Inspired by Canberra

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Ah, Canberra. The nation’s capital. Reviled across Australia as (allegedly) the soulless, out-of-touch political heart of the country. (For those of my readers who are overseas, it may come as a shock to learn Sydney is not in fact Australia’s capital. Sydney is to New York as Canberra is to Washington, if that helps.)

As Canberrans love to point out, though, almost all the politicians that live here for part of the year are from other parts of the country—so if they bring a deficit of soul with them, whose fault is that? We didn’t vote for them! 😉

Canberra is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. Our population is around 370,000 people—so we don’t have the heavy pollution and insane peak-hour traffic you get in bigger cities, but we still have the amenities of a big city. We’re actually Australia’s largest inland city … but all the state capitals are on the coast, so we’re only the eighth-largest overall.

The city sprawls over 812 square kilometers, but has a population density almost a fifth of Sydney’s, and just over a third of Melbourne’s. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either of them do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play. It’s a great place to raise a family. And a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces.

Canberra: a very pretty city. We have lakes!

Canberra: we have lakes!

Werewolves and fairies would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. Vampires would have to be careful how they hunted given the lower numbers of humans to snack on, but depending on their appetites they’d do alright too.

So far, all my books have been set in Canberra (all 2.5 of them!). I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility, and whether I should instead pick Sydney or Melbourne, even though I’m less familiar with them. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?

When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.

In a fit of procrastination, the other day I made a Pinterest board celebrating Canberra. Check it out, you know, if you want to.

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

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17 Comments on “Inspired by Canberra”

  1. sugaropal says:

    I would probably have guessed Sydney is the capital and now I’m happy to know better. It does sound like a lovely city and I think sometimes the most “normal” of places make very interesting settings for paranormal stories. I’m about to move to a new state and since all my 3 1/3 books so far have been set in Maine (which is at the very northeast tip of the US), I’m interested to see if my new surroundings are equally inspiring. The place where I’ll be going (North Carolina) is in the southeastern US and for the first time in many years I won’t be within a few minutes drive of the ocean.

    • I’ve read lots of books set in Maine, mostly because that’s where Stephen King tends to set his stuff. That and New Orleans (favourite of most vampire writers!). 🙂

      • sugaropal says:

        They’re both super for Gothic atmosphere. Hubs and I went to New Orleans once (and saw Anne Rice’s house of course). Gorgeous house and amazing city, at least it was pre-Katrina.

  2. Hi Cassandra. I found this post really interesting. I did know that Sydney isn’t the capital of Australia, and I also kind of knew that it was Canberra but if I had to think quickly I might not have been able to name it! The picture of it you’ve posted looks beautiful. I think if you live in a smaller city you can have the best of both worlds – not too much urban development but plenty of amenities. It’s good that Canberra inspires you too. Great post! 🙂

  3. Wow! Thanks for the education (yeah, I’d have thought Sydney too…) and the wonderful descriptions! Sounds like the perfect location for magic!!! I’ve set my stories in various locations -most of which I’ve lived, some I just plain made up 🙂

  4. ddfalvo says:

    Your capitol is enchanting, and I love the names–Canberra, Canberrans. Great analogy w/NY and DC. And I repinned your Mount Ainslie b/c it’s so awesome. 🙂

  5. Mia Celeste says:

    That’s it. I’m packing to visit Canberra or well, at least, putting on my places to see list. It sounds awesome.

    http://www.miaceleste.com/?p=341

  6. Laura Oliva says:

    I recently was in Seattle, Washington, on vacation, and it sounds a lot like how you describe Canberra: a city without the epic crowds and pollution. Totally checking out your Pinterest page now…

  7. Dannie Morin says:

    #themoreyouknow I did think Sydney was the capital. I’m not sure I’ve even heard of Canberra before. **fulfilling the ignorant American stereotype**. Love posts where I learn something it’s shameful I don’t know already. Thanks for sharing, Cassandra!
    ~Dannie @ Left to Write

  8. Hehe… that was news to me, too! I really enjoyed learning more about your hometown. From what you described, it sounds like the PERFECT kind of place for supernatural events to go down: small, out of the way, but very important.

    Thanks for sharing!


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