Hi guys, we welcome debut author Marek Moran for a visit today with his upcoming debut release The Sparky, we have a brilliant guest post and a great exclusive excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Aaron’s been living in what his friend Howie calls a sexual desert. But an oasis appears on the horizon when Paul, a divorced electrician with a five-year-old daughter named Sam, moves in next door. He’s a country boy from northern Australia, and although he’s never been with a guy before, he has an impression that anything goes in the city. They find that the ordinary things in life—books, footie in the park, looking after Sam—lead them into an unlikely relationship.
But as their relationship slowly deepens, with Aaron spending time on Paul’s family’s cattle station, it becomes clear that Paul might have a harder time leaving the country behind. To him, happiness means a conventional life—including a mother for Sam. Being with his old friends convinces him he’s on the wrong path with Aaron, and he starts a relationship with a girl from his hometown. If he cannot find the courage to go after what he truly needs, he and Aaron will become nothing more than awkward neighbours.
The Country by Marek Moran!
Hello, Reader! Welcome to my very first blog post about my very first novel. I thought for this post I’d talk about the setting.
Most of The Sparky is set in Sydney, but two of the key chapters are set in Emerald, a town in Queensland, and rural Australia’s a pretty important presence in the rest of the book too. These pics (not actually taken in Emerald, but somewhere I’ve been more recently in rural Australia) will give you an idea of what it looks like, with a lot of eucalyptus and fairly sparse grass, although here it’s greener than it sometimes is.
So it’s not the conventional beautiful landscape, lush and verdant, and living on the land is a pretty tough life. But when you spend time there, you do get to see its beauty. There’s a poem that we pretty much all have to learn as schoolkids, My Country by Dorothea Mackellar. “I love a sunburnt country,” is where we begin, then later there’s “Her beauty and her terror / The wide brown land for me.” That about sums up what it’s like.
But although that’s a popular image of Australia overseas, the population’s about 89% urban. You get a lot of people moving from the country to one of the bigger cities, like Paul does. And while there’s obviously a diversity among the people who come to the city from the country, in my experience there’s a common frankness, or maybe lack of artifice; think of Crocodile Dundee for a caricature of it. At the same time, for a lot of the country guys I know, talking frankly about their deeper feelings is a ridiculous idea. So Paul’s a bit like this: not an extreme case, but different enough for Aaron. I know this could seem like a 1950s stereotype, but I’ve still seen it often enough with people I know. I’m very much a city boy: I eventually learnt that the signal to talk about feelings, used only in extremis, was an out-of-the-blue “So, do you feel like a beer?”
This being a first novel, there’s definitely some of me in there. I didn’t spend any time in the country until I was an adult, so when I finally did start spending time there, I got into learning a bunch of new things, like how to shoot a rifle and drive a tractor. Aaron’s experience on Paul’s family property: that’s drawn from my own. Some of it anyway, and suitably fictionalised. I hope the story captures a bit of what it’s like.
As for something else to give you an idea of country Australia: there’s a great photographer, Paul Freeman, who’s particularly known for taking photos of good-looking guys in the Outback. I’d encourage you to check out one or two of his pics.
The next day I don’t have a hangover, fortunately, so I’m ready for a proposed early morning tour of the property. We won’t actually be seeing all of it, or even much of it—we’ll be going out on a quad bike, and it’s more for the fun that Sam has in riding in the trailer. We’ll just be going for a short low-speed ride around in essentially a big circle.
It’s a relatively new-looking bike, and it has a passenger trailer that hooks onto the tow bar. Sam’s excited—it could well be her favourite thing about visiting her grandparents—and she’s watching closely as it’s connected up. Jack’s up and about as well, and helps strap Sam in with the makeshift seatbelt. He tells me I should wear a pair of the old Blundstone boots that they have lying around, like the ones that Paul wears when he’s doing work on his house, rather than my newish sneakers. When I arrived I saw them all lined up, about half a dozen pairs with worn elastic sides, obviously just for slipping on if you need to go out on the property. So I find a pair that fits and swap, and now I’m set.
I sit behind Paul on the bike. He starts it up and engages the throttle, picking up a little speed until we’re doing about fifteen kilometres an hour according to the speedo, although it feels faster not being enclosed like a car. Sam’s yelling out behind me, some wordless release of excitement.
The ground’s fairly flat, and there aren’t a lot of trees around, mostly isolated stands of eucalyptus in this part of the property. There are some cattle in the middle distance, past a fence, I guess in a separate paddock. They’re near a watering hole with a few more trees growing up around it, keeping to the shade and drinking occasionally.
As I’m looking around, I feel Paul scooch back, arms out almost at full stretch to hold on to the handlebars, so he’s right up against me.
“Faster, faster,” chants Sam.
“No way,” Paul calls over his shoulder.
I take that moment to wrap my arms around Paul. “It’s too fast for me already. I think I’m going to fall off!”
I can hear Sam laugh.
Marek Moran is, in his day job, a computer science professor. If you want to know about shortest path graph algorithms, he’s your man. However, that’s probably not why you’re reading this. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia, and has previously lived in France, Germany and the US, enjoying travelling around and listening to people talk: he’s learnt to respond to enquiries after his wellbeing with a ça va merci, sehr gut danke or copacetic, thanks.
The only member of his book club to like George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, he’s discovered that he enjoys writing romance as well as reading it; the other members of his book club don’t yet know this. He plays piano, squash, and his cards close to his chest. The Sparky is his first novel.