Anatomy of a Novel: This is Shyness
Guest post by Leanne Hall
Here are just a few random ingredients that went into the This Is Shyness cake:
The first teeny-tiny twitches of the idea that become my novel, came from some short story research I did into the 18th century Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus. At one point in his career Linnaeus wrote a book called Systema Naturae, which was concerned with categorising living things, including humans. Linnaeus ranked the human races in a blithely racist fashion (whities up the top!), and also included a bottom-rung category called `Monstrosus.’ Monstrosus included creatures such as giants, troglodytes, satyrs, phoenixes, and the two creatures that became the names of my protagonists, wolf-boys and wild-girls.
The suburb of Shyness is Melbourne with the lights turned out. It didn’t start that way, but I gradually found that it was easier for me to draw on real places when creating my fictional suburb. Shyness is a higgledy-piggledy collage of places that I frequent, only twisted and moved about and made strange. Some of the real life locations that I used were: Smith Street, Merri Creek, Edinburgh Gardens, and the Carlton Housing Commission flats.
The Warriors is a bit of a cult movie from 1979. When a friend heard about the gangs of Kidds in my book, he told me I had to watch this film, and I was not sorry when I did so! The Warriors is about a New York run over with gangs that have names like the Warriors, the Rogues, the Orphans, the Riffs, and the Lizzies.
The distinctive ways that the different units of Kidds dress in This Is Shyness is based on this film. One of the weirdest things (and trust me, there are plenty of weird things about this film, including the acting) about The Warriors is the way each gang has a uniform: clowns, baseball players, roller-skates, natty waistcoats...
Bat For Lashes
I hope I don’t spoil the picture that readers have in their heads of Wildgirl, but for me, the way she looks has always been based on English singer Natasha Khan.
Natasha is English-Pakistani, a veritable music genius, and makes albums as Bat For Lashes.
The video for her song “What’s A Girl To Do” is suitably kooky and Shyness-esque, with animal-headed cyclists riding BMX’s down a country road at night.
Gothic Dark Glamour
This is a fabulous book by Valerie Steele and Jennifer Park that I used for all manner of inspiration when writing This Is Shyness. There are two great essays on all things gothic, including music, fashion, art, historical figures, architecture and books. And pages and pages of truly breathtaking photographs of gothic imagery and clothes. My favourite image is the one used on the cover. Whenever I needed a little visual inspiration to create eternal night, I flicked through this book.
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