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  • Writer's pictureElaine Marie Carnegie


by Ruth Morgan

Please welcome Ruth Morgan to the Writers Journey Blog this week with her take on why we do what we do!

Why Do We Do What We Do?

My writing is inspired by my love of the Australian bush and a desire to share that with others. I also have a lifelong fascination in trying to understand the reasons we do the things we do. Telling stories gives me the opportunity to explore ideas, individuals, and their actions and reactions and maybe, just maybe, get a little closer to knowing why.

I grew up in splendid isolation, living in a caravan with two adults. The perimeter was surrounded by brush box trees and eucalyptus. Blue gray saltbush thrived in the red sandy soils and after rain the ground would be covered with yellow and white everlasting daisies.

Hay Plains 2021

The landscape has given me a lifelong appreciation of silence, a love for thunderstorms, and the smell of rain on parched earth. Some find solitude uncomfortable and find the bush daunting. It can be unsettling to discover you’re a small speck in a vast, indifferent landscape or it can be liberating.

Apex Park at Mildura

Lined with gnarled red river gums, the grey green foliage contrasted sharply with the bleached blue sky. Broken branches littered the sand and offered homes for shingle back lizards and snakes. The scorching sun shone through spiny lignin scrub, dappling the earth with gently moving patterns of light.

I’ve written romance, sci-fi and fantasy, but I always come back to my first love - crime fiction. It offers me the chance to dive into the darkness, explore layers and have fun putting characters in situations that show what they’re made of. I can ‘let’ them do things I’d never dream of doing. I can put people in situations where they fear for their lives or the lives of others and see what happens. Or introduce them to the love of their life and watch the story unfold.

My first collection of short stories was published by Clarendon House in 2021 - the result of winning the Great Clarendon House Writing Challenge. I played around with ideas for weeks before starting. I pondered finishing a novel or putting together a short story collection. For some reason, I thought a short story collection would be less challenging. I was wrong! What I hadn’t understood then was that a short story is a frozen moment in time where each and every word, every scene or event has to earn its place. In a novel, there is room to explore, expand giving characters the opportunity to show their motivations, history, experiences, memories and how that impacts their lives and actions. Short stories are the distilled essence of events, focussed and concentrated. My focus doesn’t linger on the crime but on the human drama, the relationships between characters regardless of which side of the law they operate on.

The Hanging Tree

Excerpt: Abruptly, the events of the last 12 hours hit him, and he recoiled as though it was he who’d been shot. With a shuddering breath, he stumbled to the bed they shared, and crumpled into the white cotton sheets, fully clothed. He held her pillow tightly, and like a hurt child, cried himself to sleep.

An absence of sound woke him; there should be something else, the soft sounds of Beth breathing, wrapped in the depths of sleep.

There was nobody.

She was gone.

I’d never written a short story collection. I’ve always loved short stories. In my favourite collections, the stories were linked or shared a theme. In Hooked, the story takes place in an around Whitworth, so I decided the location would be the link and something in each story would refer back. Choosing a fictitious location meant there were no rules about how the town was laid out, its location and history. It’s set in the bush I love, and along the river that is such a fundamental part of my life.

Murray River at dawn

Stories have a life all their own. Characters behave according to their own beliefs and rarely how I expect them to react. A story will only work when I discover the rules it’s laid down. Scarred was the last story in the collection I finished, though it was among the first written. I wanted a different ending. I didn’t want it to end with a suicide. I wanted something that offered hope for the future. I changed everything in the story, locations, names, events past and present, and it made sense only when the ending remained as it was. I’m certain no other story has pushed me quite so hard, nor made me look at how I see the world. In the end, my only choice was acceptance of the choice the characters had made. Long conversations with other writers have made me realise my experience is not uncommon - very reassuring.

She could imagine the screech as the train’s brakes were applied. The crash, the sound of tearing metal and the ear-splitting scream.

The smell of steam, petrol, and blood.

Chloe smiled.

Puppetmaster is a novel I’ve worked on for longer than I’m prepared to admit. The subject matter is challenging, exploring buried memories, child abuse, corruption, courage, and sacrifice. It’s only now I feel I can tell the story the way it demands to be told. There are other novels in the mixture. Turning a short story - Inspiration - into a novel. Lurking at the back of my mind is a novel on stolen pink diamonds, another with a paid killer who falls in love with a target and puts both their lives on the line, and another involving a murder 40 years earlier involving a 12-year-old boy who may, or may not be a murderer. I love it when stories don’t tell you everything, but make you work to understand before they reveal themselves.

Writing is and always has been a source of sanity and frustration, joy and laughter. Perhaps oddly, I find novels easier to put down, and then resume work on when time allows. Especially at the moment, writing is an escape from the fun and games which are always part of moving house. I’m leaving the subtropics for a return to country familiar from childhood. Somewhere with vast open spaces, where there are mountains, and eucalypts, where the Murray River flows and floods, where there are frosts in winter and dust storms in summer.

If I could do one thing now, right at this moment, I’d love to be sitting on an old fallen river red gum. To dangle my bare feet in the waters of the Murray River. To watch a flotilla of pelicans sail by and listen sound of silence.

Click the Cover

Bio: Ruth spent the first years of her life on Wilkurra Station, near Pooncarie in outback New South Wales. The red sand and blue saltbush has made an indelible impression on Ruth’s imagination.

Now based in Northern New South Wales, Ruth tells stories of the characters and country she knows and loves. Her preference is crime fiction with a twist. The landscape is a crucial character in the stories, along with criminals and the police who hunt them. Themes of retribution, revenge, love and redemption are set along the Murray River, the Hay Plains and surrounding towns and countryside. Ruth Morgan Writer

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