15 March, 2024

Author relays story of book origin

FROM the very first trip author Myfanwy Jones made to Lake Tinaroo, she knew it would be the setting of a future novel.

Author relays story of book origin - feature photo

In the Far North last week for the Tropical Writers Festival, Myf recounted how her novel, “Cool Water”, came to be.

Hailing from Melbourne, Myf was visiting good friends in Julatten, and an elderly uncle in Atherton, in 2017 and chose Lake Tinaroo Resort as her accommodation for the duration of her stay. 

While her family had visited the Tablelands numerous times previously, this was a last-minute trip during peak season and they’d never stayed at Lake Tinaroo. 

“We’d never been to Tinaroo Dam before and so we turned up with no preconceptions or expectations,” Myf said. 

“At that time there was a drought and the dam was at about 25 percent capacity and full of blue-green algae. Remnants of the old town of Kulara had begun to surface - eerie and so beautiful. The township was quiet but there was a wedding taking place.” 

This visit lamented the novel setting and Myf began her research before they’d checked out. 

“I knew on our very first visit that I would set a novel there; I’d started researching the history of the dam, and the tobacco industry, before we’d checked out,” she said.

“Sometime later, doing this research, I found out that my paternal grandfather had done his WW2 army training in Danbulla Forest, in a camp now submerged by the dam.”

As a result, “Cool Water” was born.

“Cool Water delves into family breakdown, intergenerational patterns and the power of fathers. 

“In all of my writing, I’m interested in how people are interacting with their environments, and place is always a main character. So, the main inspiration for the novel came from the dam itself,” Myf said.

The novel follows Frank Herbert (a fictional character) whose family have gathered at Tinaroo Dam for his daughter Lily’s wedding.

He’s visiting the dam and it’s the first time he’s been back since the death of his father a year earlier. 

Frank reflects heavily on his own family – his father Joe and grandfather Victor – how to be a good man and how behaviours and characteristics can be passed from one generation to the next.

They were a family entrenched in the Tinaroo area. 

Myf said while she conducted a lot of research for the novel, the Herbert family was entirely fictional.

“I can see small elements of my own father in all three of the generations of fathers in Cool Water, though the grandfather, Victor, bears zero resemblance to my own gentle grandfather.”

While there was no particular aim with the book, Myf said it was a journey of discovery, especially for the main character Frank.

“...if there is an underlying message, it’s perhaps that we are not trapped by our inheritance. That engaging with the past and its patterns can be freeing.”

“Cool Water” might have hit the shelves but Myf is currently working on another book set in coastal Victoria.

“In researching Cool Water, as well as having time with my family in Atherton, I’ve been blessed to make friends with a wonderful Tinaroo local, Inge Jensen, who offered me several writing retreats at her Bed & Breakfast. 

“I feel so connected now to this incredible part of the world, and I intend to keep visiting Inge, to sit on her balcony with a whisky and look at the birds.”

Myf has just presented at the Cairns Tropical Writers’ Festival, something she felt “hugely privileged” to be part of.

“I hope attendees enjoyed our conversation about how writing grows out of place, about the light and shade of families and the historical layers of Tinaroo Dam,” she said.

“My character Frank Herbert lives on Lily Street, North Cairns, so talking about Cool Water in Cairns felt very special indeed.” 


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