On Writing Intruder

Posted: March 31, 2014 in Intruder, Teachers Notes, Writing, YA Fiction
Tags: , ,

RHA_Intruder_Front cover 21-03-14

Some stories start in dark places and, prompted by the question What if? emerge slowly into the light. This story started five years ago when my daughter was woken by a man standing over her bed. She was eleven years old.

We were lucky. The prowler ran off when she challenged him. And my child is resilient; she recovered much faster than I did.

Motherhood is guilt. Particularly when they’re little. Forgot your lunch, sweetie? That’d be Mum’s fault. Turned up in full uniform when everyone else was wearing free dress? Definitely Mum’s fault.

Mothers are great at taking responsibility. I swear some Mum is out there right now taking the blame for the Ukraine crisis and the fall of the dollar.

We’re  even better at torturing ourselves with terrifying ‘what ifs’. . .

But as the years safely passed, I stopped beating myself up as a mother and found myself responding to that prowler incident as a writer. Turning it over in my mind, intrigued by the fictional possibilities prompted by that most tantalising of questions: ‘what if…?’

What if it happened to a girl who was home alone? What if her mum was dead? What if her dad worked nights? What if the only person who came running when she screamed was the one person she hated most in the world?

And so the story of Intruder began to emerge, each question prompting countless others.

Why does Kat hate her neighbour Edwina? How could her dad Jimmy leave her alone, night after night? How would a vulnerable, motherless, once-bitten, twice shy teen react to a guard dog being forced on her? And how would she respond to the unexpected and unconditional love it offered?

On one level, Intruder is about vulnerability and what we need in our lives to make us feel safe. On another, it is about how the inescapable past shapes and, at times, traps us.

Like all of us, Kat sees the world through the prism of her own experiences. She hates her neighbour; she knows what she saw. A single shocking snippet of reality that sets like concrete in her mind and becomes the bedrock for all her subsequent actions.

The intruder is the catalyst for change in Kat’s life. Bringing her simmering problems with her troubled father, Jimmy, to the boil. Shattering her fragile belief that she is fine on her own. Forcing her to accept help – from the unwanted dog, Hercules, the new boy, Al, and her much-hated neighbour, Edwina. And ultimately, compelling her to face a truth buried in the bedrock of the past.

To paraphrase one of my favourite characters: Intruder is like an onion. It has layers. I hope its readers enjoy peeling them back. 🙂

Intruder by Christine Bongers – Published by Random House Australia – In bookstores 2 June 2014.

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Comments
  1. Karen Brooks says:

    Great post, Chris. Can’t wait to read it. I love that you responded as a writer to something so frightening. And, I love the dog’s name. We had a beautiful dog called Hercules for 16 years – a Golden Retriever. Not a guard dog. We would always joke if we were robbed, he would carry the thief’s bags out for him.

    • chrisbongers says:

      Love it, Karen! We got our Huggy after that prowler incident. He’s adorable, but surprisingly effective – his ballsy baritone bark can be heard in Biloela whenever anyone sets foot in our Brisbane yard. The character of Herc grew out of everything I loved about having a dog. But I made Herc exquisitely ugly when my daughter accused me of only loving Huggy because he was good looking. I swear I’m not that shallow!
      (You know, one of the things I love about writing fiction is the power it grants us. We may not have caught that prowler in real life, but in ‘Intruder’ I finally get my revenge.)

  2. Holy!

    That is so, so creepy. I can’t wait to read it.

  3. […] writer Chris Bongers has the knack of keeping it down to earth, even when it’s something as horrifying as waking […]

  4. glendageorge says:

    You totally rock Christine Bongers, just in case you’re wondering :)! I got to ‘see’ and ‘experience’ you in real life when I took my little 7/8s down for their finals of the Readers Cup in 2015. What an experience that was…you had me laughing til I cried can I suggest…totally amazing experience! I have just now chosen your text Intruder to analyse for my Children’s Literature assignment for my Masters in Ed (Teacher-Librarianship) and may well go forth and divulge on my blog…time is ever elusive though!! Anyway just wanted to say thank you for your inspiration and amazing talent. Cheers Glenda

    • chrisbongers says:

      Oh aren’t you lovely! I love Readers Cup, so happy you enjoyed it too. 🙂 And fantastic news about your Masters, Glenda. My first novel Dust has featured in Masters theses (my own and at least one other that I know about), but this is a first for Intruder – so thank you! I know a number of high schools are studying it in Yr 8-9 (I was at Clayfield College last term and they chose it because it fits in with their resilience framework). So good luck with the studies – you’re going to be a busy girl

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