I like to play with my nightmares. Whenever I have a bad dream – something strange or unnerving – I write it down, sometimes in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping. The idea for Coma House was one such nightmare – one that fascinated me for months – and I soon felt compelled to develop it into a weaving narrative that delves into the contradictions of human nature and the mysteries of consciousness itself. The book poses a gripping question: what would we do if we were suddenly faced with a terribly difficult choice?
With Coma House, the aim was to create an elegant, emotionally-charged storyline with realistic relationships and believable personal conflicts. I drew on my fears and also personal experience to create something truly authentic. I decided to take readers on a journey deep into the mind of a person who becomes lost in the most frightening place possible – her own mind – and where her family, the very people who are meant to love and protect her, begin deciding her future without her.
“Most people assume I write at night because of the kind of books I write, but I can shut out the light with my mind.”
As a fan of genre-defining, gritty books about urban life based on urban legends – the incredible Trainspotting being my all-time favourite – I’ve always wanted to put into words my own experiences of living in a tough area. I grew up on the outskirts of a major city at a time when gang violence ripped through the centre to the sound of gun blasts and petty crime filtered out into the surrounding communities. Semi-rural, protected in some ways from the worst, our town was relatively unscathed, but poverty was rife and people were desperate. The older brothers of my friends stole to survive. Some fought for money. Some enrolled and left for the army or navy and there’d be big parties when they came back home. Some people never got out of the gutter, falling prey to drug-toters and liars and some took advantage of those lonely souls to line their filthy pockets or even just to see those less fortunate take one extra, barely noticeable step down the slippery ladder of life. One of those people was a crooked social worker. To protect his identity, because I’m nice that way, I renamed him Geoff Tallow….
“Disorder, disobedience and rule breaking are features of all my stories.”
Disorder, disobedience and rule breaking are features of many of my stories. My best writing surfaces out of the need to rebel, the desire to end emotional chaos and the importance I place on embracing that independent streak inside us all that makes us want to break free of limits put on us by those who are prisoners of their own fear. Sleeping with the Sun is one of those stories.
I loved exploring unusual, interesting, even dangerous places as a child. I was lucky. I had freedom from a young age. I roamed the streets, rode my bike, visited friend’s houses or took the bus to school. The walk to the bus stop, twisting and turning through the alleyways near my home, was sometimes the most exciting part. I used that early independence and the skills and knowledge that came with it to my advantage many times, especially when faced with challenges some kids found really hard to deal with. Teachers and family said I had a strong head on young shoulders. I didn’t know what that meant until later.
“Without pride, man becomes a parasite – and there are already too many parasites.”