Two decades ago I studied acting part time over three years.
Fortunately, I secured a job in a creative industry before I completed the course, which probably saved me from many desperate auditions and a life of poverty. But there are important factors about that craft that shaped the books that make up the ‘Actors and Angels’ series. The first, notably, came from my assessor who simply told me to write about something I knew – theatre!
During one of our acting lessons, we practised our own style of magical realism. Our challenge was to make a fantasy scene feel real. We were given hints like ‘if you are playing angels polishing the stars, polish them as if you are cleaning brass ornaments’. This is the same approach you take while writing. Make sure there is some kind of real world in your fantasy one, otherwise things get surreal.
As these novels are set in the Afterlife where people from different centuries reside, I had the freedom to use anything within context. In the opening scene of Drama Queens with Love Scenes, Allan and Warwick’s first impression of the Afterlife is an extravagant room. This room kind of exists. It is depicted on the inside cover of a record I own. I won’t say which album it is, but I will reveal it’s the third release of an 80s New Romantic pop group. I expanded on it in my description, but by having the initial piece of art in front of me, it gave me a base to build from.
Also in this first scene, our newly dead characters are welcomed by a blond bombshell and an insecure angel. I don’t think it’s any secret that authors base their fictional people on real ones. The angel was originally based on a person who was so self-conscious, everyone he knew assisted him in confidence building. But Guy developed his own personality as he evolved. Samantha is the hybrid of two characters from the first draft, and both these characters were based on sinister work colleagues at the time.
There’s two real life historical figures that were re-imagined for this book. One is the drag king, a minor figure who pops up in many chapters. Back in the 1930s a mysterious performer with dark skin baffled audiences, all wanting to know her origins. Her name was Nellie Small. She travelled around Australia, performing with her female admirers closest to the stage.
Another character, theatre director, Maudi, was actually an actress with London’s Gaiety Theatre in the late 1800s, although my version of her is older than the real life person was when she hit the height of her career. She’s also the character that my assessor wanted me to expand on after reading the first draft. I’m glad I listened. She adds chaotic class to the novel.
The last characters I’ll mention are Allan and Warwick. They are loosely based on Warren and I. Let me reiterate, very loosely! Unlike Allan, I was confident in my sexuality when I met Warren, and I was single. But as in the book, we met at work and were just friends for a long time until we gave in to what everyone around us already knew. There was love there. I was just too blind to see it.