Inspirations and Influences

Wildlife: Fiona Wood on Inspirations & Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. In this series, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.

Today we are delighted to have Fiona Wood over to talk about the inspirations for Wildlife – a contemporary YA novel recently reviewed by Ana (she loved it).

Wildlife

Please give it up for Fiona Wood, everyone!

The Great Outdoors
Sibylla is pulled out of her comfort zone in Wildlife. She and her classmates are boarding for a semester at Mt Fairweather, their school’s outdoor education campus. There are several schools like this in Melbourne that have a second campus in a rural or wilderness area. I was intrigued by this pressure cooker setting, far away from so many of the usual comforts and support structures. How would my characters cope? Each allocated to a cabin with five other random students. No smart phone, no texting, no facebook, no skype, no angry birds. All their usual schoolwork, plus a demanding outdoor education program – compulsory runs, mountain biking, canoeing, solo and group overnight hikes. (I would have struggled – like Sib, I’m a city girl.)

Enid Blyton
When I was eleven or twelve, I adored English author Enid Blyton’s two boarding school series – Malory Towers and St Clare’s. Just as I longed to be either an only child, or an orphan, I was also fascinated by and longed to go to boarding school. Midnight feasts, tricks to be played on teachers, no parents, lacrosse (I didn’t have a clear idea what lacrosse was, but there was always a huge afternoon tea following the game.)

The Romantic Movement
…stretches across time, art forms, and countries. I was thinking of the primacy the movement gives to feelings/emotion/instinct over reason, the love its proponents had for untrammelled nature, and their interest in mortality/death. Lou (the second narrative voice of Wildlife) is grieving the death of a beloved boyfriend. She has been advised to keep a journal as part of her therapeutic process, and she writes out a poem by Christina Rossetti that captures her feelings about death; it starts, When I am dead, my dearest,/sing no sad songs for me… Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite poetry is, to me, (and was, for me) perfect reading material for the teen years – full, as it is, of beauty and love and yearning and sadness.

William Shakespeare
I had Othello very much in mind when I was writing Wildlife. It was inspiring for its themes of jealousy and betrayal. It inspired Sib’s so-called best friend, Holly, based in part on the character, Iago. She is a ruthless, manipulative, self-interested, jealous troublemaker. The play also influenced the way in which setting holds theme in the novel: the action of the play starts out in civilized Venice, and moves to the wilder, more brutal, chaotic, and somewhat lawless Cyprus. Mount Fairweather is very much a ‘Cyrpus’ relative to the school’s more regulated city campus, ‘Venice’. It is in this freer setting that Sib follows her instincts and decides to have sex for the first time; Holly brutally manipulates Sib, and humiliates Michael; Michael runs into the wild night to escape his public humiliation; and Lou finds space to think about her lost love, and slowly start reengaging with the world.

AJW
Wildlife is dedicated to AJW, my husband, who went to the sort of school where Wildlife is set. It was his experiences there that first made me want to use such a setting in a novel. Our kids loved hearing his stories – tell us about when Williams ran off in the night and everyone got woken up to search for him, tell us about the bed race, tell us about the great apple crumble revolt…

About the author: Fiona Wood has been writing television scripts for the last ten years on shows ranging from MDA and The Secret Life of Us, to Home and Away and Neighbours. Six Impossible Things is her first YA novel, and Wildlife her second. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, two YAs and a bad old dog.

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4 Comments

  • rhapsodyinbooks
    September 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for posting the interview! (I, too, want to hear about the great apple crumble revolt!) I loved this book, and immediately purchased it for my sisters, who have tweenaged girls. I think it should be required reading in the schools (but of course, it wouldn’t ever, as seen by choices for Banned Books Week) for its coverage of sexuality, its questioning of heteronormative assumptions, and its all-around great characterization and dialogue!

  • Kim Aippersbach
    September 26, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Oh, I would have loved to have gone to a school like that! And what a great story setting: like summer camp except you stay there all semester. I’m definitely intrigued by the book; adding it to my TBR now.

  • Fiona Wood
    October 1, 2014 at 6:43 am

    rhapsodyinbooks, the students had regularly been served apple crumble up to three nights a week. They decided they’d had enough, literally, and one night coordinated the revolt, all refusing to eat a mouthful, successfully forcing the school to vary its pudding offerings. (Thank you for your kind words about Wildlife!)

  • Fiona Wood
    October 1, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Kim, many of the students I interviewed while researching the book cite this as their favourite school experience, and my husband loved it – despite the apple crumble – but I would not have coped at all well with all that fresh air. I’m glad I went to a regular school.

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