Geoff O'Brien

The active-minded author

FAQ for Better Together

Disclaimer: I don’t have any personal experience whatsoever with type 1 diabetes or (Australian) junior rugby league.

As of late December 2019, this page is more ‘anticipated questions' than 'frequently asked questions' about Better Together. Regardless, there shouldn’t be any major spoilers. You may wish to read the first few chapters or the whole novel first, just in case.

I tried as much as reasonably possible to show certain concepts in a fair, realistic way. If I got anything really, really wrong, I will try to change/update relevant story details as soon as reasonably possible, assuming it doesn’t significantly affect it’s theme or plot. Note that to change anything in any print versions of the novel(eg, paperback) costs me $25 for every time I upload a revised manuscript, so please adjust your expectations accordingly.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes Overview
Trains and Conductors Analogy
My Motivation to Create a Type 1 Diabetic Character

Junior Rugby League

Junior Rugby League Overview
Safeplay Code
Differences Between Better Together and Reality

Other Stuff

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Type 1 Diabetes Overview

From what I understand, type 1 diabetes results from an autoimmune reaction destroying part of the pancreas that produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose in our blood, ensuring it doesn’t get too high. Type 1 diabetics must check their blood-glucose level multiple times every single day. If blood glucose is too high, they must inject artificial insulin. If it’s too low, they must eat or drink something sweet, ingest a glucose tablet, etc. Ignoring these things, even for a day, will cause serious or life-threatening problems–such as losing consciousness, lapsing into a coma, or worse.

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes. People afflicted with it must cope with it constantly, remaining ever-vigilant about their blood glucose and certain other factors for the rest of their lives, trying to maintain a quality a life that non-diabetics (like myself) take for granted and never have to worry about.

Within Better Together, I tried to simplify specific details of type 1 diabetes–and Frida’s experience with it–as much as reasonably possible. I thought focusing on such details might distance non-diabetic readers, and may also result in a more naturalistic or negative tone for Better Together–see my Motivation notes below.

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Trains and Conductors Analogy

I discovered an analogy for type 2 diabetes during an online search. I ‘borrowed’ this and repurposed it for chapter three. I hope I did it okay.

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My Motivation to Create a Type 1 Diabetic Character

Hmm … where to begin? I’ll try to be concise and simple as possible. For my main character, I somewhat arbitrarily decided she ought to have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 athletes exist in real life, including Steve Renouf, an accomplished ex-rugby league player(diagnosed at twenty-two years of age). A condition like type 1 diabetes for a child wanting to try playing rugby league is an obvious starting point for unique and interesting fiction, both for you to read and me to write(I hoped).

However, at the time I didn’t quite realise what I was getting myself into. First, the few representations of (type 1) diabetics in books, TV, movies, etc, are usually criticized among diabetic communities as unrealistic and/or uninspiring. Second, I struggled to understand some of the finer points of type 1. I decided to experiment with engaging with online communities for this, and other reasons. To cut a long story short, I didn’t engage very well, yet some nice folks helped me out anyway. Thanks again, guys.

Any mistakes I’ve made, either here or in my novel, are totally mine.

A primary intention for me to write the character of a child with type 1 diabetes was that her condition would be presented as just another hindrance or challenge, rather than something especially life-shaping or life-stopping. This reflects the essence of a personal belief of mine, as well as an explicit goal of my writing, both in content and style: that nothing* ought to stop or excuse us from striving to be the best people that we can be.
(* = within a proper legal/moral context)

Easy for me–a non-diabetic–to say, right? Well, that’s one of my major goals for Better Together: to present my individual and stylised representation of the above concept. I leave it to you to judge whether I have achieved this.

In other words: if you’re looking for a naturalistic sort of story about average or downtrodden people grinding through their gray lives to little or negative effect, then I regret to say that I’m not your sort of author, and Better Together may not be your sort of novel.

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Junior Rugby League Overview

I’m an avid fan of rugby league and watch games often on TV. When I first conceived of Better Together, it’s children characters would basically play league as I saw it on TV–or so I thought at the time.

As I came to understand it, junior rugby league is not the same as the rugby league one may typically see on TV. That is rugby league at it’s highest or elite level, known as first grade. The next level down, known as reserve grade, is shown on TV during less prominent time spots and/or commentated over the radio. League is also played at representative and exhibitionist levels (such as international test matches and State of Origin) for various age groups and genders.

Junior league is split into age groups by year. These all play under modified rulesets involving all aspects of the game, such as whether high kicks(bombs) are allowed, minimum number of passes from dummy half, second chances allowed for accidental rule infringements, etc. These rule changes and play models are to ensure a more fun and less stressful time, for kids and everyone else involved in junior league.

You can find more information from the Play Rugby League website. It’s a good website to get more information in general about junior rugby league.

If anyone associated with that site happens to read this, might I suggest a few more text-based outlines and PDF files? I understand you have a game to promote, but sifting through several videos to get a nugget or two of information doesn’t help impatient authors or time-starved parents(to use a more relevant example). Browsing text is sometimes quicker and easier.

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Safeplay Code

Any and all mentions of the Safeplay Code(PDF) and it’s rules in Better Together are absolutely true.

I’m aware that impressionable minds and vigilant parents may be reading, so a minor goal for Better Together was to take every reasonable opportunity to mention junior rugby league’s Safeplay Code. It outlines everything from illegal tackling techniques to procedures for concussed players, to returning to play from an injury.

Certain other rules mentioned or alluded to in Better Together may have been made up. For example, early on in the novel-writing process, I thought I’d read a rule stating that a junior’s parent/s must always be present at that junior’s training and games. Given modern-day hype about children safety, this made sense to me. Checking back later on, I couldn’t find that rule anywhere within an NRL/junior rugby league context. Either I was unable to find it again, or perhaps I’d read about that rule on a specific club’s website and misremembered the source.

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Differences Between Better Together and Reality

Certain elements of junior rugby league presented in Better Together are dramatised for a more fun reading experience. These are listed here in no particular order:
  • Anything to do with the Dolus Desperadoes. They are a typical ‘bad’ (ie, willing to break the rules) team that I made up, as usually portrayed in so many movies. In real life, I really doubt this sort of team exists in junior league. Anyone and everyone involved seems to be super friendly and rule-abiding, there to have a go and have fun.
  • I’m guessing that TV commentators don’t typically call under-thirteens games. I introduced this element to raise tension. Through the commentators, I could also describe some rules of rugby league, and certain elements of whatever is happening on the field. This way, more casual readers who may not be familiar with such things can follow along.
  • While I always tried to include or mention anything to do with safety, I ignored certain other (non-safety-related) rules of junior rugby league. Rules or elements such as tries being worth four points, conversion kicks being allowed, and so on, I left out. See here for some more information.
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I have to mention this! One day, while I’m writing, I was thinking: what should Frida’s mother, a ‘helicopter’ parent, do for a living? Helicopter parent, heli–oh, maybe something to do with helicopters?

So I do an online search for something like ‘female helicopter pilots’, and I stumble across an awesome organisation dedicated to helping girls and women to become helicopter pilots. That decided the issue for me.

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Existence front cover


Existence exists.

Newly awakened young woman Zhéxué thinks she knows many things, from the Vatican to virtual reality, yet she doesn’t know anything about herself. Who is she? How was she created? Why is she at the centre of everyone’s schemes?

Rushed along in an unwitting tour–actual and virtual–of parts of post-cataclysmic Earth, constantly pushed around for days at a time by her so-called allies as much as her enemies, Zhéxué is barely able to stop and think. At last, she uncovers vital information about her nature, and of existence. These discoveries inform a desperate plan to save a friend she once thought lost.

Yet if Zhéxué cannot conceive the first axiom, the most fundamental truth, she and her friend will be killed… or worse.

Book one of the Philosophy of Life series.

Amazon ebook and paperback.
Everywhere else: ebook.
Blurb and sample(on this website).

Ambition (working title for Win-Win For The Win novel two).

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Better Together front cover

Better Together

A twelve year old girl with type 1 diabetes wants to play sport, but she has problems. Her diabetic routine must change. She’s horribly unfit. Her mother forbids it. Most of her team don’t care or dislike her. Winning the odd game would be nice.
And it's for one of the world's toughest sports: rugby league.

First book in the Win-Win For the Win series.

Amazon: ebook and paperback.
Everywhere else: ebook (universal book locator).
Blurb and sample (on this website).

Siren Plays Zeperno front cover

Siren Plays Zeperno

A deaf teenage girl and her mostly hard of hearing friends learn to play an online digital card-collectible game with a pro-disability esthetic called Zeperno. Despite trolls and well-meaning parents, they soon hone their skills enough to compete in esports.

Standalone novel.

Amazon: print and ebook.
Everywhere else: ebook (universal book locator).
Blurb and sample (on this website).

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