Is it weird that I’ve never written a book set in Australia? I mean, I’ve stepped it up and actually have a few Australian characters now—and The Island has a few scenes set in Canberra of all places—but if you’re looking for an Australian writer to take you on a tour of this wide sunburned land, then I am probably not that writer.
One piece of prevailing wisdom is to write what you know. Which is that sort of advice that makes a lot of sense, until you think about it too deeply. Because I’m not going to let the fact I’ve never been in space stop me from writing about it, right? But also, maybe it’s good advice as long as you widen its meaning a little. Because every book I’ve written so far is about people making connections in a complicated world, whether that complicated world is a space station, or an American college, or Ancient Rome. And I like writing stories where I get to explore that. So maybe for me it shouldn’t be “write what you know”, it should be “write what you want to know.”
I think that I’ve never written a story set in Australia is that even though I could absolutely mine my everyday life for details, I suspect my everyday life is not that interesting. And then I post a picture on Facebook of the possums who break into my house every night, and remember that okay, that’s not something that happens to most people, and I could definitely use that in a story.
So I think that it’s probably time I gave an Australian story a shot. I think it will be a lot of fun to view the landscapes I’m familiar with through fresh eyes, and to try and translate some of its uniqueness to the page. I have a few plot bunnies floating around at the moment. Or perhaps I should consider them plot bilbies for the purposes of this story?
So far I don’t have a lot of details worked out, except it’s probably going to be about two cops working in a remote two-man station in western Queensland. One of them really doesn’t want to be there, and one of them—a single dad—can’t imagine being anywhere else. And a possum. There has to be a possum.
Like always, I don’t write out plot points as much as I write a few little scenes and play around with the characters until I’ve got a handle on them. Most of these snippets will be trashed during the actual writing process. But in the meantime, welcome to the town that has no name yet:
They ate at the pub, in the restaurant attached to the front bar. Occasional bursts of loud laughter drowned out the tinny electronic music of the pub’s row of three poker machines. The pub did good, cheap food. Chicken schnitzel, chips and salad for fourteen bucks, and it was better than anything Gio could have cooked up for himself.
Jason ordered them both a beer. A light.
Taylor got a Coke.
Jason went through the roster with Gio. There were only so many hours in a day that two blokes could fill. They wouldn’t cross paths much between Sunday and Wednesday. One of them would work the day shift while the other was on a day off. From Thursday through until Saturday they worked overlapping shifts, trying to cover the afternoon until past midnight when it was more likely they’d have to deal with disturbances and domestics.
“Anything that crops up when you’re rostered alone that you need backup for, you call me out,” Jason said. “And I’ll do the same to you. It’s not like the city. If things turn to shit, it’s just us. Even coming lights and sirens, the nearest backup is about two hours away. More, if they’re on the other side of their division.”
“Yeah,” Gio said. “That’s gonna take some getting my head around.”
Jason’s mouth quirked at that, and Gio could hear the unspoken judgement:
Evidently, so could Taylor. The kid dragged a chip through a puddle of tomato sauce, and regarded his dad with a grin.
“It’s a different style of policing out here,” Jason told him. “Has to be.”
Meanwhile, who will be in Kansas City for GRL next month? I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends, and making some new ones. If you see me there, be aware that I’m an incredibly socially awkward turtle, but please do feel free to approach me and say hello! I can’t wait to