Pick one of your favourites among the settings from your published fiction stories or a setting which is an interesting example from your published fiction. What makes this setting one of your favourites or an interesting example from your fiction?
In Part IV of Rain, Carla Baden volunteers with Doctors Without Borders and spends a year living in Luanda, Angola in communal housing. At that time, Luanda was recovering from 30 years of civil war with immense poverty and illness including outbreaks of the Marburg virus.
What is a setting from a published fiction story by another author you would compare this setting to and why are they similar?
The Luanda setting in Rain could possibly be compared to the Congo setting in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Both settings were during a time of social upheaval with the characters in each story marked by family tragedy and affected by events that took place during their respective time in Africa.
Both Carla in Rain and the Price family in The Poisonwood Bible arrive with everything they believe they will need for their new lives in Africa, but on African soil what is considered essential in one existence is transformed.
How would you describe the way you introduced this setting to readers of your story?
Carla Baden arrives in Luanda, Angola in April 2004 after a lengthy flight from Australia. She is struck initially by the redness of the earth and its pervasiveness. Carla documents her year in Luanda in journals so this setting is told from the first person. This is done specifically so the reader has a more intimate connection with the setting, seeing it through the eyes of the protagonist rather than a distant narrator.
How would you describe the integration of characters and setting in this story?
Luanda is a broken city. When the war ended, millions of Angolans emerged from the jungle where they had existed for decades and hiked to the city with their limited possessions. The city (Luanda) built for four hundred thousand collapsed under the pressure with displaced people forced to live in chicken coops, garages and sheds. When it rained, the red dirt of the shantytowns would turn to red mud. Likewise, Carla arrived in Luanda a broken woman following the tragic loss of her husband. The healing of Luanda and Carl are integrated in the story.
How would you describe the interaction of story and setting in this story?
The story is inseparable from the setting in this part of Rain as Carla’s journey to recover from the loss of her husband ebbs and flows in tandem with Luanda’s journey post-civil war.
How much research did you do for the setting of this story, and what did that involve?
I have never been to Luanda, Angola or Africa so I did a lot of research. Fortunately, these days, it doesn’t mean spending hours in a library staring at microfilm. I read everything I could find on Luanda, the civil war, the people, politics etc. I also searched for travel photos posted on the Internet and studied them intently to get a feel for the place as if I had been there.
To what extent would you describe the setting of this story typical or atypical of the settings in your fiction stories?
The Luanda setting is probably atypical as ordinarily my stories are set in Australia and places I have been or alternatively fantasy settings. I enjoyed it though so I plan to include other exotic settings in future work.
How do you usually decide on or develop a setting for your fiction stories?
The story itself dictates the setting. In Rain, the town of Maine is fictional but situated where you would expect to find Armidale in New South Wales. My next novel is set in Prahran, Melbourne where I lived for several years. The setting for my two children’s books, the town of Rumpole (named after Rumpole of the Bailey), is a product of my imagination.
To what extent do the settings of novels you read have an impact on why you read them, and why?
Setting is important but probably secondary to the story, but an interesting story with an exotic setting is ideal. Examples of this ideal, for me, include The Kite Runner (Afghanistan), the Salinas Valley in John Steinbeck’s work, and I also look for Irish settings possibly because of the imagery created by Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes.
See original article on Authors Compare.
The Marginal, Luanda, Angola
After the rains, Luanda.
The Poisonwood Bible is set in the Congo in the 1960s
Prahran, Melbourne, the setting for my next novel, Being Anti-Social (2012)
The Kite Runner was set in Afghanistan.
The Salinas Valley, California, the setting for John Steinbeck's stories (Of Mice and Men and East of Eden)