Christian White on Conspiracy Theories and Satanic Panic

Christian White on Conspiracy Theories and Satanic Panic

Briefly tell us about your book.

In the summer of 1989, a local teen goes missing from the idyllic Australian suburb of Camp Hill. As rumours of Satanic rituals swirl, schoolteacher Tom Witter becomes convinced he holds the key to the disappearance. When the police won’t listen, he takes matters into his own hands with the help of the missing girl’s father and a local neighbourhood watch group. But as dark secrets are revealed and consequences to past actions are faced, Tom learns that the only way out of the darkness is to walk deeper into it.

What inspired the idea behind this book?

The idea for Wild Place sprouted after my wife and I moved back to the area we grew up in. When COVID hit, like most people in Melbourne, I spent a lot of time just walking around local streets, mulling over what was happening in the world. I was alarmed by the misinformation floating about, and the mad conspiracy theories that were taking root. It got me thinking about Satanic Panic, a wave of mass hysteria and moral panic that took place in the 80s and 90s. I’ve been interested in it for a long time, probably since learning about The West Memphis Three, a group of teenagers who were wrongly convicted of murder in the early 90s, largely based on the way they dressed and the kind of music they liked. But I didn’t know I wanted to write about it until the pandemic hit. Early during the first lockdown, I was amazed at how quickly conspiracy theories emerged, and how many people seemed eager to believe them. Then there was Q’Anon! It became clear that the more scared/angry/outraged people are, the lower their standards of evidence become. It landed me on a question: What has to happen to make a normally good person do terrible things?

What was the research process like for the book?

Listening to heavy metal of the 80s ended up being a big part of my research. I never really listened to that sort of music before writing Wild Place (I was always more of a The Smiths guy) but the deeper I delved into the era of Satanic Panic, the more relevant that music became. It’s hard to imagine, but back in the 80s and 90s, concerned parents were terrified of this stuff!

How did you think of the title of the book?

The original title of the book was ‘Neighborhood Watch’, which felt a little bland. In the novel, Wild Place is the name locals give a big pocket of land between streets. It’s dense and ominous and there are a bunch of urban legends about it. The name felt like a good title!

Who are some of your favourite authors? Or favourite books?

Gillian Flynn, Stephen King, Harlan Coben, Haruki Murakami, Don Winslow, Anna Downes (the list goes on, but I have to stop somewhere!).

Buy a copy of Wild Place here.

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                      Publisher details

                      Wild Place
                      Author
                      Christian White
                      Publisher
                      Affirm Press
                      Genre
                      Fiction
                      Released
                      26 October, 2021
                      ISBN
                      9781922626103

                      Synopsis

                      In the summer of 1989, a local teen goes missing from the idyllic Australian suburb of Camp Hill. As rumours of Satanic rituals swirl, schoolteacher Tom Witter becomes convinced he holds the key to the disappearance. When the police won’t listen, he takes matters into his own hands with the help of the missing girl’s father and a local neighbourhood watch group.

                      But as dark secrets are revealed and consequences to past actions are faced, Tom learns that the only way out of the darkness is to walk deeper into it. Wild Place peels back the layers of suburbia, exposing what’s hidden underneath – guilt, desperation, violence – and attempts to answer the question: why do good people do bad things?

                      Christian White
                      About the author

                      Christian White

                      Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter whose projects include feature film RelicThe Nowhere Child is his first book and one of Australia’s bestselling debut novels ever. An early draft of this novel won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Since publication The Nowhere Child has been shortlisted for major awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards’ General Fiction Book of the Year and Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, and the Indie Book Awards’ Debut Fiction Book of the Year. Rights to The Nowhere Child have been sold in 17 international territories, and has been acquired for a major screen deal. Clickbait, a television series Christian co-created with Tony Ayres (The Slap) is currently in production for Netflix. Christian’s keenly awaited second book, The Wife and the Widow, was published by Affirm Press in 2019 and became an instant bestseller. Christian lives in Melbourne with his wife, filmmaker Summer DeRoche, and their adopted greyhound, Issy.

                      Books by Christian White

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