Welcome to my blog, Margaret River and to the festival Madelaine Dickie author of Troppo, a book about ” big waves, black magic and mad Aussie expats.” Madelaine won the TAG Hungerford award in 2014 for an unpublished manuscript which the judges described as ‘A beautifully observed novel with a strong sense of place about a young Australian abroad witnessing a culture and caught up in events she only half understands.’ 2014 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Judges’ Report. Looks like I have discovered another great Australian writer!
Madelaine shares her writing journey with us.
On writing a surfing novel in Indonesia
The idea for Troppo came about on a surf trip to mainland Sumatra, Indonesia, during my mid-year university holidays in 2009. I was twenty-three, and had already travelled quite extensively through Indonesia. I’d nearly drowned surfing Racetracks at Uluwatu—my leg jammed stuck between two bits of coral; I’d got malaria on Pulau Lembata, in a village where the people still hunt whales in strict accordance with ancient taboos; I’d had a gun pointed at my face crossing the border between West Timor and Timor Leste. On all the islands I visited, I had this tingling feeling that there was magic, danger, and stories to be found. This trip to Sumatra on my uni break was no different, only I found something extra—a setting for Troppo, a village half-real and half-imagined, with its back to a chain mountains and its face to the sea.
I started writing.
In 2012, I was awarded a Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Award to move to Indonesia for a year and finish the first draft of Troppo. I didn’t move to Sumatra, but to a small fishing village in West Java, where my partner and I rented a local house a street back from the sea. It was difficult living in earshot of the ocean—the ocean has this energy that tends to amp you, call you to it. At night, we could hear the tide rise, feel the earth shudder with the impact of the waves. During the day, we could see the offshore wind in the palms, the swell lines curving around the point. Sometimes it was really hard finding the discipline to write. Surfing is easier than writing—everything is easier than writing! When my partner announced strike missions with the boys to some of the big-ticket Indo surf spots like G-Land, Lakey Peak and Panaitan, I had to grit my teeth and say no, I couldn’t come. My target was five hundred words a day. Sometimes I knocked it over in an hour, sometimes it took eight. Always I bribed myself—you can’t go for a second surf, or to Ibu Cici’s beauty salon, or drink any mojitos until you’re done.
Skip ahead several years, from West Java, to Jakarta, to Broome, and finally Troppo was done. I submitted the manuscript for the 2014 City of Fremantle T.A.G Hungerford Award and it won!!! Fremantle Press are launching the book in August this year, and pre-orders are available through the Margaret River Bookshop now. I’m also excited to be heading south for the Margaret River Writers’ Festival on the 3rd-5th June to talk about Troppo. If you’re keen to read a book about big waves, black magic and mad Aussie expats … a story that tingles with the danger and thrill of living somewhere as extraordinary as Indonesia … then I’d love to meet you there.