Setting the Mood with Location

Monday, April 29, 2019
By: 
Toni Jordan Interviewed by Christy Collins

Toni Jordan

Refine Your Novel

Reading for Writers

CC: Your latest novel, 'The Fragments', deals with writers, books and writing, and about the celebrity that can come with writing a ‘big’ book. The world you draw, in which people are flocking to a museum to see a few fragments of a lost manuscript seems somewhat fanciful. Was part of the pleasure of writing this book in imagining a world in which books could draw such fervour?

TJ: I’m not sure it is that fanciful! Once something becomes famous, people will go to any lengths to see it, unrelated to the object itself. The Mona Lisa is a tiny little thing that you can hardly see over a great sea of heads—and the Louvre is full of magnificent paintings with no one looking at them. People travel across the US to visit the world’s biggest ball of twine in Kansas, and when I was a kid, a thrilling outing was a ‘drive’: my sister and I in the backseat and my parents in the front, going nowhere in particular, just for something to do. Brisbane in the mid-eighties was the kind of place where nothing was happening—you could fire a gun down Queen Street on a Sunday with no risk of hurting anyone. An outing was exciting in itself, and something famous coming to this sleepy town would have been a big thing.

CC: 'The Fragments' plays out in New York and Brisbane. How important is location to your novels? What sort of research do you do on locations?

TJ: I’m very interested in the idea of a place, rather than the actuality of it. I like thinking about what it represents to the characters and to the mood I’m trying to create. I think a lot about light and the angle of light in particular scenes, and the hardness or softness of surfaces, things like that. I try not to get caught up in facts. Both 1980s Brisbane and 1930s New York are long gone, so I looked at a lot of archival photographs.

CC: What do you find the most enjoyable part in writing a novel? Do you prefer the initial ‘getting it down’ phase, or the editing and refining process? Why?

TJ: I love everything about it! I’m evangelical about writing fiction: it’s the most frustrating, pointless, terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I enjoy it immensely. 

CC: Course (Refine your novel): at what stage of writing their novel might writers most benefit from this course?

TJ: I like for people to have a full draft of a manuscript—an early, rough draft is fine--but this isn’t always possible. The course is about challenging some of the decisions you’ve made about the manuscript so far, and improving on the bits that are working. The more you’ve written, the more you’ll get out of it. 

CC: Can you give us an example of something you recently learned from reading that you were able to use in your own writing?

TJ: This happens on a daily basis! I was very late to it, but I just finished Elizabeth Kostova’s 'The Historian'. So much fun! It made me realise I don’t have enough vampires in my work.

About Toni Jordan

Toni Jordan is the author of five novels. The international bestseller ‘Addition’ (2008) was longlisted for the Miles Franklin award. ‘Fall Girl’ (2010) was published internationally and has been optioned for film, while ‘Nine Days’ (2012) was awarded Best Fiction at the 2012 Indie Awards. ‘Our Tiny, Useless Hearts’ (2018) was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary award. Her latest novel is ‘The Fragments’ (2018). Toni has been published widely in newspapers and magazines.