Australian writer, podcaster and journalist Chenée Marrapodi on turning the seed of an idea into reality

Holding a published copy of One Wrong Turn in my hands was a dream come true. I never entertained the idea of there being a sequel and the fact that it now exists is largely thanks to the enthusiasm of Australia’s dance community and of course, the wonderful team at Fremantle Press!

Dance has been a huge part of my life since I was five years old, and to say I leapt at the chance to write a sequel to One Wrong Turn is an understatement. I had two months to write a draft and no idea what I wanted to write about, but there was no way I would miss out on the opportunity. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look far. At the exact moment I began questioning whether I’d lost my mind by saying yes to the story, I spotted my husband.

The initial seed of an idea

Before you get the wrong idea, my husband is not a ballet dancer. He’s six foot four, and doesn’t have a single graceful bone in his body. He does, however, have type 1 diabetes. I watched him as he was checking his blood glucose levels for what must have been the millionth time that day, lamenting over the fact he couldn’t control his body.

It reminded me of a dancer I worked with while filming promotional content for One Wrong Turn. She’s fourteen, the same age as Amelia and Valentina, and training to become a professional dancer. She also has type 1 diabetes. On the day we filmed, her mum warned me that she was dealing with ‘a low’ and that meant her balance would be a bit off. This young dancer is incredibly talented, dedicated and driven, yet diabetes had the power to undo everything she was working towards. 

It was that lack of control that became the springboard for Breaking Pointe.

When journalism meets creative writing

When I teach writing workshops, I always talk to students about the importance of ‘showing not telling’. A character leaps off the page and into real life when a reader can feel exactly what they’re experiencing. It was this sentiment that drove my research for Breaking Pointe.

Living in a type 1 household, I’m very familiar with the challenges that come with diabetes. It’s all consuming, changes constantly and at times makes very little sense. I might experience hypoglycaemia occasionally but type 1 diabetes is in a league of its own and there was no way I could pretend to understand what it felt like.

I’ve worked as a journalist for more than a decade, so I decided to put those skills to work to make sure my story was authentic and accurate. I interviewed multiple dancers, teenagers and adults with type 1, as well as their families and medical professionals. I didn’t just want to know how they managed the disease on a day-to-day basis, I wanted to know what it felt like to be diagnosed and to get your head around all of the changes that came with it. I wanted to feel their frustrations and fears, and what it felt like to be dancing and have your blood glucose levels suddenly plummet. The characters in Breaking Pointe are entirely fictional, but without the honesty, vulnerability and insights of all the people I interviewed, they would never have come to life. I will forever be grateful.

Dancing through the pages of Breaking Pointe

Type 1 diabetes is, of course, just one of the elements that makes up Breaking Pointe. While I want readers to understand the disease, my main aim is always to entertain them and to make them fall a little bit more in love with books (and ballet!).

Breaking Pointe is full of fun, friendship and family dilemmas … with a tiny splash of awkward teenage romance on the side. There’s a lot of dance scenes in this book, and each routine was choreographed within the tiny space of my writing studio. In order to write an epic dance scene, I needed to understand how my own body would move through the steps. When you are trying to ‘show not tell’ your readers information, you really need to step into your character’s shoes!

Breaking Pointe and One Wrong Turn are available in all good bookstores and online.

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