How a fireman became an author

Robert Newton visited our school today to speak to our Year 10 students, who study one of his novels: Runner. He was a most engaging speaker, keeping his audiences enthralled with stories about his life, his books and how he comes up with ideas for writing.

Perhaps one of the more interesting and unexpected facts we learnt was that Robert is a full-time fireman, working for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Melbourne. He even gave his audience some hints about how to get stray kittens down from trees!

Robert also explained that some of his earlier books were based on his life as a child or on his brother. Writing from personal experience is a good place for all writers to start, as Robert demonstrated, with some readings from his books.

The inspiration for Runner came from Robert’s interest in characters, in particular, the intriguing character of Squizzy Taylor. Robert researched into Squizzy Taylor and the gangster era by visiting the State Library and reading old newspapers. He also explored Richmond, the location of the novel ; spending time wandering the streets – even running at 3 am on a cold wintry morning to get a feel for his character, Charlie’s life.

Perhaps the key quality that Robert demonstrated to his audience was the need for an author to watch and listen to the world around him, for the world is a wonderful inspiration for authors. Just as Robert Newton was a wonderful inspiration for our Year 10 readers, today.