The Girls



The arrival of the characters

I first met Charlie and Nao in September 2018 in a writing exercise, after which they talked constantly in my head for months. All I needed to do in writing the first draft was get them talking on the page.

The two of them arrived very differently. Charlie invaded my brain all at once, fully formed, kicking and swearing. Nao, so much more considered in her actions and personality, took longer to arrive. Geena came later still, out of Charlie’s need for her sister to play more of a part in the story.

I came to see Nao and Charlie as different sides of my relationship to Western Australia. Charlie represents the fire, the ‘in your face’ ‘what you see is what you get’ known aspects of growing up there for me. Nao is the water to Charlie’s fire. She embodies what is underground, a sense of how much I don’t know about Australia but long to connect with. At one point when interviewing them both, Nao said to me, ‘You can come home now.’ I cried at that, which won’t surprise anyone who knows me. Writing these characters transported me to the place at a time when I felt so very far away.

There were so many points of difference between Nao and Charlie – personalities, backgrounds, life experiences – as well as tenuous moments of vulnerability and trust. In the end what drove and sustained me, writing and rewriting during the tumultuous global year that 2020 turned out to be, was this need I didn’t know I had, to write about something the world can never have too much of, a friendship across difference.