I’m delighted to be hosting Isobel Blackthorn in my hot seat today chatting to us about The Legacy of Old Gran Parks.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Isobel Blackthorn’s answers to my questions and I know you will too.
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1424 KB
Print Length: 340 pages
Publisher: HellBound Books Publishing LLC (24 Feb. 2018)
Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.
It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car.
Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whisky and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.
All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next to Miriam, thrashing about in the night.
Gran Parks is stirring. Who will survive? Who will get away? Who will stay?
Available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise The Legacy of Gran Parks in 20 words or less.
In a lawless town in a coastal wilderness, four women encounter four deviant men. Gran Parks stands at the crossroads.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I started with the setting. A friend and former neighbour had relocated to a remote town deep in the forest on Australia’s south-eastern corner. I know the town as I have passed through it many times on my way up the coast from Melbourne. Cann River is a coach stop; it’s where tourists pull in for a rest after driving through the forest for about a hundred miles, before they tackle the next hundred. For years, I thought the town would make a terrific setting for a thriller. When my friend urged me on and I committed to the project, fresh ideas flooded in. I was after a unique tale, something that would speak to the heart of what Cann River feels like from an outsider’s point of view, while capturing some of the essence of the surrounds, for the area, known as Croajingolong National Park, is part of the Wilderness Coast and is a UNESCO-declared biosphere reserve. The area is special for another reason, one I discovered when I started researching the story. On the coast nearby is Point Hicks lighthouse, where Captain James Cook first sighted land on the eastern coast of Australia in April 1770. Unable to pull in there or anywhere else for hundreds of kilometres, Cook kept heading north and arrived at Botany Bay and Australia was claimed by the British. My book is as far from historical fiction as can be, but there is truth in there regarding the local area, including Point Hicks.
With the setting vivid in my mind, I wanted to do something different with the plot. I’d just been offered a publishing contract by a small American horror imprint for my dark psychological thriller, The Cabin Sessions, and thinking I might pen something else dark, I started exploring tropes and conjuring characters. I already had one character, Miriam, who was born in a shelved work, and with her I knew I wouldn’t be writing anything stereotypical in the genre. When I made a conscious decision to subvert the gothic horror stereotype of the damsel in distress victim in need of rescuing by a heroic male protagonist, three other characters came to me. In the centre of Cann River is a crossroads, and a crossroads is a powerful symbol. I decided to make full use of that symbol as well.
Please can you tell us about the characters Isobel.
The novel is set in 1983. There are four female protagonists, Miriam, Frankie, Pearl and Emily. Miriam is a former local government manager whose house recently burned down in a wildfire. She arrives in Cann River from the west. Frankie is a deer hunter who lives in the forested hinterland to the north. Pearl is an old fisherwoman who lives down by the lake near the southern coast, and Emily is a British backpacker working at the roadhouse. She arrives in town from the east. They are distinct characters, vastly different from each other, and the story is told by each of them in turn.
Four men also arrive in town, from each of the four directions. Miriam is forced to endure a drug addict with strange nocturnal habits, Frankie a murdering rapist on the loose, Pearl a supposed child abductor and Emily a young man convalescing at the lighthouse. The story concerns the interactions of the women with these dodgy men.
How is the story funny? Where is the comedy? Even Gran Parks, who makes an appearance in a short prologue, makes me smile, but most of the humour can be found in the roadhouse, run by Pat and her baker-mechanic son, Con, and in the rather warped attitudes of the women.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
I will be honest and say that I enjoyed writing the whole book. This is my fifth novel and it was pure entertainment to write. Some WIPs are a real labour. ‘Gran Parks’ was not one of those books. It was as if the four protagonists rolled up their sleeves and had their say and all I had to do was keep up with their voices as I wrote. Almost like taking down dictation.
… and the hardest?
There wasn’t a hard scene so much as a lot of tricky scene changes to manage as I switched perspectives from character to character. I’m a pantser and I could only be one character a day and I would forget where I was up to, where the others were and so on. I had to keep a close eye on what day it was and what time of day. I wanted to make things clear and easy for the reader to follow. That was the most important part of the whole story for me in the writing. All along my aim was to sweep the reader along for the ride. I didn’t want them to stumble trying to figure things out.
Did you do any research? What resources did you use?
My friend, Cassarndra helped me enormously with the research side of the book. She sent me photos, told me about places, and described some of her experiences. She was my primary resource. The other was Google maps. Having been through Cann River many times I felt I could portray the town authentically in terms of the sense of place. Of course, the Cann River in my book is not in any way based on the real Cann River or its inhabitants. Fiction stylises everything for effect, just like in the movies, and ‘Gran Parks’ is a dark comedy. There just isn’t going to be a normal, well-adjusted character in a book like that. Well, maybe just one. I don’t want readers local to Cann River thinking I have produced some sort of advert for tourism. Yet the odd thing about writing fiction where the setting is in effect another character, is those works do raise awareness of a place, they do help to put a location on the cultural map, and are in a strange way a kind of gift to an area. So maybe people driving through a place they’ve read about will stop and take more of an interest. I think the concept of travel fiction can be broad enough to include all kinds of diverse reads, and not just beach reads. No one would write a beach read set anywhere near Cann River!
Do you have a book trailer Isobel?
I do have a book trailer. I make mine using iMovie and I don’t think I am at all brilliant when it comes to creating trailers but I can say I am getting better. I keep mine short. This latest in 38 seconds.
What do you think book trailers achieve?
I think they help increase exposure and provide content to share. Some people engage better with movement and sound, and might, I guess, be more inspired to buy your book if they see a trailer. I think that’s the idea. They take hours and hours to make so I always hope those who come across the link can be bothered to hit play. (I love the visuals in a book trailer – and love your music Isobel!)
Do you have a most creative time of day?
First thing in the morning is when I am at my most creative. I start writing sipping coffee and put in an hour or two before the rest of my day begins. Admin is the big distraction. I can potter about doing housework or even go to the shops, but admin swallows my creative brain.
What are you reading now? Opinion?
I’m reading Catherine Burns’ The Visitors and I expect it to win a prize or be optioned for a film or both. It is grim, the grimmest book I have ever read, and that includes a lot of grim reads. In Britain, there is a curious appetite for grim reads, which I think is why Legend Press re-released it.
Finally Isobel, what are you currently working on?
I have four WIP’s on the go at present, all at various stages of development. One is a work of biographical fiction, another is literary and top secret. I am working on a haunted house story with an interesting setting, and a thriller set in Las Vegas. I’m very cloak and dagger about my WIPs. They feel vulnerable until they are between the covers. Anything might happen to them.
Thank you for being my guest today.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Isobel Blackthorn is the author of five novels, including The Cabin Sessions, The Drago Tree and A Perfect Square. Her short stories, book reviews and non-fiction have appeared in journals around the world. Her mystery-crime novel, La Mareta, will be released by Odyssey Books in May. She holds a PhD in Western Esotericism and the occult features in most of her writing. Isobel currently lives on the wild southern coast of Australia with her cat.
Connect with Isobel Blackthorn