Twenty years ago, Havel made a trip to Roti Island for a surfing trip.
As he passed a village called Nemberala, he asked what was down a road they had just passed. The answer he received was ‘the village of widows and orphans’, a village that suffered every time one of its fishermen was lost during cyclone season.
And so the idea for the Grave of the Roti Men came to life.
The story follows a boy whose parents are divorced but when he goes to visit his father, he comes to appreciate the lifestyle of the local village people and becomes friends with a local boy.
‘After a series of personal blows he stows away on a fishing boat and ends up being caught in a cyclone on one of the sand islands off Ashmore Reef,’ Havel said.
‘When thinking about how best to tell the story of Pepela, I decided to use the viewpoint of a young Australian boy because I’d have some chance of being authentic in my narration.’
Grave of the Roti Men is available from Fremantle Press. Visit www.fremantlepress.com.au.