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It Started with the Ghosts... (A Post About Location Inspiration for The Southern Magicks)

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

A large reason so many of my characters are psychic mediums, death magic users, or necromancers is because I spent the first fourteen and a half years of my life surrounded by reminders of death, existing with the decayed remains of the lives my European and Australian Aboriginal ancestors lived.

I grew up in the remote New South Wales bush, far from the most remote place in Australia, but as a kid it felt like I lived on an entirely different plane of reality, even to the other kids I went to school with. Especially those who lived in town. Town was one of the few villages that had kept a population stable enough to still have actual paved streets, a few shops, a school, and a post office. It was as though those fifteen kilometers between town and the farm transported me to another reality. To the villages that didn't make it once the mining boom died off, I grew up in the same house my mother did and generations of my maternal grandfather's family before me.

Location Moodboard for the fictional town of Dunn

It was alone in this world littered with abandoned mines, old cemeteries, and the remnants of old houses where my imagination went wild with the stories I heard about paranormal encounters and creatures. I even had my own encounters I just can't quite shake, despite considering myself a skeptic. It wasn't only the remains of colonial European settlement that haunted me: I knew the secret. I think I always knew the secret.

The eucalypt leaves whispered it to me in the wind, "You are a stranger here."

The remote, hostile, ethereal Australian landscape holds its own stories, ghosts hundreds of millions of years’ worth.

​I like to say I write character driven stories, but that would also make the setting a character, at least in stories I set in the rural Australian bush.

Dexter Lacy (nee Arkwright) by Joanne Kwan

Dexter walked into my head in late 2017. I knew he lived in a small town, but I based the fictional town and location off where I lived as an older teenager after my family left the farm. Still technically in rural Australia, but far less remote than where I’d grown up. I felt like there had to be more of a population, for things had to happen in the story I wanted to write with him. As I wrote the bush that surrounded Dunn, the fictional town I created grew a life of its own. I’d written stories set in the bush I’d grown up in before. The most similar one, called The Paper, is an Australian gothic supernatural thriller all about the existential dread of living in a small remote town haunted by its past and the danger of the people living there turning hostile. I state that Australian gothic is a sub-genre of The Southern Magicks series because it has some of these themes, but the outside world is a lot more existent. Henriette, the main character of The Paper, exists in a town cloaked in an impenetrable bubble of hostile bushland. Dexter’s story and the politics of his world are heavily influenced by outside influences, like the outside group of magic users that colonized his town. While The Paper and The Southern Magicks both have main characters who can see ghosts and some similar themes, they are influenced by different genres and fictional sources. I originally started writing The Paper as a short story series for the horror fiction subreddit r/nosleep before it outgrew that original premise. From the start of The Southern Magicks, I was writing an urban fantasy/mystery novel.

Over the years, The Southern Magicks grew into an urban fantasy with a rural setting.

Location Moodboard for the fictional town of Dunn 2

Location Moodboard for the fictional town of Dunn 3


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