A story about a perfect town
9th Aug 17

A story about a perfect town

In A Place Called Perfect, everything seems to be just that - but not is all as it seems... With the help of her new best friend, Boy, Violet must uncover the secrets of the town called Perfect - or risk losing her family, forever.

When Violet's father gets a job in a town called Perfect, she doesn't want to move there - but even she can't foresee how bad things will get!

In Perfect, all the citizens wear rose-tinted glasses -
but why? And what is making her family behave so strangely? Will the mysterious Boy help Violet to save her family?

We asked author HELENA DUGGAN to tell us more about A PLACE CALLED PERFECT:

Q: Why did you decide to write a book for children?

A: I've always written stories for myself really, I never thought they'd reach a wider audience. The graphic design and illustrator stuff is how I eat. If I didn't have that work I'd be pretty hungry most of the time!

Q: What are your favourite children's stories?

A: I love Roald Dahl; I read his stories religiously when I was younger. I also loved Terry Pratchett's kids' book series Truckers, Diggers and Wings. I couldn't get enough of them and always imagined that there were people who lived under the floorboards of my house. I thought they rode around on mice - we had a lot of mice!

As I got older Harry Potter became my favourite read. Now, every Christmas, it's become a tradition to sit down and watch the box set of films!

Q: Can you describe Kilkenny, the town that inspired A Place Called Perfect?

A: Kilkenny is a medieval town in the south east of Ireland. It used to be the capital of Ireland hundreds of years ago when five main families ruled the town. One of these families was called Archer - a name I borrowed for my baddies.

It's full of old laneways and historical buildings and has a castle that sits proudly at the top of the town. It also has ancient underground passageways that have yet to be officially opened to the public.

Q: On the surface, Perfect is a perfect town. Why did you decide to create a town that looks wonderful, but isn't?

A: Everyone in Perfect believes it's a perfect place to live - the glasses they wear blind people to what is going on around them and to how they are being controlled.

This idea is something I think about a lot: the media, politics, our own perspectives, and what and who we listen to can blind us to what's going on in the wider world.

In a sense (not to get too deep) I feel we're all being controlled in one form or another and are blind to it. I wanted to play with this idea in my writing and so created Perfect - a world that exaggerated this notion.

Q: Your two main characters, Violet and Boy, discover there is a lot wrong with 'Perfect'. Are stories like this are important to teach us about the 'real' world?

A: I'm not sure if I think that way really. When I was growing up I let my imagination go wild in a story, and though there were lessons in the stories I read as a kid, I never saw them.

I do think it's important that children are allowed to be children. I think kids are being forced, through technology, to grow up a little too quickly nowadays.

Q: What inspired your bad guys, the Archer twins?

A: The Archer brothers are key to the story. I needed my villains to come up with a genius plan and the twins just popped into my head one day. I do have a little sympathy for them; they want to create a perfect world so they can be appreciated.

From childhood Edward and George felt that they never got the love they deserved from their mother, Iris. They worked hard in school and at home, and tried to be perfect all of the time. Their younger brother, William, wasn't perfect, but in the twins's eyes he was their mother's favourite. However, Iris had her reasons for protecting William (which I can't go into now as it will be a spoiler).

The twins decide to create a world where their vision of what is right is respected - and anyone who doesn't obey their rules, or who questions their system, is thrown out.

Q: Is it more fun to develop the bad guys than the good ones?

A: I enjoy developing both, but I do like to try and understand and rationalise why a bad person would do the things they do. In their eyes they don't think they are being bad - it's all about perspective.

Q: You have some great supporting characters in the story - who is your favourite?

A: I have a soft spot for Iris. She comes across as being a bit mad but as Violet finds out she's not. She tells Violet that you can get away with more things in life if people think you are mad - I like that idea!

Q: What are you writing now and where is your favourite place to write?

A: I am writing the sequel to Perfect. My favourite place to write is in our tree house at the bottom of our garden. My husband and his brother built it two years ago when they were both off work. It's really peaceful and surrounded by birdsong. I can't write in it anymore though as we rent it out on Airbnb. Hopefully someday we will be rich and I'll get my writing space back!

Q: An awful lot of tea gets drunk in Perfect - are you a tea drinker?

A: I do drink tea - not loads though. But my husband drinks buckets of it sometimes, and I do find that a cup of tea and a biscuit at the end of a rough day can be just the cure.

Q: Any bad writing habits?

A: The internet is my worst writing habit, I usually spend hours surfing when I'm supposed to be writing!

Q: What is your favourite escape from writing?

A: I'm not sure I have one. I think writing is my escape. I love finishing a story with the thought that I got it right this time.

I also write pieces for family occasions or for the performance nights that my writing group sometimes puts on and I get a real buzz reading those. There's probably a bit of a performer in me!

I do love exercise too, especially hiking and getting out on the mountains. My husband is an expedition adventure racer. Races last around 5 days and competitors don't sleep during the race so a lot of training is needed. It gets us both outdoors, which I love.

Q: What are you most passionate about in everyday life?

A: It's a short and sweet answer - I'm most passionate about my family!

reading zone homepage
Young Adult SchoolZone FamilyZone Library zone
ReadingZone Book Shop