The Booktopia Book Guru asks
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born, raised and schooled in the lower Blue Mountains. I lived there until I was about 24 when I moved to Sydney’s Inner West. Now I live in Wollongong.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Twelve: Artist/writer/Olympian show-jumper/horse-breeder. Why? Why on earth not.
Eighteen: Artist/jewellery designer for Dinosaur Designs. My obsession with Dinosaur Designs started at seventeen when I went into their Sydney Strand Arcade Store. I was so inspired that I changed my university plans from equestrian science to visual arts. I continue to squander all my money on DD stuff and am in the habit of writing them occasional fan mail.
Thirty: Writer. I’ve always imagined stories and characters. While film-making would probably be more fun, all you need to write a story is some paper and a pencil. It’s simpler and more direct. If anyone wants to spot me a few thousand dollars to make a film, I’m up for it.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I was convinced there was no God. Now I’m 99.9 percent sure there is one.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Only three? Cruel. Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief and King of Limbs (Can’t choose.) Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Pipilotti Rist’s video installation Sip My Ocean
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Because I love stories most of all. It’s that simple. I find story-making to be the most satisfying pursuit aside from swimming in the ocean, and no one’s offered me money to do that. Writing seems to be the most direct way of getting stuff out of my head. I mentioned film before, but to cram all the details and tangents novels allow for into a film, you need tens of hours. You also need to collaborate with multiple people and schedule stuff and there’s probably diagrams involved. I’m not organised enough for all of that.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Hannah is just shy of sixteen and her family has recently been ripped apart by tragedy: her sister – whom she loved but didn’t like – has been killed. An unexpected ramification of this is that the bullying she has endured throughout high school has ceased, something that puts her in a strange place emotionally. While she is trying to come to grips with this she begins to form her first friendship in years – with the crossword-obsessed delinquent, Josh.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
Golly, I hate that question! Perhaps some small sense of camaraderie for those who were/are miserable in high school. I also wanted to pay homage to the lovely, genuine, noble guys I have known over the years. You don’t come across them all that often in books.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
This is one that tends to change a lot. I’m going to break the rules and choose two! Vince Gilligan: the character arcs he created in Breaking Bad were nothing short of Shakespearian. And Sonya Hartnett. I don’t have words to describe how great her writing is. I also like how she doesn’t seem to give a brass razoo about genres or markets or any of that annoying stuff. She seems to just write what she wants.
Oh dear. This is going to be embarrassing. May as well aim high: the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award would be quite nice. That would mean I could stop renting! Or perhaps if we are going to be absurd I could write the first YA to win the Booker. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible, although I dare say Harper Lee could have won it. On a more achievable level: I really, really want to write and illustrate a picture book.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Choose carefully whose opinion of your work you listen to. And write. It sounds obvious but until you get the words out on the page, nothing will ever come of them.
Claire, thank you for playing.
by Claire Zorn
I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.
Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?
Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?
In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.