Writing ‘Please Don’t Leave Me Here’

PDLMH COVERI wrote most of Please Don’t Leave Me Here between the hours of 5 a.m and 7 a.m. My children were small, I was studying and running a small business from home, so the early mornings were pretty much the only times I had for writing.

It’s hard to pinpoint where the story idea came from. I had this vivid, cinematic image in my head of a serpent tattoo breathing on somebody’s back — I think that was the first thing I wrote, even though I didn’t know who it belonged to at the time. Around the same time, for some reason, I was flicking through my old journals. I came across an entry from the day Kurt Cobain was found dead. I was surprised by how different my memory of that time was compared to what I had written on the actual day in my journal. It made me think about the memories we hold and how they become skewed over time.

The memory of Kurt became an important part of the story. I was also inspired by music, art, books, objects, smells, dreams, snippets of conversations overheard on the tram …

Please Don’t Leave Me Here started as a short story that explored whether or not people ever really change — with age, circumstances, relationships. What remains constant and what shifts? It became a very long two-part short story (part one set in the present and part two set in the past). Still it kept growing, like rice pudding — it always wanted to be a novel.

Ernest Hemingway said: ‘Writing is rewriting’. It’s true — once I had a cohesive draft I rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it. And then rewrote it again. And again …

I had a lot of help while writing Please Don’t Leave Me Here. I was lucky enough to have some very clever people around me (a couple of published authors, my writers group, RMIT Professional Writing and Editing lecturers and classmates) who generously gave honest feedback and advice, which was sometimes tough to hear. A lot of tears went into writing this book! Many times I threw up my hands and said I was giving up. But I never could.

Although some parts of the story felt like being in somebody’s nightmare, other parts felt like ‘going home’ to a childhood place. I drew the scenes set in Brigitte’s grandparents’ house from memories of my own grandparents. I loved all my characters (even dreadful Eric Tucker). I also loved the editing process, and felt sad the day the proofs were finished because it meant finally letting go of the story.

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