Six Impossible Things is the debut YA novel by Fiona Wood. A sweet and heartwarming story folllowing the life of 14 year old Dan Cereill as he adjusts to a life after his parent’s separation and the family going bankrupt. We were lucky enough to catch up with Fiona for a quick chat – quick warning though, a few small spoilers ahead.
You’ve been working as a successful script writer for many years now, what made you decide to write a novel?
It really comes down to the simple fact that I enjoying reading more than I enjoy watching TV, and finally giving myself the time to try to write a novel. And no matter how good the experience of script writing is, you always end up pouring your creative energy into someone else’s project. So it was wonderfully exciting to start with a blank page and absolutely no brief.
What was your experience in getting the book published?
Lovely Simmone Howell (Notes from the Teenage Underground, Everything Beautiful) read the manuscript and suggested to her publisher that they might like to read it. And they did. Even though they loved Dan, they didn’t think it was quite ready for publication, and I went back to the drawing board with some notes from them and some more ideas of my own, and did a rewrite. When Claire Craig, from Pan Macmillan, read that draft, she thought it was in good shape and offered me a contract. But it was a year between them first reading the manuscript and me doing the rewrite – I was still writing TV scripts, too – and then nearly two years between signing the contract and the book being published, so, as is often the case, it was a longish road. Overall I wrote five drafts in three years. Recently I have been lucky enough to be offered representation with Jill Grinberg Literary Management in New York where Cheryl Pientka is looking after ‘Six Impossible Things’, and me.
Where did the idea of Dan’s story come from?
It all started with Dan. I was working on something else, and the idea of this angsty fourteen year old boy kept creeping into the margins. And so I started writing him down as a character, and then I wrote a story for him. I liked him so much, and I thought it would be great if this wry, wordy-nerdy boy got to transform himself and go to the ball – or year nine social, in his case. That’s where his name came from – an anagram of Cinderella. I also had the idea of two houses side-by-side, identical from the outside, but so different inside, with a shared attic space. That’s where Dan and Estelle live, though Dan has only just moved in at the beginning of the story. The misread note was something that actually happened to me.
Dan is faced with massive challenges at quite a young age that would make most kids quite bitter and angry, yet Dan is still a well behaved kid who works hard. Estelle has a more “normal” family situation but chooses to rebel against her parents, why do you think that is?
When the family business goes belly-up and his dad moves out, it’s a reality check for Dan, and a bit of a ff on growing up. After hibernating for a while, he rises to the occasion, and he understands that there are new imperatives at play. He gets a job because he really needs the money. The safety net’s gone. And because his mother isn’t coping terrifically well, he also does things like make sure she’s in touch with friends, and encourages her to take the job at Café Phrenology. When it comes to Estelle, yes, things are more stable in her family, but she doesn’t see an awful lot of her parents. She has quite a combative relationship with her mother, and she does not like being told what to do. She rebels because she is pushing against the restrictions her parents impose. And no one likes being grounded on the night of a school dance…
I didn’t realise Hot Chip was an actual band, are you a fan?
I love Hot Chip!
If you wanted readers to take one thing from Dan’s story, what would it be?
Dan risks his friendship with Estelle because he feels he has to be honest with her. Because that’s who he is. And it comes back to something Oliver says to him, which is that the coolest thing is to be authentically yourself. So that’s what I hope readers might take with them – that it’s worth being on this road to finding out who you really are, and then feeling confident enough to be that person.
Some musicians have been known to do this, but do you think you might ever hang around a bookstore and see if you can spot someone buying your book?
Ha ha. Good idea! I could offer to do a quick reading on their way to the door. Value adding. No, I haven’t done it, but it would be interesting – you’d get an idea of whether the cover is saying ‘pick me up’, and whether the blurbs are making people open the book and dip in. I’d need an invisibility cloak though.
What is currently in your To-Be-Read pile?
There are a few piles (coughs) – in the YA pile at the moment, the top few books are ‘This is Shyness’ Leanne Hall, ‘White Cat’ Holly Black, ‘Little Paradise’ Gabrielle Wang and ‘India Dark’ Kirsty Murray.
Any quirky writing rituals or habits? Where do you prefer to write? Cafe, at home…etc
I have an office away from home, with no internet. It’s the only way to get the stretches of time I need to get lost in the work. On the way to work I pick up a coffee. When I get to my desk, I always take off my wedding rings – for me that represents putting aside thoughts of family and home – how much laundry there is piled up, what we’re having for dinner, who’s doing what at the weekend etc. So for the time I’m there, it’s just me and the work. That’s the theory, anyway.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects/novels?
I’m about a third of the way through another YA novel called ‘Pulchritude’ – what an ugly word for beauty – about friendship and betrayal. And I’m at the early planning stage of a middle grade novel.
Six Impossible Things is available now at all good bookstores in Australia and NZ