In my book, The Game You Played, the setting is a cold, foggy July in Sydney city.
We’re in the middle of July 2016 now, and it’s been a chilly one. Today in Sydney beautifully illustrates the kind of fogs we can get. Foggy and cold but with the winter sun waiting to shine.
Not usually this thick though! It’s so heavy today that flights are delayed and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House appear to have vanished.
The setting of THE GAME YOU PLAYED is part of the city of Sydney, named Millers Point. The suburb is not given a name in the book and it is loosely based on this location. It’s a harborside location that is rich in history.
In the image above, Millers Point is between the tall buildings in the forefront and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Opera House is to the far right, wharves to the front. This is an artist’s impression of how the most recent development will look when it is complete. (Image credit: http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/projects-barangaroo-ferry-hub)
I decided to set my book in Millers Point because of its proximity to the harbour and the endless crossing of ferries and boats through the very foggy Sydney winter of the book, reflecting the characters who are endlessly searching. Sydney is normally depicted as being sunny and summery, and I wanted to depict Sydney in a very different, sombre mood.
I also chose it because of the dichotomy between social classes there and recent/current protests. In real life, the government housing tenants are being shifted out, and the land is being sold to developers. In my story, the two main protagonists, Luke and Phoebe, are caught between those two worlds. Their families (government housing tenants) have been in the area for multiple generations–Phoebe’s family for ten generations. There is not only the loss of Luke and Phoebe’s son (Tommy, who has been abducted) but the impending loss of an entire way of life.
From the book:
The moist, salty air of the ocean clung to my skin as I finally reached Southern Sails Street. My street ran vertically to the docks, rising crookedly up a hill.
The street didn’t welcome me. The terrace houses stood with dour expressions. All the houses here were the same inside and out. Tall, narrow, and joined together like skeletal ribs. My family had lived on this street for ten generations. But the houses had older, more distant thoughts than those of a little boy lost and a woman on the edge of losing her mind.
Built by the government over a century ago to house its lowly-paid maritime workers, the terrace houses had stayed the same all this time. Back then, fashionable Sydneysiders didn’t want to live in this rat-infested area. No one had cared about the harbour view or the proximity to Circular Quay and the ferries or the history (the first fleet landed here from England in the 1700s). The rats brought the bubonic plague, which swept through Sydney in the two decades from 1900. One of my ancestors had made a fine living as a rat-catcher in those days, until he succumbed to the plague himself.
A massive pylon rose behind my street—one end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The descendants of the maritime workers, squeezed in the middle of a modern, burgeoning city, had been hanging on by their fingernails. None of them owned their houses. But now, investors were circling like sharks, eyeing this street greedily. The government was selling it off, piece by piece, to the rich. The houses on one side of the street (the lower, less moneyed end) had been knocked down months ago—the flattened side of the street a constant reminder to the residents living on the other side that their time was running out. They’d all soon be gone, too.
The above is a brief, factual history of Millers Point. In the story, some recent events happen which are not factual, such as the old buildings on one side of a particular street being flattened before the other. I wrote it that way to illustrate an impending sense of doom for the people still living on the street, having a constant view of their near future (being shuffled out and having their own homes flattened). The geography and location of the wharves is also slightly different, to better illustrate the story. The street and residents of my story are completely fictional.
This is a fantastic interactive website about Millers Point and the differing views about its future: http://www.smh.com.au/interactive/2014/millers-point/animations/1.77/sceneSetter.html
For some time now, there have been groups protesting the government selling off the government housing land to developers. They feel that there will be a loss of the ‘working class soul” and “social heritage”. Some have called it “social cleansing”. (Quotes taken from the Fairfax Media website above).
On the other side, the government’s position is that it is necessary in order to provide funds for government housing in general,
“A good and fair outcome for all public housing tenants across NSW.” Gabrielle Upton Minister for Family and Community Services
I understand both sides of the argument. But I do feel that diversity enriches the social fabric of a city. The less diverse, the more it loses. Also, many of these people have families living in this location for generations, who have seen and lived through so many important changes. They are the “social heritage” mentioned above. When you look from an even wider perspective, Millers Point used to be occupied by the Cadigal Aboriginal tribe, before the arrival of the whites. Their generations stretch far back through history. And they do not own any part of Millers Point today.
In my book, THE GAME YOU PLAYED, it is the most marginalised people who hold important information.
Millers Point sell-off accelerates with 50 properties in the pipeline
Save our Community
A huge thank you to my beta readers!: Brenda Telford, Katie Boettcher, Linda Gonzales, Kira Mattox, Lena May and Carolyn Scott.
My book is better for your feedback! You made such thoughtful, insightful comments and suggestions.
What is a beta reader? Many authors use beta readers. These are people who read your book before anyone else does, when It’s still full of kinks and typos. Some authors might just have one or two readers, and give them the book in pieces,as it’s written. It would be difficult for me to do this, because, trust me, no one wants to see the raw mess inside my head! I prefer to wait until the book is solid (at least in my mind) and almost ready to go. That way, my beta readers are fine-tuning and polishing.
My beta readers for THE GAME YOU PLAYED are a mix of US and Australian readers. I find that each person notices something different and has a different view of the characters and story. if one of my readers finds something confusing, I don’t question it – I go back and do my best to clarify whatever point I was trying to make. As an author, sometimes it’s hard to separate out what I mean and what others will think I mean.
Many books that you read are so much smoother for having been beta read!
My book, THE GAME YOU PLAYED, has been many months in the making.
All of the piles of research and the hours of writing in between my kids’ school routines and Christmas and school holidays has finally come to an end.
So, what’s it about?
It’s about relationships, at heart. It’s asking if relationships are truly transactional or if they are something deeper, something that cannot be defined.
It’s about a young mother (Phoebe Basko) on the edge of losing her mind and her search for a lost son. It’s about misperceptions and dead ends and the terrible thing that is the human mind. It’s about the psychological games we play with each other – and with ourselves.
It’s also about gender and how your gender affects your relationships and the expectations of the role you;ll play. In the years I worked as a community manager for a large parenting discussion forum, I learned a lot about how other women feel about their relationships and the role of wife and mother (and often trying to fit paid work in on top of that). I also drew upon my experiences at playgroup and mothers’ groups. I found them extremely eye-opening, and if you read the scene in which Phoebe attends a mothers’ group, you’ll understand why! My research led me to online forums where gender is being discussed, including theories based on interpretations of evolution psychology.
In terms of the subject of the book, the loss of two-year-old Tommy Basko, most parents know the stomach-churning feeling of losing sight of their child. For parents who never find their lost child or children, or find that something terrible has happened to them, the pain would be unimaginable. My heart goes out to them. It’s something that should never happen. There are more than enough issues involved with raising children without adults preying upon them.
THE GAME YOU PLAYED explores all of the above. It’s also a twisty-turny thriller and I hope you enjoy the read!