Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Anatomy of a Novel: The Good Daughter

Anatomy of a Novel: The Good Daughter

Guest post from Amra Pajalic

1. Romance novels
I’m a failed romance writer. I wanted to write romance novels because I loved reading them. They got me through my awful adolescence and provided me the comfort I needed. I loved the easy-reading aspect where I could just sink into this world and forget about my problems for a little while. Best of all there was that sneaky little kick at the end, what the industry calls The Black Moment, where it all appears to come to a stuttering end and the hero and heroine are done for. But then just when you give up hope, they end up back together and live happily ever after. After my first attempt at a romance novel I realised I didn’t have the right stuff. The pall had worn off and I wasn’t getting that kick I needed, so I searched for something else to write about.

2. What I know about
I went back to the advice of writing what you know about. I knew about being of Bosnian background, growing up Melbourne’s Western suburbs and having a Bi Polar mother and so Sabiha was born. I gave her some of my memories and unloaded some of my angst, but she’s my creation and I need that line that clearly delineates fact from fiction in order to write.

3. Does my Head look Big in this? By Randa Abdel-Fattah
This novel was published while I was writing TGD and it was the first novel I’d read about a character who was also Muslim. I loved how Randa used humour to get her message across and created a responsible young adult. The success of this novel meant publishers were more receptive to my work.

4. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
I first watched the movie and then read the novel afterward. There were elements of the story I wanted to tell-being raised by a single mother and having that relationship that blurs parent and friend and being on the fringes of an ethnic community. My favourite part was when Josie is smoking and word gets back to her grandmother via the wog network. This is something I could relate to and inspired a scene in TGD where Sabiha home and is wrongly accused of kissing a boy because a Bosnian parent called her mother.

5. Soundtrack
While I was writing TGD there was a soundtrack playing my head. A song by a former Yugoslav rock group Bijelo Dugme, White Button, inspired a scene that shows the culture clash Sabiha is against. She thinks the song she loves is a romance ballad and instead finds out it’s about STD’s. U2’s With or Without You inspired my big romantic moment between two characters (once a romance writer, always a romantic), and while I was seeking publication Gabriella Cilmi released her single Sweet About Me and this was the song that I thought of as Sabiha’s song. It captured her attitude perfectly.


Anatomy of a novel is an occasional series studying what goes into some very awesome YA books ... thanks for reading! Let me know what you think ...


  1. i love it.

    it's like reading trivia on iMDB - but better because it's about books and often the little inspirations don't come through the way they do on film, because writers are so sneaky and clever.

    keep doing it!

  2. I loved this book and it's fascinating to hear about some of the inspiration behind it. Thanks for this wonderful post!

  3. I'm loving that Romance cover, Amra! (Loving this series, too.)