Many years ago, my brother and I were walking across Sydney Harbour Bridge when a replica 18th century frigate passed beneath us in full sail. He turned to me and asked, “what if that was a real convict ship?”
That comment inspired me to write TimeStorm, an adventure novel, set during a single chaotic day, about a convict ship from 1795 which survives a storm and arrives in Sydney in 2017, where the convicts rebel and escape.
The question stuck in my head and became something of an obsession. I had written a couple of short stories and sports articles by that time, but never entertained any ambitions to be a novelist. If anything, I was more interested in film and, to me, TimeStorm had all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster. Think Hornblower meets Die Hard!
However, as the story came together, I started to wonder what these 18th century convicts would think. How would they react to their sudden arrival into our 21st century world? Compared to us, they had fairly basic and uncomplicated lives. But they also lived in a very brutal world where violence and death were never very far away. The essential ingredient, if you like, was their assumption that by escaping, they would be executed if caught. That is a powerful incentive to resist capture at any cost.
Conversely, the officers and crew of the ship would have a strong sense of honour and accountability. How would they resolve both their need to survive and an overwhelming sense of duty while faced with a hostile and alien environment?
And what about the citizens of Sydney? Their city is seemingly under siege, with possibly a large number of terrorists on the loose, and the pressure to work out what is happening would test the authorities to the limits.
I was also interested in the general perception of the convict era. People here in Australia are often proud of their convict ancestors and point to the severity of sentencing people to transportation for relatively minor crimes, particularly the old favourite, ‘stealing a loaf of bread.’ This is true, but the fact is that many convicts were hardened and extremely violent criminals and therefore much more interesting from a novelist point of view. These types, I felt, would cope best with a time slip situation.
With this growing and challenging number of questions on my mind, I realised that the only way I could fully explore all of these ideas and attempt to get inside all the heads of these characters was to write a novel.
The premise allowed me the added bonus of paying homage to my seafaring literary heroes, men like Hornblower, Ramage, Bolitho and Aubrey. TimeStorm’s Lieutenant Christopher ‘Kit’ Blaney of HMS Marlin is very much a man in this mould. His nemesis, the convict Rufus Redmond, is a man cut from a very different cloth. Enraged and consumed by his need for revenge, he is not a man who will allow himself to be intimidated when suddenly transported more than 200 years into the future.
I wrote several drafts over the years as I pursued a career in screenwriting, but TimeStorm was never very far away and I was constantly revising, changing and tinkering until I finally reached the point where I felt it all came together. My goal was to take a classically told adventure and drop it into the 21st century and see if these men could adapt to a new world, or indeed if that world would be forced to adapt to them.
It was a thoroughly exciting and enjoyable adventure writing TimeStorm and I became very fond of all the characters, even those with few redeeming qualities. The novel is very much their story and is told through their eyes, and I sincerely hope readers will share my excitement and come along for the ride.
TimeStorm is published by Elsewhen Press and is now available in eBook and paperback.
Buying links for the eBook and paperback are at the top of this page.