There's a compelling thriller out now.
Hugh Watson's latest novel, The Silo, is set in country NSW and he draws on his country roots and political background to immerse readers in a story about corruption, blackmail, murder and shadowy international investment.
He will be doing a book signing for his latest novel The Silo at the Yass Bookstore on Saturday, November 27 from 11am to midday.
He gave us insight into his process of writing the novel.
What was the inspiration behind the novel?
After my first novel, Home Grown, which is a political action thriller with the main character being the hero-type, I was keen to write a novel with a despicable character in the lead. I didn't however have the spark.
With both my novel and song writing, the inspiration often comes in the middle of the night, much to my wife Ros's discomfort. However, it was different in this case.
In 2016, I was out on the farm of friends Ken and Penny Jacobs. It was hot and slightly windy and a truck pulled up to their silo and I walked up with them to watch the augur in action. I told Ken that it could be dangerous and he agreed, so there it was. A death in a silo, or in this case, a murder.
Are any of the characters based on anyone you know or are they completely fictional?
The characters are completely fictional including the main character Barry Kingscliff. However, he does have some of the traits of politicians I have come across at Parliament House and at the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG).
In the novel, he marries the daughter of Charles Jennings from the local National Party, who is named after my oldest friend Charles Jennings.
The Jennings family does have a resemblance to some old friends of mine from the Monaro who are solid country people; particularly strong country women.
When you read what other authors say about characters, it's obvious most base their characters on people they know or have met. I've taken to staring at people with interesting faces to try to get a mental picture I can turn into words.
How did having a background in politics help you with the novel?
I was private secretary to the late Susan Ryan in the first Hawke Government and later on a senior executive with SOCOG, so I was able to meet and observe politics and politicians up close.
Funnily enough, while written as a work of fiction, the novel's themes of corruption, pre-selection manipulation, pork barrelling, foreign interference and environmental crisis may feel uncomfortably familiar to Australian readers in 2021.
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
It took over a year to research and write. It took a further six months for edits and several more years to get published by Halstead. We kept delaying publication because of COVID.
How did you go about writing it? Did you go from start to finish or did you write different parts at different times?
This was interrupted by various things along the way and I didn't know how it would end. It's fun writing because you're on a track and suddenly you think: 'I know where this is going next!' You're as excited as you hope the reader will be.
One of the things I think I've become better at is utilising the five senses in description: the crackling of dry bark in a drought, the smell of a cow yard or crushed grass, the touch of skin on skin or more prosaically scones coming out of an oven.
What sort of emotions do you think readers will go through as they progress through the book?
While the despicable nature of Barry Kingscliff is obvious from the first pages with a murder in a grain silo, I hope readers will be invested enough to care what happens to him.
I think country readers will relate to other characters and feel for their struggles, while political junkies will enjoy the political shenanigans like branch stacking, blackmail and leaking to the press.
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