Authors can find themselves in the strangest situations. Admittedly, they are mostly in our heads as we duck and weave our way through fictitious plot twists.
And with the amount of information on the internet, we scarcely even need to leave our desk for research purposes. A walk to the kitchen to put the kettle on is a big excursion some days.
But there’s nothing like actually experiencing a place in order to write about it – to feel the vibe, to see the colours, to experience the smells.
I write my stories about places I know well. The Queensland beach of Noosa finds its way into many of my stories, because I love the place. A boating scene pops up in virtually every book. I spent most holidays as a girl on Moreton Bay, and can’t imagine an adventure without a waterway of some kind. Asia is also getting a good run in my novels for teens, because I have a strong connection – I lived there in my twenties.
But lately my stories seem to be intersecting with my life in unexpected ways.
Take The Call of The Wild, a story I’m working on for the brand new Choose Your Own Ever After series (Hardie Grant Egmont). In this book, nature-loving Phoebe must make a choice between going to a party with her friends or helping at a save-the-orangutan fund-raiser.
The topic is close to my heart because I visited Borneo many years ago, and was captivated by the orphaned orangutans at the Sepilok Sanctuary. At that time you could walk into the forest, and the orangutans would appear out of nowhere when the ranger arrived with a bucket of fruit. One cheeky orangutan opened my friend’s money belt and ate her cash, another grabbed onto my hand and wouldn’t let go. It wasn’t easy to escape!
As I was editing The Call of The Wild, an interview on the radio caught my attention. Orangutan rescuer, Lone Dröscher Nielsen, was promoting her rehabilitation work in Borneo. When I checked out her website, I discovered that the foundation was looking for supporters to adopt a baby orangutan called ‘Julie’. Quite a coincidence. I know plenty of women called Julie, but I’d never met an orangutan that shared my name. I had to adopt her.
I didn’t see that coming.
Last year, I wrote a story set in Cambodia for the teen series, Smitten. Sienna goes to the capital, Phnom Penh looking for her missing brother and ends up in the sprawling temple complex of Angkor.
As I was working on the story, my son signed up for a voluntary project at an orphanage in Cambodia. It was another coincidence and another opportunity that I couldn’t ignore. I booked the whole family on a trip to Asia.
Right after Smitten was released, I followed Sienna to Angkor Wat. It had been 17 years since my last visit. The crowds at the massive archeological site were much, much bigger, but at sunset, the temples were every bit as moving as I remembered.
As my latest book, How To Get To Rio, hits bookshops, I’m wondering what unexpected opportunities it will bring.
In this story Kitty McLean has to choose between spending the holidays camping with her best friends or going to an exclusive beach resort with popular-girl Persephone. Kitty’s torn. She wants to spend the holidays with her besties but she also wants to get to know Persephone better. The beach holiday has an added attraction – the very cute Rio, is going to be there.
I love the premise of the Choose Your Own Ever After stories – that choice not chance determines our destiny. Situations turn out differently depending on the choices we make. Occasionally consequences are predictable, but things get interesting when they are not!
Join Julie on her Blog Tour! See the schedule right here, and learn more about Julie and her books at juliefison.com.