Tag Archives: Kangaroo Island

Five Parts Dead dismembered

This set of images was prepared for Simmone Howell’s Anatomy of a Novel series, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Copyright was an issue with some of the images I wanted to include but this is still a pretty fair snapshot of the influences wafting through my mind while writing Five Parts Dead.

For the lowdown on each image and how it connects to Five Parts Dead, please pop on over to postteen trauma.

A foundation for Five Parts Dead

The ideas for Five Parts Dead grew from a family holiday to Cape du Couedic lighthouse. Here are the very first notes I scribbled, about a fortnight later. They show where my research needed to begin and the characters I had in mind from the get go. Apologies for the ugly mix of shorthand and scrawl.

Stu became Dan, partly because his name sounded too old-fashioned. Pip kept her name but the bit of dialogue I had in mind here didn’t make it to the final draft – which wasn’t submitted until mid 2010. (I was still polishing the Game as Ned manuscript at the time of making these notes.)

First notes for Five Parts Dead
First notes for Five Parts Dead

Places that talk

Book reviewers sometimes talk about how a particular tome successfully captured “a sense of place” by evoking the sights, sounds and smells of a location. For me, “a sense of place” has another meaning.

Sometimes I’ll visit a new destination (or spend new time at an old one) and my story radar will be triggered, big time. Tasmania’s Port Arthur is one place where I can just about feel the past mingling with the present. The Kangaroo Island setting for my next book, is another such place. The moment I walked in the door of our holiday cottage, I had a sense that a story was brewing.

A friend recently referred me to a website, Opacity that really captures a sense of place in an eery fashion. I confess I’m a sucker for photographing decrepit buildings, grimy statuary and gnarled tree trunks… but not if it means breaking and entering or risking life and limb. As a kid, curiosity saw me explore numerous dangerous sites- old mines, empty buildings and even the stormwater tunnels under a Melbourne suburb. As an adult, I’m less intrepid… or maybe more conscious of risk and less willing to push my luck.

I took the Fallen Angels shot below (click for full size) somewhere in New York. I like it because the cherubs’ stained faces are sulky and sinister – like they’ve changed teams. It makes me wonder what they did to fall from grace. Imagine having them over your doorway. What vibe would they bring to your building? What would they get up to when you’re not looking?

Fallen Angels
Fallen Angels

Adult Readers, YA Books

This article in Louisville, Kentucky’s, Courier Journal was tweeted to me recently. It discusses the growing numbers of adult readers consuming so-called Young Adult fiction.

I don’t think it’s a new thing. I do think it’s a good thing and not just for the obvious, self-interested reason. As I wrote in one of my first ever blog posts a good story is a good story. It should contain truths for readers of all ages, especially the young-adult-at-heart.

When I complete a manuscript for my novels I shop it around to friends and family for feedback. My oldest test reader is almost 100 so it’s an incredible effort for her to read an A4 manuscript. She doesn’t care that the protagonists are teens. She’s all about the story.

For Five Parts Dead my other test readers included a Tarot-reading friend with experience in matters spiritual and paranormal, two obliging teenagers, two or three Kangaroo Island locals, a secondary teacher, a crime-fiction addicted masseuse, my parents and my Tarot-reading wife. Everyone brought different experiences and opinions to their reading and the finished product will be better for their input.

I’m getting off the track. There are lots of pros and not too many cons to being a YA author. Here are a few:

Cons
– There’s a certain snobbery out there. Writing for adults seems to be considered more prestigious than writing for children or teenagers.

– Australia has numerous fantastic YA authors yet, as multi-award-winning YA wordsmith Simmone Howell has pointed out, we don’t see them on the tele. John Marsden might be the exception to that rule and even with that exposure few Australians appreciate the international superstar John is.

– The YA aisle tends to be tucked away in the back of bookstores so adult readers are less likely to browse or even enter the teen zone unless they know what they’re looking for.

– I suspect adult fiction attracts better advance$ than YA. Guess I won’t really know until I write a grown up book.

Pros
– Hey, everyone says teens are reluctant readers. The teens I talk to aren’t. Whatever the case, I’m rapt if I can get any reader to persevere from the front to back cover of my stories – but uber-impressed when I hear from a teenager who says “your book is the first I ever read”.

– As Cory Doctorow says, it’s an honour to be telling stories for and about young people during such a formative part of their lives. There are books I read as a teenager that have had an indelible impact on the person I am today.

– Writing for YA readers helps preserve the Peter Pan in my mind.

– I get to visit schools and work with fantastically creative young minds before the adult world pummels them into jaded and world-weary submissiveness.

– It’s a great time to be writing YA fiction thanks to JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Lian Hearn, Markus Zusak and countless other “crossover” authors.

I could go on. I won’t. I’m chuffed to be a YA author… or stoked, as some might say.

Next time you’re out to buy a book, please give the YA shelves a gander, regardless of the date on your birth certificate.