwear area.

It got me thinking about our preconceptions of what we expect people of other nationalities look like and how they behave. When I wrote Fatal Flaw, I created a character who is part Asian, part English, with diverse nationalities grandparents. I had never encountered anyone with that background so picked the brains of a friend who had lived in Malaysia for some years. What she told me offered a whole new twist to the plot that I hadn’t anticipated but worked exceptionally well. Readers have to believe that characters’ actions ring true, and getting that kind of insight from my friend allowed me to give him plausible motivations. I love creating complex characters, and Fatal Flaw has its fair share of them.

I often wonder how readers feel about characters in the books they read. Anyone willing to share their thoughts?