Babette Gallard on writing ‘Future Imperfect’

The mesh of relationships between three women in a future marred by climate change

04 February 2024 - 00:00
By Babette Gallard
With her husband Paul, Babette Gallard manages their
publishing company, which produces ‘The LightFoot Guides’.
Image: Suzy Bernstein With her husband Paul, Babette Gallard manages their publishing company, which produces ‘The LightFoot Guides’.

Why write a book? To tell a story? To convey a message? I’m still not sure I know the answer, but I do know that I am a storyteller, and that, since becoming increasingly aware of climate change and its consequences, I realise I have a very specific story to tell.

Future Imperfect is the result of wondering what life will be like for my daughter in 2050, when she is the age I am now. To find out, I started to research every aspect of our lives today, from the most basic daily routines to all the interlinked elements: social, ecological and technological. Then I studied all the predictions — some solid, some weird — and used an amalgam of what I found to project my plot into the future.

Though interesting and sometimes depressing, my research was also an unexpected introduction to a nerdy self I hadn’t even known existed. I spent days and nights reading about AI, quantum computing and neural communication — to the point of obsession. At times, I was at risk of losing my own plot, but then I remembered what I had told myself before even starting to write notes: my story will be about people we know, in places we recognise, and with a measured share of emotion and action in between.

by Babette Gallard.
Image: Supplied Future Imperfect by Babette Gallard.

Future Imperfect is about three women — two mothers, a daughter, and a baby granddaughter — who were thrown out of their comfort zones and left to fend for themselves, something they had never experienced before. To reach what they thought would be a safe place in Switzerland, they were forced to walk along an ancient pilgrim route from France to Italy, sleeping rough along the way. This section was written from personal experience, because I followed the same route myself and felt their pain.

One of my highlights was writing about women older than 50, giving them a voice and putting them at the centre of the action, because this group seems to be generally invisible as heroes or strong protagonists. I also loved writing about their sometimes complicated interactions with each other and their daughters — the mesh of human relationships.

Creating a fictional future world still rooted in a recognisable reality can be problematic, particularly if you have a febrile imagination like mine, but perhaps my biggest issue was avoiding the creation of characters too obviously modelled on some of my friends. Even so, I’ll never forget the best moments when my plot seemed to write itself, and my people spoke faster than I could write. The end of the book is the beginning of a new phase, and I hope readers will be as sad as I was when I realised it was finally finished.

Future Imperfect by Babette Gallard is published by Light Eye.