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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘Pouring Myself Into A Story’
A Guest Post By Dean Mayes

For this edition of ‘Meet The Author’, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Dean Mayes, one of my favourite international authors.

I had hoped to be in a position to publish my thoughts about Dean’s latest book, ‘The Recipient’, in conjunction with this, his moving guest post “Pouring Myself Into A Story”. However the book has, and still is, leading me on such an intense and emotional journey, that I haven’t quite made it to the end in time …

Hi! This Is Dean Mayes

Revised Image Of Author Dean Mayes June 2015

I grew up with an early love of words – a trait a little out of step for most children of my age and I have been writing and creating for most of my life…or at least for as long as I could wield a pen and knew how to use it.
The genesis for what became my first published novel came in 2008, when I started an internet blog and decided to craft a story ‘on the fly’, with no bells or whistles and put it up in instalments each week. I would announce a new edition on Facebook and Twitter and let anybody who wanted to, read it. I suddenly found myself with a dedicated readership, a following who, hooked on the story, would ‘tune in’ each week to read the next instalment and encourage me to keep writing more.
One particular message, was to signal the turning point in my writing career. It invited me to take a look at Central Avenue Publishing of Vancouver, Canada. After talking with C.A.P’s creative director Michelle Halket, I became very serious about my project. I stopped publishing the story to the blog and began constructing the manuscript, stealing time whenever I could to work on the story. Within a few months the manuscript, now renamed ‘The Hambledown Dream’, was completed, submitted and accepted for publication.
Australian Denny Banister had it all; a successful career, a passion for the guitar, and Sonya – the love of his life. Tragically, Denny is struck down with inoperable cancer. Andy DeVries has almost nothing; alienated from his family, moving through a dangerous Chicago underworld dealing in drugs, battling addiction while keeping a wavering hold on the only thing that matters to him: a place at a prestigious conservatory for classical guitar in Chicago. As Andy recovers from a near fatal overdose, he is plagued by dreams – memories of a love he has never felt, and a life he’s never lived. Driven by the need for redemption and by the love for a woman he’s never met, he begins a quest to find her, knowing her only by the memories of a stranger and the dreams of a place called Hambledown…
Since its publication, The Hambledown Dream has received critical acclaim from across the globe and fired my creative spark to continue writing. My second full-length novel, ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’, was nominated as a finalist in the prestigious EPIC Awards for contemporary fiction, in 2013 and has been described as a work of significant literary achievement.

In 1950s Australia, during the height of the divisive White Australia Policy, Virginia, a young Aboriginal girl is taken from her home and put to work on an isolated and harsh outback station. Her only solace: the violin, taught to her secretly by the kind-hearted wife of the abusive station owner. However, Virginia’s prodigious musical gift cannot save her from years of hardship and racism.

Decades later, her eight year old granddaughter Ruby plays the violin with the passion Virginia once possessed. Amidst poverty, domestic violence and social dysfunction, Ruby escapes her circumstance through her practice with her grandmother’s frail, guiding hand. Ruby’s zeal attracts the attention of an enigmatic music professor and with his help, she embarks on an incredible journey of musical discovery that will culminate in a rare opportunity. But with two cultural worlds colliding, her gift and her ambition will be threatened by deeply ingrained distrust, family jealousies and tragic secrets that will define her very identity.

I live in Adelaide, Australia with my partner Emily and our two children Xavier and Lucy.
Catch up with all my latest news on my Website
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Photograph Of Author Dean Mayes June 2015


When we embark on the writing journey, it is an inevitable truth that we draw upon personal experiences in creating our characters. Our experiences shape us and shape how we see the world around us. From a creative perspective, personal experiences are a gold mine.

How deep we are willing to go into our personal experience can mean the difference between a bland, cookie cutter archetype and a compelling character – either protagonist or antagonist.

And it is not an easy thing to do. In fact, It is quite a brave thing to enter into and draw upon one’s collective experiences and then commit them to paper.


Casey Schillinge is a vivacious young woman on the verge of making her mark on the world. While backpacking, she is struck down by a tropical disease and suffers cardiac failure. But at the eleventh hour, Casey receives a life-saving heart transplant – and a rare second chance to begin again.

Three years later, Casey has become a withdrawn shell of her former self: she is estranged from her loved ones, afraid of open spaces and rides the line between legitimate and criminal work. The worst of her troubles come in the form of violent night terrors; so frightening that she resorts to extreme measures to keep herself from sleeping. When she can take no more, she embarks on a desperate search for the source of her dreams. In so doing, she makes a shocking discovery surrounding the tragic fate of the donor whose heart now beats inside her chest. As she delves deeper into the mystery of her donor, she realizes her dreams are not a figment of her imagination, but a real life nightmare.


In “The Recipient”, I based aspects of my main character, Casey Schillinge’s experience of being a heart transplant patient on my own childhood experience of being a patient. I must clarify here and declare that I have not had any sort of organ transplant but I did spend an extended hospital stay in my mid teens.

When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with an aggressive neurological condition known as Neurofibromatosis. It manifested as a spinal cord tumor that grew out of the base of my spinal column. Quite unexpectedly, one cold morning when I was umpiring a local junior football match, I collapsed and was unable to walk. Following radiological confirmation of the tumor, I underwent surgery and then spent the next year and a half learning how to walk again.

For a teenaged kid, it was a significant life event that affected me profoundly. It robbed me of my independence and forced me to have to rely on others – namely my family – and, in the beginning, this was something I accepted. I was scared and most unable to comprehend what was happening to me so I was grateful for the support of others. Over time however, I came to see the constant intrusions – both medically and familiarly I began to crave my independence and railed against the constant care and attention my doctors and physiotherapists and family gave me. I began to feel suffocated and I resented the disruption the whole hospital experience and rehabilitation visited on me.

Surprisingly, all these years later, I found that it wasn’t easy to telegraph that experience of being coddled and cared for into the complicated character of Casey Schillinge. It forced me to revisit some difficult memories and confront them when I thought I had come to peace with them. It actually realised in the process that I hadn’t.

The exploration of those memories, those experiences helped to add a satisfying layer of complexity to Casey Schillinge that served the story well and helped drive the narrative forward.

As a result of her heart transplant and the monumental effect it has on herself and her family, we find them struggling to adapt when the story opens. Casey’s mother Edie in particular, has taken it upon herself to be the primary carer for her daughter in the immediate period after her surgery and initially, it is welcomed. For Casey, her life been thrown into a tail spin and she finds comfort in the support of other. As time goes on and Casey recovers, she begins to crave her independence and sees her mother’s care as intrusive and suffocating. This causes friction between them which leads to an eventual fracturing of their relationship which, as mother and daughter, I saw as something quite significant. How that relationship – that conflict – serves the story became one of the most satisfying aspects of writing “The Recipient” and it really helped to drive many of the key scenes that occur later in the novel.

I did not anticipate how effective it would be to delve into my own life experience in order to create a character like Casey Schillinge. And I guess you could say that by doing so, the process helped me to exorcise some residual demons that I thought I had dealt with a long time ago.

How have you drawn upon your own personal experiences in your own writing? Have you revisited critical events from your past in order to construct characters and situations? Did they help you to understand those experiences better?

Photograph Of Author Dean Mayes June 2015

Thanks for the visit, Dean and I promise that my review of ‘The Recipient’ will be published very soon 🙂

Clicking on any of the cover images will take you straight to the book page on Amazon.co.uk

Read my review of ‘The Hambledown Dream’ here

Read my review of ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’ here

Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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    • You’re the best Marcia!

      Casey is definitely dogged and unshakeable when she sets her mind to something. It serves her well in her recovery but it can also get her into trouble.

      *taps index finger to side of nose*

    • Hi Marcia,

      Thanks for visiting Fiction Books for the first time today. I enjoy ‘meeting’ new people and I always look forward to reading new thoughts and comments about a post 🙂

      I did a quick scan of your blog before accepting your comment and I did notice the piece you ran about ‘The Recipient’, which I am going to revisit later when I have more free time. I did notice that, like myself, you hadn’t quite finished reading the book when you posted, so it is good to see that the end must be as dramatic as I am assuming it will be and that some form of closure is reached for Casey.

  • Always fascinated to learn the stories of the authors behind the book, thanks for a great post. Definitely a read I’ll make a note of as as a vivacious woman Casey sounds just like the kind of character I enjoy and her journey sounds such a poignant one.

    • Hi Tracy,

      There is much more to this story than first meets the eye and I haven’t even reached the twists and turns of the finale yet!

      If you try reading just one of Dean’s books, I know you will be hooked. I can’t really recommend any one over the others, as I am already an addict 🙂

  • I still find the entire premise of this book fascinating and even more so now, knowing the author’s personal history. It sounds as if writing the story proved quite cathartic for him – a nice bonus!

    I’m no writer by any longshot, but like many others, I’ve had those periodic dreams of an inner novel waiting to be released. The closest I’ve come to making any effort was many years ago in the earliest days of e-mail. I wrote a horror story of sorts for my sister and sent it to her in installments, concluding on Halloween. It revolved around her and included personal references that wouldn’t have made sense to others, but had us hooting with laughter.

    • The significance of what I had done, in terms of recalling the past, didn’t strike me until much later – when the book was nearly done. But, going back through the notes I’d made at the time, there’s all these references to my hospital experience – things I’d done in rehab. Frustration at being stuck in bed and being turned regularly. The pain of the surgery. They were small rememberances but they absolutely helped when I came to write Casey’s story.

      Kelly – you should definitely commit yourself to writing! It sounds as if you definitely have a story to tell but I will warn you – writing is a drug! Once you start…

    • Hi Kelly,

      The closest I ever came to committing pen to paper, was back in junior school, when I entered a competition for a local newspaper and won a prize, although for the life of me I have no memory of the story or what it might have been about!

      English was always one of my favourite school lessons, hence my love of reading and, although I say it myself, my neat handwriting, which is always commented upon. My English teachers were always old fashioned sticklers for handwritng correctness, either that, or I loved the lessons so much that I set my own standards quite high.

      I don’t know if your book reading group ever makes a selection from overseas authors, however I am certain that any of Dean’s books would make for some great debates and discussions, particularly ‘The Gifts Of The Peramangk’, which also has the true Australian culture, at its core.

      Thanks for taking the time to visit and for such an interesting comment. It’s when we recall personal memories such as the one you shared, that you realise just how precious they are 🙂

  • Hi Dean,

    Thanks for providing the basis for this post, it was a joy to put together and having you share your own personal journey and your strong connection to the character of Casey, makes the whole story so ‘real’ somehow.

    Your thoughtful replies to comments received, are, I am certain, also appreciated and from my personal perspective, it is so nice to have an author participate so actively in a post.

    I hope that the throat has fully recovered now and that the op was a success 🙂

    • Hey Yvonne,

      It’s my pleasure for sure. It’s great to be able to interact with uour audience and to have such an engaged audience is really quite a coup for you.

      My output as an author isn’t as prolific as I’m sure it is for kany others. That’s partly to do with the nature of my busy life; juggling work and family with writing. But it’s also partly to do with the amount of time I spend in building characters. I don’t just settle on and archetype and lock it in from the get go. I want to develop their quirks, sketch a little of their psychology and develop enough of their back story that I can get a handle on who they are as people. It makes for much more satisfying story telling even if it does take longer.

      And my throat is on the mend. It feels a little weird and I sometimes sound like a 13 year on the verge of puberty but I am sure it will settle down. Thanks for asking.

  • Interesting post and The Recipient sounds like a good one. It definitely sounds like Dean used his personal experiences into his writing and that I believe is what makes a good writer. Reflecting on difficult times and using them in ones art can serve as a kind of catharsis.
    Enjoy your weekend Yvonne!

    • Hi Naida,

      I think that this is the best of Dean’s books to date and I loved both of the two previous stories, so that will show you just how much I am enjoying ‘The Recipient’.

      Each of the three storylines have been so totally different, pulling on the strings of completely different emotions, although I have to admit that ‘The Recipient’ is definitely the one which has kept me on the edge of my seat the most – and I am still not finished with it yet!

      The unfolding scenario is both disturbing and positively scary, yet is one which I know from personal conversations, does go on in certain parts of the world; although if Dean’s storyline is to be believed, is obviously far more widespread than I could ever have imagined.

      Can’t wait for the climax of this one 🙂

    • It was cathartic Naida and as I mentioned above, it helped me to understand certain feelings that I hadn’t realized remained unresolved. To see them in the context of character relationships was really confronting and I’m glad I was able to expunge them – in a sense.

      To expand on Yvonne’s reply (below), the research into organ transplant surgery and recovery was enhanced by the fact that I had the benefit of access to people and resources in my profession. That enabled me to be meticulous about the presentation of the clinical side of Casey’s journey.

      The research into human organ harvesting was a much more confronting and, frankly, shocking exercise which all stemmed from one particular incidence – Medicus. I won’t elaborate too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. But indeed, organ trafficking is still a dark and extensive industry all around the world.

    • Great interview Dean 🙂

      I hope that this is positive exposure for both yourself and your fantastic books … You deserve it 🙂

Written by Yvonne