Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Mannequin Makers Location Guide: Part One: Marumaru

I'm going to run a short series of posts about locations in The Mannequin Makers in the lead up to its release. Specifically those places you can't easily visit because they're either made-up or darned inhospitable.

First up: Marumaru.

What the guidebooks say

Name: Marumaru (later: Marumaru South)
Nature: Fictional
Location: The East Coast of the South Island, New Zealand.
Importance in The Mannequin Makers: the town where the two mannequin makers, Colton Kemp and The Carpenter, have their rivalry.
Inspired by: Baring Head (and later: Moeraki Peninsula and Waimate).

The creation of a town

Back in October 2009 I set myself the challenge of writing 30 linked 100-word stories set in the town of Marumaru South. At the time I wrote:
Each story will centre on a different character in the fictional South Island town of Marumaru South (there's a real Marumaru in the North Island, somewhere on the East coast). In my mind Marumaru South lies somewhere between Timaru and Oamaru (hence the name). 
That's pretty much all I know at this point. My hope is that each day the town will come a little more into focus, and that maybe one day I'll be able return to Marumaru South with more words to spare.

I hadn't been down to that part of the country for probably a decade when I started this challenge. It would be another nine months before I read Janet Frame's Owls Do Cry, which is set in Waimaru (a fictionalised Oamaru), so I wasn't channelling that, either. 

I'm not actually sure what got me locked on that part of the world, anymore.

What I do know is that I was facinated by the views of Baring Head I could see from Mt Albert/Houghton Bay Road in Wellington, where I'd started living about three months earlier.
Baring Head from Wellington (telephoto!)
The long stretch of green grass set above the cliffs seemed crying out for a story. It seemed manicured, yet wild. And there was a lighthouse - all fictional towns need a light house.

So I wrote '30 Ways of Looking at Marumaru South' and it got published in Sport 38 (April 2010). In 30 short bursts I'd managed to build up a picture of modern day Marumaru, and give myself the confidence to write a novel set there, only a century earlier.

I started writing The Mannequin Makers, though at that stage I was calling it Fin del Mundo.

I didn't go to Baring Head until January 2012. I blogged about that visit here and took photos like this:

From Baring Head, looking south
By this time, I'd written about half of The Mannequin Makers, including the crucial first section which lays out the town's geography and businesses - at least in 1902/03. There aren't many remnants of Baring Head left in the Marumaru you'll find on the page, except at the start of Chapter Three:
The lighthouse, vacant since the death of its first and only keeper, stood at the head of a nameless crag. From the handful of times Kemp had gone fishing with his father he could recall the way the bluff and the land sloping down and away resembled the severed tail of a lizard. For twelve years the gas-powered light had acted as a beacon for ships — Mayor Raymond was still agitating for another townsperson to take up the mantle of lighthouse keeper — but for now the tall white tower and the rocks below attracted only would-be suicides.
(Also at work here is my time living in Edinburgh, staring out my apartment window at the castle, which is set upon a 'crag and tail' formation).

Later in January 2012 I went on a brief road trip in the South Island. I was mostly scouting locations for parts of the novel I was yet to write (see future post on Crossman's Gully), but I was struck by the way the Moeraki peninsula looked a lot like my imagined Marumaru. 

Moeraki Peninsula from the north.

I also travelled around Waimate, which is probably the town closest to Marumaru in terms of latitude, just a few too many k's inland to be it. I loved my time in Waimate, and maybe some of it filtered into the final part of The Mannequin Makers, when we return to Marumaru, or during the revision/editing phases. I don't know. But it's worth a mention.

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