Reynje at Wordchasing has dreamed up a lovely series, A YA Guide to Melbourne exploring novel settings. She correctly identifies Fitzroy as my setting for Six Impossible Things, but it’s an imaginary not-quite-Fitzroy. I refer to places like Gertrude Street, and the Edinburgh Gardens, but whereas for example the real Fitzroy Secondary College is glam, new, architect-designed, I wanted Dan’s fictional school to be good and grotty, a strong contrast to his old private school, helping to make a point about the important things in life being friends, family and community – not money.
Of course money is important if you can’t afford food and shelter, but if those two areas are sorted, money (stuff) is never what makes you happy. So Dan goes from a cashed-up lifestyle and into straitened circumstances, from a flash school to a run-down school. But it’s in his new life that he finds friends, self-reliance, and happiness.
One of the early inspirations for this story was the image of two terrace houses, side by side, identical from the outside, but completely different inside. One renovated, one run-down. One family with money, one with no money, and the fact that to the kids that doesn’t matter in the slightest. These are Dan’s and Estelle’s houses. And their interconnecting attic is where Dan finds Estelle’s diaries.
Dan’s house is imaginary – it only exists in my head and on the page, but these Melbourne terraces, one in Carlton and one in East Melbourne were vague inspirations.
Random fact: When I remember dreams, they always involve exploring very detailed interiors.
Small setting cheat in Six Impossible Things: When Dan doesn’t quite kiss Estelle they are in the cactus glasshouse at the Botanic Gardens. These days, all the spikes are behind glass. A few years ago they were free range, and that’s the way I needed them:
“…I’m somehow leaning against a large spiky beast that’s hooked into my jumper.
‘It’s trying to eat you. Even though you’re quite obviously not an insect,’ says Estelle, attempting to unhook me…”
For me, setting helps to convey theme. And it’s fun to write – you’re free to combine bits and pieces from real life and make up anything you like until you have a collage that fits with the world in your mind. I’m looking forward to following Reynje’s series…