Like plucking strings on a guitar - as the notes become chords, become a tune, so too the stories of Stephen Scourfield's travels have been plucked and melded into a novel. As the River Runs is about the Kimberley and its people and the remarkable effect it has on visitors.
As an enamoured tourist, fresh off the boat from the UK through to travel writer and journalist, _The West Australian _'s Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield has visited the Kimberley at least 100 times. But there is an enormous difference between travel writing or journal reporting and moulding fiction, and Scourfield is quick to point out that writing fiction is a whole different beast.
"I liken it a bit to music," he says. "If you play guitar, you pluck a note, that's a note, that's travel writing.
"Of all the times I have been north, for work, it is always with that intention of meeting certain people, the right people, the people you need for the information for that trip. You arrive at meetings that have been set up, you go to a station or a community or the local council and everyone is expecting you.
"Then you write about that."
Scourfield's novels, on the other hand, involve hours and hours, stretching to years, of research.
"The difference in the two things is that with travel writing, ideally, I have a relatively small amount of information, and I recount an experience for others to share," he explains.
"It has been about nine years, 15 years in total if you count Other Country (Scourfield's debut novel, also set in the Kimberley), of reading every report, geographical studies, political debates, every bit of research or paper written on exporting water from the Kimberley."
All that research amounted to nearly 4000 words of acknowledgements, appended to his original manuscript, covering everything from the most obscure report through to any Aboriginal elder who had ever given Scourfield any information.
In consultation with his publisher, these were dropped from the published books which rather stand alone as a reflection of everything Scourfield gleaned.
The result is an engaging story set against a beautiful backdrop, interwoven with political machinations - a secret plan cooked up to bring water from the north to a thirsty city, a politician who needs to know what he's up against and his ambitious chief of staff, Kate.
When Kate, with her convincing cover story, meets up with ex-greenie Dylan, enlisted to guide her through the local landscape and personalities, they are set on a journey full of unexpected turns and surprising revelations.
"I never stopped working on it or thinking about it, but I had a lot of trouble simplifying it," Scourfield says. "There was a lot more in it than just water. I like dense, serious books and that's what I wanted to write. I don't read for just entertainment. I want a book that has some point."
He readily admits that the years spent writing found him completely immersed in the world of his Kimberley characters and it's tempting for readers to imagine they are people collected from his travels. Scourfield is adamant that is not the case.
"I wanted an entire story with plausible, believable, breathing characters," he says.
"But these are not real characters. I don't know any of the people in the book, there may be some amalgamations or meetings that have stuck with me but none of them are real people.
"Actually, as strange as it sounds, I really have no idea where some of them came from, they just spoke to me."As the River Runs is is published by UWA Publishing, $26.99. It has been released in conjunction with the reissue of Other Country, $22.99.
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