In the tone of The Dressmaker, The Good Teacher takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how one mistake can snowball into a scandal that will embroil a whole town.
Stony Creek: a quiet farming community where good manners, good will and fairness must be upheld at all costs.
No one embodies these values more than married P&C president, Jennifer Booth. Though her only child is long-graduated from Stony Creek Primary School (one teacher plus casuals), Jennifer prides herself on leading by example. But when she has passionate, unexpected sex with the new principal, Brock Kelly, just before a P&C meeting, on his office desk, no one is more surprised than she. And when they accidentally burn the school down? Then they've really got trouble on their hands.
Fellow committee member Sarah Howard, gifted with a highly developed intuition, takes one look at the guilty parties and knows her children's futures are in jeopardy. Everyone always says that a child's education should not be compromised and nothing about this scandal will end well for the school, the teacher or the community. Does disaster loom for Stony Creek?
R.M. Anderson is a second generation beef cattle farmer from northern New South Wales. Married with two children, he has a degree in Communications majoring in journalism, from Charles Sturt University.
The Good Teacher
Author: R.M. Anderson
Question: How did you come up with the idea of The Good Teacher?
R.M. Anderson: My kids are grown now but my recollection is that Primary School can sometimes make parents a little crazy. Some parents are anxious that their child is not getting the education they need others are worried the world is not recognizing the extreme talent of their child. The Good Teacher is not really about this dynamic but it is the background for the mad things that happen in the book. It always seemed to me that if something dramatic, socially, was going to happen in a small farming community it would happen at the local school or be linked to that school. In a farming community the school becomes the place of contact for sometimes generations of families. People are seeing each other, discussing, making decisions at a level that does occur at any other stage of life.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
R.M. Anderson: At the time of writing I was very conscious that so many of our stories, books, TV, movies, centre around murder but very few of us have anything to do with murder in real life. The drama in our lives so often comes from relationships. I felt there was so much murder in the world I didn't need to create another world with murder in it.
I can confidently say none of the characters resemble or are modifications of anyone I know. I previously self-published a novel where a couple of the characters were loosely based on people I knew vaguely. So I know (and am very wary of) how friends and locals are particularly attuned to seeing if they can match characters with real life people. At the time I was almost convinced people didn't believe someone could actually make characters up.
Question: Why did you choose to set the book in Stony Creek?
R.M. Anderson: I do live in an area not unlike Stony Creek. I do have a particularly strong community and close group of friends in that community. Many of us got to know each other as we put our children through the local small school. I chose to set the story in Stony Creek because I was -writing what I know'. It wasn't intentional it just flooded out that way.
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
R.M. Anderson: The issues in the book evolved. I did not set out with a plan or a particular message or a didactic intent. The characters in the situation come up with the issues.
Interview by Brooke Hunter