By Mikayla van Loon
With an imagination that liked to run wild when he was young, it’s no surprise Scott Pearce would one day put his ideas to paper.
The Lilydale resident has just released his second book ‘The Rider on the Bridge’, in a nod to his family history but also a look into the troublesome life of a young man.
As a child, Mr Pearce’s father Michael would tell him the story of how his uncle Raymond would ride his bike along the rail bridge, beside the train tracks, where the Warburton Rail Trail now crosses Maroondah Highway.
“They would collect money and it was almost like a bet and people would say, ‘I bet he’ll fall off’,” Mr Pearce said.
“So my uncle Ray would ride his bike along the edge and if he made it, my dad got to keep the money. But of course, if he plummeted over the side, well that person got double the money returned.”
As a boxer, Mr Pearce’s uncle had a strength and balance that allowed him to cross the bridge unharmed but it got him thinking about risk and thrill.
“That image stayed with me because it’s an amazing image but it’s also so perilous. It made me think about young people…[and] perhaps we do things when we’re younger for the thrill that on reflection when we’re older, we think that was really perilous. That was really dangerous.”
It is that image that formulated the premise of Mr Pearce’s book, from the third person perspective of a boy told about this dangerous act by his mother, who reflects on the moment years later.
“The image is lodged in his thoughts and he’s in Lilydale but he has a bit of a difficult upbringing and he runs away to the city and ends up in St Kilda living in a squat.
“He reflects on those experiences 25 years later, remembering the rider on the bridge and seeing the relationship that his life at that time had with that rider.”
Seeing the characters now come to life after finishing the first draft 20 years ago, Mr Pearce said he felt a huge sense of relief when the book was released on 1 May.
“There’s a feeling that you’re obligated towards your characters in the book. It’s almost like they’ve entrusted you with their story and you’ve listened and written it down and now they’re looking for an audience.”
When writing a novel, Mr Pearce said often the characters feel very real, they come to life and building their profile requires thoughts about what they might eat, how they might stand, what they might read or watch.
“It’s writing about their faults and failures as much as their successes so they’re not one dimensional, so they’re complex and complicated, and unresolved,” he said.
“It’s an enormous relief that it’ll be out in the world and then other people can read it and engage with them.”
Storytelling has always come naturally to Mr Pearce and he knew one day he would write a novel.
“I never have a lack of ideas. Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, where did the idea come from?’ And then I think I’m not really sure, it’s just sort of there. Sometimes it starts small and it grows and it grows and the characters grow, so I never contain the idea or the characters.”
As a high school teacher in English and English literature, Mr Pearce said he uses his own experience to encourage his students to be persistent.
“I can say to students, it took me 20 years, it took me longer than you’ve been alive and so the students that strive to be writers or strive to be an artist and I say it’s persistence, you’ve just got to persist.”
With the release of ‘The Rider on the Bridge’ Mr Pearce said “I’m hoping that what the book says is a person’s value is not measured by their income or their status or their past and people often come from difficult and complicated backgrounds and are living complicated and difficult lives but they still have significant value.”