I wrote the majority of Only Daughter in my head, lying awake in the dark hours of early morning. I had been woken by the sounds of my car windows being smashed in, and was feeling paranoid and nervous.
What better way to get back to sleep then to tell yourself the scariest story you can think of? The next morning I wrote frenzied pages of notes (while on hold to a windscreen repair service). Already, I had a feeling that this idea was something special.
I had just watched the amazing Ingrid Bergman film Anastasia, and was captivated by the story of impersonation. For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the Gaslight genre of the 1940s, especially Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and loved the idea of using that framework in a contemporary way. Together, these inspirations formed the basis for the story of a woman who, like Anna Keroff, impersonates a girl who has gone missing a decade earlier. However, I didn’t want the missing girl to be voiceless, so I gave Bec Winter her own chapters, allowing her to tell her story herself.
My favorite stories are the ones that investigate the darker side of the human psyche, especially when the protagonist is someone I can relate to. For Only Daughter, I wanted to write something that I myself would love to read. I like to read stories featuring female characters that are relatable, even when they behave badly. Most of all, I aspired to write a story that could crawl under your skin and stay there.
Writing Only Daughter was a very natural experience. I wrote the first draft during one of Melbourne’s hottest summers. Sucking ice, my feet on my desk, the story of Bec Winter’s last week poured out of me. Perhaps this was because I grounded this section off of my memory of another hot Australian summer.
I grew up in the suburbs of Canberra, and I’ll never forget January 2003, when the Canberra bushfires turned the sky red. Setting Bec’s story during this time made her feel even more real to me. I was a teenager myself at the time and that week has been vivid in my memory every summer since.
Now, Only Daughter is on shelves in countries on the other side of the world from me. It’s so amazing to imagine people who have totally different life experiences to me reading and sharing it. Strangely, I feel so lucky that someone smashed in my car windows that night.
This guest blog post originally appeared on Have Books Will Read on the September 28.