I’m a sci-fi and fantasy nerd from way back. As a kid, some of my favourite movies were Star Wars, Back to the Future, Labyrinth, and Willow. As an adult, the trend has continued. I’ll probably never get over how good Orphan Black and Lost Girl were, and BattlestarGalactica is practically an annual pilgrimage in my household.
It made sense then, that when my first novel asserted itself in my head with all the ferocity of an unleashed storm, it was a dystopian sci-fi predicated upon political powerplay. Throw in themes about the evolution of gender and the influence of historical narratives upon collective identity for good measure, and Beneath the Surface is a novel that reflects a lot of my interests and literary influences.
When I finished writing Beneath the Surface and was sitting in that limbo between acceptance from a publisher and editing, I had a kind of writing hang-over.
BTS was such an intense experience. It took me well over a year to write and, emotionally, I’d become so engaged with my characters and the complex world they lived in, that I was drained by the time I was done.
Yet I felt elated over my first publishing contract and I knew I was just a baby writer with much to learn. As such, I set myself a challenge: write what you don’t know. I’m comfortable writing in third person. I’m comfortable writing speculative fiction, and I’m comfortable with romance as a side-plot rather than the main event.
There came my criteria for a new project:
- Write in first person
- Set the story in the real world in the present day
- Focus on a romantic connection
I had no idea what the story would be about, but I knew what aspects of writing practice I’d play around with to test my skills and broaden my experience. I love describing Australian settings, and I’d not long been on a trip to Adelaide with my partner, visiting wineries in South Australia. While we didn’t get to visit the places in Riding the Track, we did get a taste of how stunning that part of our home country is. And there it was: I’d write a story where the Australian setting came alive, just as it does when you’re truly there.
Next, to decide on characters. Lydia and (Beneath the Surface) are both highly intelligent in different ways. They’re athletic (heck, one of them is as agile as a wild cat given she isn’t exactly human), probably a little too beautiful for real life, and living in a complex world and responding to complex situations. That means they’re both serious, there’s not a lot of room for humour in their lives.
Hence, keeping with the theme of writing something as different as I possibly could, Clara was born. Sarcastic? Check. An average-sized woman with a semi-healthy lifestyle? Check. An obsession with Gilmore Girls? Absolutely.
From there, Clara told me where she wanted to go. To Australia, obviously. But she also wanted to challenge herself, just as I did. Clara needed to let her hair down, so to speak, and learn to enjoy the moments, the experiences, as they were presented to her. Nothing memorable ever happens in your comfort zone, after all.