Here are Tracy's notes on the origins of Once had me.
'I was nearing the end of a three-week writing residency in April this year, the RAK Mason Writers Fellowship at New Zealand Pacific Studio, working on my second novel. On Easter Monday — the first sunny day after a LOT of rain and drizzle — four of us packed into the car and drove out to see the historic Norwegian Church in Mauriceville. I almost didn’t go; I had so much writing I felt I needed to do — but I’d been at my desk for weeks, and I thought I should leave the house for my sanity.
You can see a few photos of the church in this blog post (scroll down the page to Norwegian Church, Mauriceville) about my writing residency:http://tracyfarrauthor.net/2014/05/08/time-was-on-my-side/.
When we got there, it was magical, a fairytale building on a hill (complete with fairy toadstools in the grass). But the fairytale was skewed: every surface in the church was, as it is in the story, covered with dead or dying cluster flies, and there were notes in a cramped, old hand, apologising for the flies, and warning of rat poison. Denise — photographer, video artist — set up her camera and mic to capture the flies on a windowsill; writers Madeleine and Mary swept up the flies; and I prowled around, taking photos and mental notes.
The next day, back in the Mason Room at NZPS, I wrote the first draft of this story in 11 pages of dense longhand as a writing exercise: I put the characters from the novel I was working on into the car, and drove them out to the church, to see how they’d react. It took a lot of editing some months later to craft a story that I was happy with.'
Posted: Thu 27 Nov 2014