C.J. Sutton, an Australian author, is the next to appear in a new series I call Building Character. But instead of writing about a character from his new book, This Strange Hell, C.J. decided to answer the questions for a setting. Well, why not.
By the way, This Strange Hell has an official launch date of March 15. This is the link to pre-order: mybook.to/thisstrangehell
Here C.J. delves into the book’s key location—Sulley Ridge.
Who is your setting?
Sulley Ridge is a fictional town located in the harsh Victorian outback in Australia. The town stands as one of the most important characters in This Strange Hell due to its importance in the story. Surrounded by eucalyptus trees and with a backdrop of the mountain ranges, the scene looks like a setting for the perfect weekend drive. But at the heart of the town there’s anarchy and decay. Ruled by a violent gang and classified as a lawless town due to a lack of stationed authority, Sulley Ridge is slowly rotting despite its resilient citizens hoping for change. Schools have been shut down, the clinic is an abandoned shack and no children now live in the district. Will this ever change?
Sulley Ridge is first presented as a hideout for a character on the run. But he soon realises that this faraway land is searing with pain…
What does it look like?
Located on the outskirts of a mountain range, Sulley Ridge has one main street with a general store, hardware store, newsagency and a pub. Citizens live just outside this strip in old homes with vast land for farming and crops. Eucalyptus trees line the streets and border the town, and car parts are frequently seen on the side of the road. The town has abandoned shopfronts due to the mass exodus from years prior, and looks like the setting of an old western.
What is the backstory?
Sulley Ridge was once a quiet town no different to a dozen others in the outback. Children attended school, locals farmed, and passersby entered the pub for a drink and a gamble. This all changed when a gang showed up offering locals an opportunity for more coin. Once the betting escalated into fight clubs, prostitution and drugs, women left with their children and the local police were brutalised. Sulley Ridge became a lawless town, attracting the worst kind of men. One night, when the local officer caught the gang leader with a sixteen-year-old girl, he used force to make a point. The following morning the officer was found dead in his front yard, ripped in half after being strapped to two cars that drove in the opposite direction. Officers left after that, as did many women with their children. The town is haunted by its past.
What is its role in your novel?
The main character, known only as the man, flees to Sulley Ridge to escape public scrutiny after tragedy in Melbourne. With his face all over the news, Sulley Ridge becomes the ideal hiding place for a man wanting to disappear. Sulley Ridge is the last place anyone will look, and the locals care not for outside politics; their own issues are too complex. As we learn more about its history and the present state of civil war, Sulley Ridge becomes the key piece on the board.
Why should readers care?
Sulley Ridge is slowly decaying. There are no children or authority, no doctors or schools, just people who are too scared to leave. Could this happen to an outback town in reality? Definitely.
A brief excerpt:
The narrow road opened slightly, becoming two lanes that snaked through a street lined by one-storey outlets. A general corner store, newsagency, abandoned café and hardware store were shut, the typical red CLOSED sign dangling from the door knob. Leaves blew through the street like citizens basking in the lack of humanity, but soon voices could be heard up ahead. A carpark was nestled alongside The Ginger Bastard, a pub with wooden logs stacked out front in a pyramid. A teenage boy was seated atop the triangular structure, smoking a thick cigarette and carving letters into the wood. His head shot up when the man’s footsteps became signals of approach.
A brief synopsis:
A suited man runs from a burning tower in Melbourne as bodies rain down upon him.
Before the city’s millions can compose, he boards a train into the countryside. Hiding his identity and changing his appearance, the man finds his way to Sulley Ridge, a lawless town in the heart of the harsh Victorian outback.
The following day, a burned man wakes up in a hospital bed. Surging with rage, he speaks a name. Within an hour, the suited man’s face is across every screen in the country. It’s the greatest manhunt Australia has ever seen.
But as he tries to camouflage in Sulley Ridge, he soon realises the town has its own problems. Under the iron fist of a violent leader, the locals are trapped within slow and torturous decay…
As we learn more about the night of the burning tower, the connection between the suited man and the burned man threatens to leave a trail of destruction across the state.
Here is the story of a man on the run from his past, as the line between sanity and evil is danced upon.
Here is the tale of This Strange Hell.
Here’s how to find C.J. Sutton on social media: