The swtting an writing of Walpole Were

Werewolf in Australia, really?

So you’re probably wondering how Leenna brewed up the idea of a werewolf in Australia—Western Australia (WA), nogal, as we say in South Africa. Truth be told Leenna doesn’t know either.
All she can tell you is there was absolutely no beer involved—though perhaps a little heatstroke, a leetle-leetle WA wine/chocolate/lavender insect repellent, and too much eucalyptus inhaled during an impressionable time of month. It did things to her mind, you know, like shape-shifting images and thoughts by the time she put actual pen to actual paper, ‘cos that’s how she was writing back in early 2014.

Seriously, I don’t know from where the werewolf crept in, but I’m guessing it was out of the cold in Harbin…But let me start at the beginning of how the imaginatively titled Walpole Were shifted out of a what was a to be romance into…well, what it is.

So, there I was back at school in Harbin (China) after a (mostly) wonderful trip to Aus, back to my routine of sitting in KFC with two cups or tea, and trying to write a story. I had quite a few ideas and impressions, mostly inspired by WA, the strongest of which revolved around the South Western forest area about 3-6 hours out of Perth.

I know, I know. You’re probably going: forest? Western Australia? Are you sure you’ve gotten that right and it’s not just some after effects of the insect repellent talking?

I assure you the insect repellent was all-natural, all harmonious lovely stuff. But let me rewind a little about the forest.

Wee Brither had been raving about how I had to see these trees in the South West. His words were something to the effect of, “And you’ve got to go see the trees. They are just…You have to go see them! They’re in Walpole on the way to Denmark.”

“Hmm,” I went, wondering if Wee Brither was not confusing the trees with some he’d seen in other parts of the world (like in Denmark (EU) though he’s never been there and neither have I), and that perhaps the story he always tells about the polar bear is true and that it had done something to him.

With Wee Brither’s enthusiasm so great, naturally I had to see what was so special about these Aussie trees, as apparently he’d climbed up the Fire-Tree in Pemberton and the experience had deeply moved him. And no, I did not climb the fire-tree, but I did manage to ascertain that the Fire-Tree is not, in fact, some weird tree perpetually on fire, but one of the tallest trees in the region and so used to spy and monitor forest fires—a perpetual but necessary hazard to the health of the Eucalyptus forest.

So now that you’re itching with curiosity about these non-Danish, non-English trees, here’s a few photos which speak for themselves, I think.

Trees that inspired Walpole Were by Leenna Naidoo

Tree near Denmark WASome were taken on a forest walk, others on the Tree-Top walk and the little visitors trail around the centre, which is like walking through an enchanted forest. Is this tree a personI fully expected to catch sight of fairies and gnomes and possibly a unicorn, or some other magical creatures. Though, I wasn’t at all disappointed that I didn’t. The trees are more than magical themselves. And I shall never disbelieve Wee Brither when he talks about trees and polar bears again.

Now you’re probably wondering: why the title is  Walpole Were, and not Denmark Were? Simply because we ended up staying over in Walpole for one night in some cabins called Tinglewood Cabins which had photos of kangaroos on the lawn on their website. Imagine my delight when the cabins appeared exactly as they are on the website right down to a troop of kangaroos on the lawn. And here’s the photos to prove it. We wished we could have stayed longer in Walpole as I count it as one of those magical places on earth.

Setting that inspired Walpole Were

Long story short, there I was trying to get my my first Aussie story out while sitting in the KFC in Harbin as Spring was beginning. I was thinking some kind of magical romance in the forest. I write the first paragraph with great ease. It just flows. See below for the unedited version. But when I get to the end of the paragraph, I’m wondering: But what, exactly, is the story? You know my stuff by now. It can’t just be boy-meets-girl, or rather forester-meets-tourist. There has to be a larger than life or just plain weird premise or backstory—at the very least.

A couple of mornings and several large cups of hongchai later, I’ve got it. There’s something dangerous in the forest and he (the hero) has save her (the heroine) from it. But what could it be? I riffle my memory for suitably dangerous animals in WA. There are duggites (snakes) but on the beach. And probably King Cobras (but aren’t they mostly found in the desert and the East) and dingos (but I don’t remember seeing or hearing of any around Perth and the South West of WA). There were supposed reports of thylacine or the ‘Tasmanian‘tiger’ with the crazy jaw, but again, I didn’t remember them being in WA. And I couldn’t imagine Tracy being menaced by a spider… I hadn’t yet come across the rumours of jaguars north of Perth (only saw that this year) so it was all up to my imagination…

I must at this point, now that I think about it, confess to having been addicted to watching Grimm at that time. Werewolf popped into my mind and stuck. Then I just ran with it. And now, I’m pretty pleased with it. That’s writing for you, or at least for me:-D

Unedited first paragraph
(which remains pretty much the same today)

He stood by the tree, barely discernible in the dusk shadows. The family of kangaroos grazing on the lawn before the forest of tinglewoods ignored him. He posed no threat to them; their instincts informed them. And they were right. He was no hunter of kangaroos or other fauna. No, his entire focus was on his oblivious subject-–the Lesser-Spotted-Single-Female-Holidaymaker, sitting on the deck of the cottage with a glass of wine, a big packet of Grainwaves and her camera. The wind suddenly picked up, blowing over the scent of the backburning fifteen kilometres away. The kangaroos jerked up, noses twitching, scanning the area. He stood stockstill, not wanting to startle the animals. When they left she would go inside, he knew, watching as she quickly and expertly shot off some photos. The sun backlit the trees as it neared setting. Above him, leaves fluttered on the wind’s breath. Somewhere, high above and to the right, a kookaburra laughed. He sighed as he watched its ghostly shape glide up to the deck bannister. It ruffled its feathers, seemingly bringing itself into focus, then turned to look expectantly at her and her camera.
“I’m not going to feed you. I was told not to-–you greedy little thing.” Her voice, a little subdued but affectionate, carried clearly in the sudden lull.
‘Good on yer,’ he thought.

Get the whole edited short story here or at the Apple iBook store, on Nook, Kobo, or selected libraries.