Writing American Characters as a British Aussie

My American husband has been here in Australia for ten years now. He’s pretty much acclimatized to the lingo, the weather, and the food, and the culture shock when he arrived was sufficient that he’s clear on what is American (chili) and what is not (panel beaters).

In Australia, this vehicle goes to the panel beaters, not the body shop.

I grew up in the UK, moved to Australia, spent 5 years in Arizona, and I’m currently writing mostly American characters living in America. Here’s the thing: I get confused! I think I have the spelling differences down, and I’ve sorted out which US punctuation quirks I will and will not accept. Where I run into trouble is with the language and cultural references.

My Aussie friends have a childhood frame of reference that’s unknown to me, other than the blond hunks of Chopper Squad (Baywatch in the bush with a higher male-to-female ratio and less flesh) – that show plus kangaroos and koalas were the sum total of my knowledge about Australia before we moved here. I returned to the UK for a couple of years in the 90s, only to discover I was out of step again because I’d missed the British 80s (when the term “pear-shaped” apparently evolved).

Five years in the States further muddled my distinctions between what is British, what’s Aussie, and what language, food, and pop culture references Americans do and don’t “get”. I’m writing American characters and I need to purge non-Americanisms… but I don’t always remember exactly where my own language patterns come from. Google and my husband are good sources, but if I don’t know what I’m saying is uniquely British, I don’t know when to ask what an American would say instead!

Without delving into the “cookie/biscuit” debate, here are a few words and phrases I’ve had to catch myself on because my natural British and Aussie inclinations aren’t suitable for American English:

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Caleb’s House Rules

I blogged a preliminary version of Caleb’s infamous house rules a long time ago. The list has grown!

There are lots of missing rules because I’m not sure even Caleb can come up with 213+ of these things. And while the numbers are allegedly arbitrary within the household, I kept track because – as you can imagine – Wynter kept track.

So, here they are – all the rules mentioned in the books with numbers if they have them, or I assigned numbers if they weren’t specified.

Rule number zero – the one rule to rule them all – is:

House rules are immutable

That’s not to say nobody has never broken them, of course…

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The Shed

Probably the most bizarre little art project I’ve ever done… It’s the shed!

You know, the shed.

It’s mentioned in every book of the Wynter Wild series, and The Beat Goes On (book 10) there are several flashbacks to the ashram and to this sanctuary where Wynter, Xay and Roman used to meet at night, to escape their lives at the ashram.

It’s your basic metal gardening shed – in very poor condition – like this (shown in situ):

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Self-Worth and Validation (for my characters)

A recent reader comment got me thinking about how my characters get the validation that we all need, as humans, and how this affects their self-worth.

I’m imposing the analysis after-the-fact, since I didn’t start out by psychoanalyzing Wynter, Xay, and the Fairn boys. They developed on the page over the course of several years.

Standing back now I can see a few interesting patterns when it comes to how they view themselves – which affects what motivates them and what supports or messes with their mental health.

The differences between them comes from not only their personalities (I’ve written previously about their personality types) but their experiences and even their birth order. I imagine Caleb wouldn’t be quite the same today if he’d been the youngest of the three boys “raised” by Harry. And what if Jesse was the one who’d been separated from his twin Joy? What if Indio had been the eldest – would that have been enough reason for him to take more responsibility?

(Links throughout go to the Wynter Wild Wiki, which give bios for the characters and contain spoilers.)

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Let’s Visit an Abandoned Copper Mine

In The Beat Goes On (book 10), Xay finds himself in an abandoned copper mine in Arizona. I did some research on what these places look like, and what the dangers are, and thus a storyline was born.

To orient ourselves, the image above shows the landscape surrounding the Dragoon Mountains in Cochise county (in the far southeastern corner of Arizona). Touchstone Pass is the (fictional) closest town to the ashram and is based on the location of Dragoon, elevation 4600ft (1400m). The highest peak in these mountains Wynter saw in the distance growing up is 7500ft (2300m).

Somewhere out there in the desert scrub is a mine entrance:

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Broken Strings (Wynter Wild Book 9) is OUT NOW in paperback

Broken Strings is book 9 of the Wynter Wild series, and it’s OUT NOW in paperback.

Given the downfall of one of my (five) favorite characters, this was perhaps the hardest book to write so far. The quote on the image there is from Patricia, who senses something isn’t quite right in the Fairn household – but this is a family that keeps things “in the family”, so nobody is talking about it.

The book takes place over a few months late in the year and through Christmas – Wynter’s third on the outside. Will this finally be a good Christmas for her? She’s struggling with a medical issue that develops into a psychosomatic one, threatening her career as well has her academic plans. Xay is waiting in the wings for her, hoping to recreate the closeness they once shared.

And wasn’t there a tiny new character introduced in the last book? He has a huge impact on everyone’s lives, but can they keep him?

More family secrets come unraveled in this latest instalment of the Wynter Wild saga, and two brothers must reverse roles to face a reckoning.

Also… a puppy that looks like an Ewok!

 

Clickable Book Covers in Your Goodreads Profile

Whether you’re an author or a reader, Goodreads is a busy, complicated website. There’s so much going on that it can be hard to figure out not only where to find information, but how to change and customize that information as an author.

Wouldn’t it be great if readers could click on your books directly from your profile page, without having to scroll down or scan all the other busy sections on the page?

So, how can you add clickable book covers to your author profile on Goodreads?

Read on for step-by-step instructions, along with a downloadable template for the HTML code.

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Minor Key (Wynter Wild Book 8) is OUT NOW in paperback

Minor Key is book 8 of the Wynter Wild series, and it’s out today in paperback!

If you’ve been collecting the paperbacks and want a matching set, grab this one quick. In a few months I’ll be relaunching the series with new covers.

It’s been well over a year since I finished this book, and at least three years since I wrote some of the chapters. Looking back, I have to say it includes some of my favorite scenes to write.

 Some of the events were planned from the very start, even if I hadn’t written them yet, while others evolved as I was planning the book in detail (after finishing #7 Duet). 

A detail that evolved while I was writing was Caleb’s new relationship. I always had a feel for who the lucky lady would be, but hadn’t figured out how to incorporate her into the story. In the end, she’s a vital part of the family’s career in ways that are ongoing through #10 The Beat Goes On (which I’m currently writing).

 Three years ago, Xay Morant left Wynter to face the nightmare alone. She’s been searching for him ever since–and now he’s found her first. 

But it’s not easy to pick up the pieces of a past you’re trying to forget. As Wynter and her brothers prepare to head off on tour with their band, Xay needs to figure out where he fits in.

When tragedy strikes this already wounded family, where will they find healing?

Wynter Wild Family Tree (CHOOSE YOUR SPOILER LEVEL)

In true soap opera fashion, the family tree in the Wynter Wild series gets bigger and more complex as the books progress and secrets are revealed.

Following on from this post where I described a few family entanglements revealed in the Wynter Wild books (ones I hadn’t plotted out from the start), in this post I’ll present increasingly spoilerific family trees as a visual aid. To avoid spoilers, you can stop when you get to the latest book you’ve read…

Note: The series starts in January 2013, two months before Wynter’s 15th birthday.

Links take you to the Wynter Wild Wiki, which contains spoilers.

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Rule212 Playlist

I’ve made my Rule212 playlist public on Spotify – take a listen below. You can also follow me on Spotify to find other playlists related to the books.

I’ve resisted being too specific in the books about Rule212’s sound, beyond a vague “indie rock” (which could mean anything these days) and a lot of electric guitars, which moves them more into the hard rock category. Or nu-metal, post-grungeā€¦ whatever new-fangled label seems applicable. So this list is “representative” of their sound but don’t take it too literally.

The Wynter Wild Wiki has more information on their music.

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