Since the release of Paradise in 2017, I have been asked by many of you where the idea behind the novel came from. So I thought I would share a quick blog on the creation of the book.
I have always enjoyed being out in the bush, the scrub, rainforest, jungle, call it what you like, if it is outdoors on a rough track or hiking through virgin territory, I enjoy it.
For me the tranquillity and escape from suburbia is a refreshing recharge I seek out whenever the opportunity arises.
In 2016 I was fortunate enough to visit Papua New Guinea, stopping at many of the battle grounds Australian and allied forces fought over during the Second World War. Places such as Alotau in Milne Bay, Rabaul, Henderson Field in the Solomon Islands and the waters of Guadalcanal.
I was also lucky enough to visit a number of smaller islands off the East coast of P.N.G. including the island of Doini where the famous Skull Caves are located.
On the day I arrived on Doini the weather was hot and the sky heavy with low dark clouds. As I stepped off the boat and onto the jetty the heavens opened and a heavy downpour commenced that did not let up for many hours.
I had decided to hike to the caves that are located in the low hills of Doini in the isolated jungle centre of the island.
The track that cut through the jungle and up into the hills was slippery with deep mud that clung to my boots. The rain had soaked through my clothing and my water resistant pack that stuck to my back in the steamy heat began to leak.
The climb into the hills was not particularly tough and the rain did cool me down a little.
Upon reaching the base of the cliff where the Skull Caves are located, I began to climb the slippery stairs roughly cut into the side of the rock wall.
The cave itself is a long narrow cut that looks like an open wound in the side of the cliff and inside the shallow cave are dozens of skulls, many with teeth stained red from betel nut their owners had chewed when alive.
Like most tourists, I took a number of photos and was soon joined by a small group of hikers who had also made their way into the jungle covered hills to view the caves. One of these hikers kindly took a photo of me at the caves.
Leaving the caves and hiking back down to the beach, the rain suddenly stopped and the dark clouds rolled away revealing a beautiful blue sky that quickly had steam rising from the jungle floor.
The beauty of the plants I passed on the track, their lushness and variety of colour was for any plant lover, quite spectacular.
The isolation of being alone in the jungle with just the sound of water dripping from the leaves and birds singing their songs in the trees above was for me exhilarating and a peace came on me that I had not experienced in many years.
This was when the idea for Paradise first began to float around my thoughts and the novel and its characters quickly began to take shape.
Arriving back at the beach, locals had set up a market with many beautifully carved animals, fish, turtles, sharks and stingrays for sale, as well as delicious tropical fruits. I purchased a number of these carvings with the local kina currency and then went for a swim in the warm clear waters off the beach where I was able to see many brilliantly coloured fish.
If you get the chance to visit the islands of East Papua New Guinea, I would recommend them. Be sure to take plenty of Kina as their market items are wonderful and very reasonably priced.
For myself, I will be returning to P.N.G. in 2019 to undertake the Kokoda Track, an experience I am very much looking forward to.