Where did the characters in Riggs Crossing come from?
Len arose from my worrying about what was going to happen to a girl I knew. She was living in an isolated rural area, with her irresponsible mother and her mother's violent, drug-using de facto partner. What becomes of a bright, sensitive child when she has no escape from a damaging environment? That question was the beginning of the novel. Len's contrary personality, though, is a complete invention. I needed Len to be tough in order to cope with the danger and adversity she faces. Readers of early drafts of the book complained that Len was "nasty", which confused me. Do girls always have to be sugar and spice? Anyway, after several of my friends said that Len's aggression and defensiveness made her unlikeable, I conceded they had a point and toned down the character a notch or two.
Ernie is partly based on someone I spoke to whilst trying to get information about the child I thought might be in danger. What personality! Insulated Sydney-siders don't encounter many Ernies, and that's a shame. Ernie wouldn't fret about whether it was "racist" to fly the flag on Australia Day. Ernie has his prejudices, but is basically a good guy who wouldn't treat anyone unfairly. Some of Ernie's politically incorrect views and offensive jokes had to be expunged from the novel during the last major edit. This character's involvement in the drug trade is entirely a product of my imagination.
Lyyssa is a product of my fury with every dreamy, middle-class, loony-leftie, do-gooding, useless social worker I've ever had to deal with. Mention the word "social worker" to me and I turn purple with rage. Having said that, a friend of mine is a social worker, and a book I very much like, Into the Darklands, was written by a social worker/forensic psychologist.
Mick came out of a friend's recollections of growing marijuana in the bush and selling it to dealers in Sydney. He turned to cropping when he lost his job during a recession and could not support his family or pay the mortgage on his house. At first, he was exhilarated by the large sums of money and the danger. He soon realised that making a living from crime means dealing with gangsters, corrupt policemen, and other assorted scum. He went to prison, and during his incarceration someone put a contract out on him. He is lucky to be alive.
A long time ago, I took a position as the receptionist for a "high class" escort agency. I was fired after a week and a half for sending one of our most expensive girls to the wrong hotel. This young woman, the basis for Bindi, was a gorgeous, intelligent, cocaine-snorting ball of rage who was way too sensitive to be a sex worker. She'd grown up motherless and was engaged to a violent gangster.
Years ago, I lived in the same building as a spoiled, obese girl who would stomp across the floorboards every morning in protest at having to get up and go to school. This unpleasant memory of being jolted awake every morning was the origin of Karen, but there isn't much more in common between the original Karen and the character she became. The fictional Karen's background came from a story told to me about a family in the bush, some of whom were mentally retarded.
Shane was a friend of mine years ago. He and his siblings had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their father.
Thank God for the Salvos! I will never forget the kindness, determination, and Christian faith of the woman who was the inspiration for Major Heath.
Miss Dunn is a fantasy of what I could have been had I stuck with my original plan of earning a doctorate and teaching at university.
The character of Reynaldo is based on a horse trainer I became friendly with when I rode horses regularly. He exudes strength and calm. Len's idea of "not breaking the quiet" originated with this man, whom I associate with the nice quiet time at the stables just before dark, when most people have gone home and the horses are fed, rugged up, and content.
Holly is a composite of several cropper's molls my friend met when he was living in the North Coast Ranges. One in particular was a pretty, amoral woman who described herself as an "environmental activist". She collected the dole, neglected her children and pets, stole marijuana, and damaged her friends' property, all the while spewing self-righteous contempt at the mainstream society that permitted her to live without doing a single day's work in her life. She also gave false testimony in court that led to a man being sent to jail, where he committed suicide.