Before handing over to Elise I have to mention The Man Plan which was the first of Elise’s books that I read. It was so real, it was like eavesdropping on friends. I’m looking forward to her new release, Unforgettable, and feel so lucky that I can share with you a behind the scenes view of where it all began.
Unforgettable is available from Escape Publishing.
Elise K. Ackers’s new contemporary romance, Unforgettable, has just been released by Escape Publishing. It is set in Melbourne on the site of the recently redeveloped Hamer Hall, and is about two ex-lovers fighting for a second chance at happily ever after.
In July 2012, Melbourne’s premiere concert venue Hamer Hall reopened to the public after a two year redevelopment. The cultural icon had received a timely facelift; the new and existing foyers had been opened up to the river and city views, the auditorium seating and acoustics had been improved and the new restaurants, bars and artworks were worthy talking points. I was sitting in the audience during the reopening concert. When I wasn’t weeping like a sook during K.D. Lang’s moving rendition of Hallelujah, I was reflecting.
I worked on the redevelopment of this concert hall for over two years, so when everyone around me was gasping over the new lighting features and wriggling deeper into the wider seats, I was both celebrating and mourning the end of an era. Nobody else could hear the soft murmurs of long ago conversations; of the in-depth discussions by designers, builders, subcontractors and the like. The public was sitting in a thing of beauty, but I had been there when there were no seats. I’d stood on bare, dusty concrete, surrounded by safety barriers, scaffolding and floodlights. And you might think it strange for me to say this: but I liked it better then.
I liked the time before the polish – when the building had been clawing its way towards its potential. There had been secrets and mysteries, mistakes and milestones. Every day it had been something else to celebrate or deal with. I can remember standing on the top of the balcony side-wall scaffolding. It was half way through the project and I was staring down at the working platform in the middle of the auditorium, thinking, “Cherish this moment”. And sure enough, time and progress changed everything.
A lot of people were surprised by how passionately I took to the construction environment. I loved watching things being torn down just as much as I was fascinated by the new emerging from the rubble. I also loved the people. Some were like family to one another, others were rivals. There were some men who always opened a door for me, and never stepped into a room before a woman, and there were others who grumbled about a woman being on site, stuck as they were in a time before female project managers, area supervisors and tradies. There were jokers, Lotharios, family men and grumps, and I had something to do with almost all of them.
I guess what I’m getting at, is that the environment and the people were an irresistible recipe for a book. There were hundreds of us involved in the project, but there were double that in my head. Once I had finished writing Unforgettable, I had managed to populate the site with an entire crew from my imagination. Everything became duplicitous. There were two Site Managers (when there really wasn’t), two Theatre Tech Managers (again, really just the one). There was reality, and then there was a world within it where Emma and Connor existed, dragging their love and their battles from one dusty room to the next.
I had to be really careful, of course. I went to great lengths to reassure the real workers on the redevelopment that they had not been the inspiration for any of my characters. This was and remains true. I also had to be careful about the assumptions which might have surfaced. Unforgettable is a romance book, after all, about two managers being secretly in love. Yet in my mind, Hamer Hall remains the setting for a great second-chance love story.
Emma Kitchener and Connor Abbott.
I look at the building and I still imagine them there.
What I never imagined was how ingrained this fictional story would become with my reality. I have to remind myself sometimes that certain things didn’t happen. And I have the pleasure of pretending that some things did.
So when I was sitting in that new seat in July last year, watching performers celebrate the Hall’s reopen, I was saying goodbye to so many more people than my colleagues were.
As a reader and/or writer, has this ever happened to you? Have you ever connected with characters or locations so forcibly, that it has skewed your reality?