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Monday, July 09, 2012


Last year, one of the shortlisted books for Children’s Book of the Year was Six Impossible Things by TV writer and now YA novelist Fiona Wood. It was funny and sad at the same time and contained characters who were over-the-top but lovable. This book got a mention during a YA panel I was on at Continuum a few weeks ago, from an American writer, so it has already made it overseas as well as Australia.  And given that the panel was on speculative fiction in YA and this book is very much set in our own world, it has DEFINITELY made it!

In this interview, Fiona talks about her work – hope you enjoy!

SB: What inspired this particular story? Why, for example, have a boy as your main character when so much mainstream YA these days is about and for girls?

FW: My point of departure was not: ‘What gender should my protagonist be?’ but rather, ‘What story will I devise for this character who keeps knocking on my door?’.
Because Dan was where it all started. He was the first element of the novel to appear. I was working on something else entirely – a film script ­– when ideas for a shy, angsty, nerdish fourteen-year-old boy started suggesting themselves. I decided it would be fun if this ‘boy least likely’ got to go to the ball, or, in his case, the year nine social, and from that point I included some elements from the Cinderella story. Boys and girls have both enjoyed the book.

SB: You’ve said your hero’s name, Dan Cereill, is “Cinderella” jumbled up. What other elements of the Cinderella story are in there? (He strikes me more as a much brighter Adrian Mole, actually, with a Pandora who’s worth caring about. ;-D)

FW: Yes, naming him was the first Cinderella element. Dan could also have been a Ned or Ed, but when I wrote down Cereill as a possible surname, I could see there was fun to be had with mispronunciation – cereal/surreal – and so Dan Cereill it was. Then because I wanted Dan’s appearance to change through the course of the story as a concrete image of his ‘growing up’, it gave me an opportunity to have Oliver and Em play a fairy godmother role. And Dan’s mother’s wedding cake business gave me a good clamp to require him to be home by midnight. (I really like the character Adrian Mole, but I think he and Dan are very different.)

SB: You’re a TV writer in your other life - has this had an effect on the way you wrote the story?

FW: I’m sure TV writing influences the way I tell a story. For example, I really enjoy a narrative that rolls along, and I’m pretty hard-line during the editing process in cutting out any passages that stall the flow of the story. TV writing has also given me the habit and discipline of plotting and planning. I couldn’t start writing without having developed the plot, and knowing the end points to which I am heading for each character, and for the story overall. But that’s not to say it doesn’t change a lot along the way.

SB: I really liked Estelle and her friends and thought they deserved a book of their own - are you considering giving them one?

FW : Thanks, Sue. Lots of readers have asked about a sequel to Six Impossible Things, and though I haven’t written a direct sequel, my new book Wildlife (out next year with Pan Macmillan) does feature Lou from Six Impossible Things as one of the two point-of-view characters. Wildlife sees Lou starting at a new school, and going through a phase of readjustment following a tragic event that happens between the two books. She is still in touch with Dan and Estelle, and we hear what they are up to. The third book in this very loosely linked trilogy will take up the story of two characters who first appear in Wildlife in minor roles.

And I’ve just written a short story with Estelle in it. But it’s set in the future. She’s twenty-five, and breaking up with her boyfriend in Prague. The characters certainly live on in my mind beyond the narratives for which they have been created. 

As a reader, I love coming across characters who move between novels. Alison Lurie was the first writer I was aware of who does this, and more recently I adore the way Melina Marchetta takes up the story of some of her characters from ‘Saving Francesca’, five years later, in her recent release, ‘The Piper’s Son’.

SB: Did you have any beta readers for this? If so, what kind of people did you ask? Teens? Teachers? Girls? Boys?

FW: Yes, I tick all those categories of beta readers for Six Impossible Things, and have asked the same readers, plus two additional readers, to look at Wildlife in unedited manuscript form.

SB: Are any of the things that happened in your novel based on real events?

FW: Nothing directly, but so many little details of character and dialogue, music and humour, are based on my world.

SB; Finally, tell us about your new book. What’s it about?

FW: Wildlife is a story about first love, friendship and betrayal. It's set over one term during which year ten students board at their school’s outdoor education campus. I’ve written a post at my blog on the various working titles it has had, and why they didn’t make the cut.

Thanks for giving your time to the Great Raven, Fiona! I’m sure your fans will be delighted to know that some of your characters from the first book will be appearing in your new one.


Fiona Wood has been writing television for more than ten years on shows ranging from ’MDA’ and ‘The Secret Life of Us’ to ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’. 

Her first novel Six Impossible Things was shortlisted for the 2011 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers. Her second novel Wildlife is out next year.

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