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Past a creative bridge to the future

Posted: 11am 28 Sep 2020

The Redcliffe Jetty forms the backdrop of many of author Trent Dalton’s fondest childhood and teenage memories.

And now, it’s creating new memories for the journalist and father of two girls.

“I used to jump off the pier, I’ve kissed girls there, I’ve gotten drunk there, and now I’m taking my own kids there,” Dalton says.

Time spent on the peninsula and its surrounds played a pivotal role in shaping Dalton, and in influencing his work as a writer.

Redcliffe inspires

In particular, it played a key part in his debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe, and is the inspiration for parts of his new book, All Our Shimmering Skies, released today.

“Redcliffe comes into Boy Swallows Universe – a key part of the book happens on Hornibrook Bridge, when Eli is fishing,” Dalton says.

“It was a magical place for me as a kid. (The scene in Boy Swallows Universe) is all very real, catching fish, and the summer rain coming in.

“I was going there back when there was a skating rink at the end of the Hornibrook Bridge.”

Sparking creativity

The first part of Dalton’s life was spent in Goodna and Ipswich, before he moved to the northside of Brisbane, where the streets of Bracken Ridge and Redcliffe became a playground for him, his brothers, and their mates.

“We’d get on our BMXs every Saturday and go fishing off the bridge. Eventually we got cars and went to Suttons Beach.

“The best team my team, the Brighton Roosters, played in the ’80s were the Redcliffe Dolphins…I remember so many games spent at Dolphin Park.”

Dalton says running on the beach as a kid, making his own fun with his mates, was a wonderful spark for the creativity that drives him.

“My old man had all these roguish mates he would drink with in the pubs and we’d go fishing and running on the beach while he did.

“Growing up in a place like Redcliffe fosters that creativity so much. The beach in Redcliffe. That’s the smell of home to me. It’s in my DNA.

“It was like the Gold Coast to us. It was the place to be – it was two humps over the bridge on your BMX.”

Family connections

Dalton, now living in Brisbane’s inner west, still relishes the opportunity to bring his family “over the bridge”.

“I love that place so much. Absolutely every aspect of my life is there. My mum still lives in Redcliffe.

“There’s nothing we love more than going over there, going to Morgans (Seafood), to Yabbey Road fish shop, taking the kids through Bee Gees Way.

“I think Bee Gees way is such a joy, it’s so brilliantly done.”

He’s looking forward to visiting to share his new book with an audience at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre on October 13.

“It will be so good to share those stories – I did one at North Lakes, and my mates from school turned up,” he laughs.

Daughter’s suggestion

While two young boys were the centre of his first novel, Dalton says he was compelled to make two girls key characters in the second.

“My youngest daughter came home from school one day and her teacher was reading my book and talking about it.

“And she said to me `Dad, you wrote this book about two beautiful boys. Why don’t you write a book about two beautiful girls?’.”

He describes the central character of All Our Shimmering Skies, Molly Hook, as a combination of both his daughters’ personalities, with a dollop of his own tossed in for good measure.

“Molly is one of those plucky Australian kids who’s going through hell and she begins to think she’s cursed,” Dalton says.

Razor-tongued actress Greta, and Yukio, a fallen Japanese fighter pilot, join Molly on her journey to find the man she believes cursed her family.

“Molly is just kind of me, and my girls and every Aussie kid I have interviewed.

“And All Our Shimmering Skies is a massive love letter to this country.”

Meet the author: In conversation with Trent Dalton is on at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre on Tuesday, October 13 from noon-1pm. The event is free, but bookings are required.

Read more local news here.

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