Welcome to our Indie Spotlight series, in which TNBBC gives small press authors the floor to shed some light on their writing process, publishing experiences, or whatever else they'd like to share with you, the readers!
Today, we are joined by Andrew Hook and Eugen Bacon, as they discuss the importance of choosing the right setting for their novel Secondhand Daylight, which releases in October.
Check it out!
setting in a story is just as important as character and plot, but how do you make
the decision where to pay big attention to setting? Does it have to be
somewhere you know well? Can you pluck a place out of the air and do some
research? Or do you cheat (!), aka invent, and make the whole thing up?
done all three, but in my forthcoming novel – Secondhand Daylight –
there was a very specific reason for choosing the location, which is
predominantly set in Melbourne, Australia: my co-author lives there.
Daylight is a collaborative time-travel novel
written with the African Australian author, Eugen Bacon. When we suggested
writing a novel together, I was aware Eugen was living in Melbourne, but I had
also spent a few months there in 1991 while travelling. I had fond memories of
the place – especially the Sarah Sands Hotel, which was a pub that had an
alternative disco on Thursday nights and where I spent a lot of time on the
we both had knowledge of the city centred the novel, but also realising I could
start my character’s journey in the early nineties, meant I could harness my experiences
of Melbourne at that time. We initially agreed I’d write Green’s story, and
Eugen would write Zada’s, but this shifted as we started writing—and that’s a
whole different story! As my character, Green, moved forward into the present
day, Eugen could pick up on the vibe of the city now, and then extrapolate that
into the future. Melbourne becomes as much of a character in the novel as our
protagonists, Green and Zada:
Thursday night I
was back at the Sarah Sands Hotel. It afforded me an approximation of
community. The post-punk crowd dressed as extras from a Cure video. The DJ who knew
which records to spin, the dance floor which was my church. Within that
rectangle, under multicoloured lights, cossetted by music, I spun and twisted,
cavorted my body into memories and shapes, glimpsed othersdoing the same,
amorphous companions who returned to the shadows once the song finished.
comes alive in its own way in this story, not just in New Brunswick, where our
Sarah Sands Hotel is located, enriched with my own memory of it, but also in
Essendon, where Green owns a cul de sac, and in Collingwood, where Green’s
father now lives with the woman who has replaced Green’s mother, and in Ringwood,
where Green’s friend Batesman (Batey) lives with his family – the latter being
Eugen’s renditions of a new Melbourne. Hopefully our experiences – mine and
Eugen’s – make the novel more authentic.
in my memory were augmented by internet searches and I was also able to revisit
suburbs such as Moonee Ponds via Google Streetview, which coupled nostalgia
with being able to see how the area had changed. Eugen could draw on the
present day, of course, and extrapolate – the creative author she is, who loves
the novel, my character also reminisces about time spent travelling the Gold
Coast around the Whitsunday Islands. Another trip I had made. Again, personal
experience came into play (except for weed? That was Eugen’s fictional add-on,
Batey and I had
each scratched up enough for a plane ticket. I smiled wryly. Don’t even ask, I
thought to myself. I’d knocked off something, a fan or an aircon, I couldn’t
remember what exactly now. Maybe sold some of my records. Then I got some good
hands-on bud, and weed always sold quick on the streets. With all that money,
we went no further than Townsville and Noosa…
Batey and I, we’d
driven north, pulled off the road and down a dirt track at random, so we could
take a break and eat pre-bought meat pies and down a couple of tinnies. On a
clifftop we’d glanced down into the sparkling azure and caught sight of a
school of dolphins, their fins rising and falling in forward movement through
the surf. No-one else around. A moment pure for us. At the time, I’d wished I
had a girl there.
in Zada’s story from the future, the scene replays from Bateman’s perspective:
He necks from the
bottle of VB. Wipes his mouth. “Green and I went travelling together. There’s a
bond there that can’t be broken. Two guys in a camper. No commitments. The
naivety of youth. We headed up to Queensland. Noosa. Townsville. The usual.
Spent a lot of time around the Whitsundays. Camped out on the beach with fruit
bats chittering above us in the trees, their crap bouncing off the tent.” He
laughs deeply, now. “One of those ovals dropped into Green’s cup of tea. I let
him take a sip before I said anything.”
He roars. They’re
laughing together. His teeth white as white.
“Jeez, those pure
white sands at Whitehaven Beach,” says Bateman. “And the girls—a few of those
too. But Green had to work harder than I did. He’s more thoughtful, lives less
in the moment, you know.” Bateman pauses. “Although I imagine living in the
moment is all he has now.”
Melbourne (and Australia in general) worked best for this novel, I would say
there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to setting, other than if you
are using a real place then try and get the minutiae of your location pinned
down as much as possible. There will always be someone ready to comment that a
car can’t turn right at that junction, whether in the past, present or future.
Andrew Hook is a European writer with over 160 short stories in print, including notable appearances in Interzone, Black Static, and several anthologies from PS Publishing and NewCon Press. His fiction has been reprinted in anthologies including Best British Horror 2015 and Best British Short Stories 2020, has been shortlisted for British Fantasy Society awards, and he was longlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize in 2020. As editor/publisher, he has won three British Fantasy Society awards and he also has been a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. Most recent publications include Candescent Blooms (Salt Publishing)—5-star reviewed in the Telegraph. Find him at www.andrew-hook.com or @AndrewHookUK
Eugen Bacon is an African Australian author of several novels and fiction collections. She’s a 2022 World Fantasy Award finalist, and was announced in the honor list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships for ‘doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction’. Her book Danged Black Thing made the 2021 Otherwise Honor List as a ‘sharp collection of Afro-Surrealist work’. Recent books: Mage of Fools (novel), Chasing Whispers (collection) and An Earnest Blackness (essay collection). Eugen has two novels, a novella and three anthologies (ed) out in 2023, together with the US release of Danged Black Thing. Visit her website at eugenbacon.com and Twitter feed at @EugenBacon