BackStory: Five Questions with Mary Scott
Author of When the Walking’s Done
What inspired you to write this “When the Walking’s Done”?
This piece was inspired by the true story of Captain Moonlite – real name Andrew George Scott – an Australian bushranger who led his gang on an ill-fated raid of a trading station in 1879. I came across his story while doing research for my MA in Queer History; Scott (no relation to me, as far as I know!) had a long-time companion, James Nesbitt, and it seems probable that the two were lovers. Although I chose not to focus on this in the piece, I did want to juxtapose the harshness of outback life with some moments of tenderness and humanity.
Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece?
I wanted to write more about koalas, namely how their diet is essentially poisonous and therefore made for disappointing meals for hungry Australian settlers, but it wasn’t really relevant to the story.
How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?
I did quite a bit of research on ‘Captain Moonlite’, mainly because the whole concept of a queer Australian bushranger is a pretty cool one! Honestly though, the thing that struck me the most was how wretched the whole situation sounded; Scott and his men walked for weeks in search of work and were completely desperate by the time they reached the settlement they held up. Also, how young most of the men were: Frank Johns and Gus Wreneckie, the youngest members of the group, were eighteen and fifteen respectively. Discovering that was upsetting, and partly why I centred the story around them.
If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?
I would like to spend a year in Britain during the Revolt of 1173-74 – a rebellion against King Henry II led by his wife and sons. Although the uprising eventually failed, it was a time of hope and upheaval about which relatively little has been written, not to mention that it would be really interesting to experience the country nearly 1000 years ago.
What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?
Like Frank, I often hike long distances (though in more favourable circumstances), time which I sometimes spend dreaming for the future. I would also love to one day visit Java and the surrounding islands.
Mary Scott is a British writer based in Cambridge. She is currently undertaking a Masters in Queer History, and spends her spare time reading, raising succulents and drinking coffee. Her work has been published in Synaesthesia Magazine and is forthcoming in Syntax & Salt.
Photograph of Bennett’s Gorge, Gundabooka National Park, New South Wales, Australia by Ben Cordia, via Wikimedia Commons.