Stolen: a novel [and] Contextualising research: the making and changing of Stolen

Christopher, L (2011) Stolen: a novel [and] Contextualising research: the making and changing of Stolen. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


This contextualising research traces an intellectual, geographic and literary journey. It is not so much that I followed a map of intention and then produced Stolen. Rather, with hindsight, I have retraced - found, even - the strands that, partly deliberately but also in many ways unconsciously, knitted themselves into my book. The focus on what has influenced Stolen’s development, as well as its reception in light of this, forms the main part of this research. This may be useful for the wider study of the process that authors engage with when producing a text, as well as for those seeking to understand the writing process of this particular novel. This research also investigates the interplay between author, character, narrative and land. It highlights and explores the centrality and importance of Australian land and its cultural narratives in my writing, arguing that the use of culturally rich landscape can be a powerful instrument for reader engagement. I begin by defining the land so important to Stolen: the Australian Desert. I explain why this land is culturally significant: how images of it reveal much about how Australia views itself, and how Australia is viewed, and contribute to an Australian ‘ur-narrative’. By exploring interplay between desert land, myths of national identity and my experience of Australian land, I define why the desert is significant to my own personal and creative narratives, as well as to wider cultural narratives. The fact that Australian desert is often culturally portrayed as both an idealised and extreme place makes it the perfect setting for Stolen. In Part One, I explore my background as a young British immigrant growing up in an alien Australian land, and the influence this experience had on the later development of Stolen. I discuss my early fear of Australian land, likening myself to ‘the lost child’: a popular motif in Australian literature and cultural mediums. Gradually my appreciation for Australian land and its cultural narratives grew, and I discuss how this influenced my adaption to life in Australia, as well as my writing. I find links between Stolen and the Australian texts I read, with particularly strong resonance in Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby, as well as my early creative writing which discloses themes of belonging, fear and loss in the context of Australian land. In Part Two, I discuss the influence of the PhD process, stating how I initially wanted to write Stolen to understand what I, and others, thought about Australian land, and how I intended for Stolen to have an environmental theme. I discuss how Marshall’s Walkabout and McDonald’s Love Like Water offered a kind of template for writing, and I compare my portrayal of the desert within Stolen to these texts’ portrayals of land, exploring how all three books contain female protagonists who have simultaneously embracing yet antagonistic relationships with the desert. Part Three encompasses the publishers’ impact on the development of Stolen, and how their ideas were often at odds with my original intentions. I investigate the changes I made to Stolen as a result of their involvement, discussing the difficulties in writing a novel for young people that was environmental in theme but had the form of a thriller. I conclude by understanding how changes helped broaden the novel, and my perspective. Finally, I look at the public and critical reception of Stolen in light of the various influences the novel faced within its development. I discuss its international reaction and what readers find interesting in it, contrasting this with my original intentions. I also talk about what I might have done differently. Ultimately, I realise the importance of place for and within my work, and within cultural narrative, and how the conscious and subconscious use of common cultural themes has enabled me to connect with readers on another level. This has enabled me to see how authors could have a role in bringing about emotional engagement of the reader in relation to the environment. Finally, I realise that novels, no matter how well planned and intentioned, often develop in unexpected and wonderful ways. Much like gazing at an unexplored desert, authors can stand in awe of the mystery of writing, but it is only when they truly explore its depths that they uncover the interconnecting pathways and seeds that social and cultural interaction creates. By understanding my own narrative of loss and discovery, I can identify, appreciate and explore a wider Anglo-Australian narrative that has pervaded a culture for more than two hundred years.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

This thesis consists of a manuscript in Vol.1 : Creative component : 'Stolen : a novel', and the accompanying contextualising research in Vol.2 : Critical component : the making and changing of 'Stolen' - a literary, biographical and geographical memoir.

The thesis submission also included the print novel 'Stolen' published by Chicken House in 2009 (ISBN 9781906427139).

Keywords: creative writing, YA fiction, landscape, geography, Australia, Australian history, Australian deserts, outback, cultural identity, national identity, belonging, Anglo-Australian narrative, environmental literature, book publishing, editorial involvement, readership, critical reaction
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2013 15:07
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 14:46
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