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Why I based my novel in the United States of America

There are many reasons why an Australian author might base their novel in another country or even another solar system. Genre plays a part, as does audience. For me, it made sense to base "Welcome to the Apocalypse" in the US for two reasons:

Number One:

Australia doesn't have the internet capabilities to pull off this level of virtual reality. In 2016 the census was organised in Australia and the system crashed the day we were all to log in and record our details, despite claims by testers that the website could handle 2 million users logging on at the same time. Maybe the website could, but Australia still runs primarily on phone lines for its internet. Put simply, it can't handle the congestion.

Any time it rains in my home town of Batemans Bay, the internet slows. Everyone is inside playing games or watching Netflix or socialising on Facebook. The second it stops raining, the internet operates at normal speed because people go outside for walks or to the stores.

This is the basic premise of the "Welcome To The Apocalypse" series: 100 players enter simulation pods and play a virtual game of apocalypses. The game malfunctions trapping the players inside.

The players go to a facility and slip inside glass domed pods that will hook them up to a giant computer. Just this week, a lightning storm blew out my internet modem, which contrasts with my reasoning because it lends credence to the reason for the malfunction in the game. Mmm, maybe I could have based the book in Australia. But I didn't.

So why not?

Australia is a very large continent with a surprisingly small population per square metre. Many people would look at the map and think we've got so much space, but much of our large continent is either desert, drought affected dirt, or rugged mountain ranges that can't be lived on. It's also either in flood or drought and its prone to bushfires, so we tend to occupy the edges of the continent. Which means the roads and cities and phone lines and internet system have to pretty much circumnavigate the continent.

Australia is only recently rolling out a national broadband network with fibre optic cables to take the load off the phone lines, but this fibre optic internet won't connect to up to the regional towns. We'll still rely on the phone lines from the nearest fibre optic hub to the home. So imagine a facility that can accommodate over 100 NASA designed stasis and virtual simulation pods and a complex with computers capable of running a program of such complexity that people honestly believe they are battling aliens or rogue robots.

Number Two:

Surprisingly, of the top 10 countries in the world with the fastest internet connection the United States doesn't get a mention. Akamai Technologies, a Massachusetts-based internet provider did a study on internet speeds and according to them the top 10 countries are:

  1. South Korea
  2. Norway
  3. Sweden
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Switzerland
  6. Latvia
  7. Japan
  8. Netherlands
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Finland
So if the US doesn't have the highest internet speed, why did I choose it for the location of a cyber game?

Here's why:

The "Hollywood" Factor
Like authors everywhere, I imagine my books coming to life in the movies or on TV. And if I can make the job easier for the Hollywood producers by basing the book in a country they live in, doesn't it make sense to do so?

Independent books are enjoying their moment in the sun with adaptations into film because not every  producer or director has a huge budget. This leaves indie authors an avenue to sell their books, and we're pretty keen to do. I've even enrolled myself into an online course to learn how to write a treatment and to pitch a book to Hollywood producers. I've managed to do module one so far.

There are some fantastic independent films. "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" by Quentin Tarantino are two films that pop to mind.

Each year, dozens of dozens of movies are made that began life as a book, especially blockbuster books, but not all the adaptations are of million seller books.

This is just a dream, of course, and like most dreams it relies on chance and hard work. In the meantime, I'll write the series of books and learn to write a movie treatment, and who knows, maybe my plan will pay off.

Have you based a book in another country? And if so, did you have a specific reason? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments box.


  1. HI! I haven't based a book in another country but have thought about basing a book in the US. Did you go to the place where your book was based or did you rely on internet research?

  2. Great question Robin. I'd based an earlier YA book in Los Angeles and a few weeks before it was finished I went to the US for a skiing trip and stopped over in LA. I'm glad I did because I saw the extra detail that was missing (and fixed a major plot hole that I'd never have considered had I not been watching TV over there).

    So while I haven't been to San Diego or Arizona, where this book is based, I've learned to look for the detail. I rely on Google maps for a sense of openness or congestion. Does the place have tall buildings or are they all single level? I used the internet a lot - I checked our real estate sites as well to describe a house as sometimes they have interesting facts about the town that aren't in the travel brochures.

    My first publisher was based in the US so I get a lesson in US phrasing (windshield, strip mall, parking lot). Plus I have a few US fiction novels on my desk while I'm editing.

    Book Two is taking place in NASA so I'm Googling everything to get as much imagery as I can. Even conspiracy sights, and I'm glad I did because I needed an underground bunker, and it was a non-NASA site that I found a secret bunker. I always use an image board too, especially for houses because a home is the place we form our earliest connection to.

    That's the long answer. The short answer is yes, I rely on internet research. And since the devil is in the detail, my advice is not to assume. For example, two thirds of the cars on the road in Anchorage, Alaska were standard sedans - not four wheel drives you'd think would be driving on the icy and snow roads in winter. I'd have assumed otherwise, and it's that kind of detail that could lend some real credibility to a story if the plot called for it. A google street map of the city might provide some interesting information.

    Good luck with the book!

  3. Thanks for your long and helpful answer, Debbie. I'm still considering it - the book I'm about to publish and the one after will be based in Australia, but perhaps the one after that.... (as my partner and I plan to go on a cruise around the Caribbean later this year, I'm racking my brains for a plot that can take place aboard a cruise ship. :-)


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