Monthly Archives: September 2014

2, 2 and 2: Annabel Smith talks about The Ark

My fourth guest in the 2, 2 and 2 series, which features writers with new books, is Annabel Smith, and it’s a huge pleasure and very exciting to be showcasing her new novel, The Ark.

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Annabel and I have been sharing work—one way or another—for fifteen years. I edited her first novel, A New Map of the Universe, for UWA Publishing. As part of a writing group with Annabel and Robyn Mundy, I watched the evolution of her second, Whisky Charlie Foxtrot (Fremantle Press), as we read and reviewed chapter by chapter. Similarly, I have seen The Ark grow from its beginnings, and cheered for Annabel when she was the recipient of a two-year Creative Australia Fellowship from the Australia Council, for emerging artists working on interdisciplinary projects, to enable her to develop The Ark as an interactive work.

The Ark is unlike Annabel’s first two books—not only in its digital form but also in its style and genre. It is a work of dystopian speculative fiction, and its story is told in documents (read more about that here). Here is the book’s blurb, and you can also browse the book’s fabulous interactive website:

Wool meets Super Sad True Love Story

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price.

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

Over to Annabel…

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Super Sad True Love Story meets Wool

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide, a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price. 

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

– See more at: http://annabelsmith.com/?page_id=51#sthash.uQG57e6c.dpuf

Super Sad True Love Story meets Wool

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide, a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price. 

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

– See more at: http://annabelsmith.com/?page_id=51#sthash.uQG57e6c.dpuf

Super Sad True Love Story meets Wool

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide, a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price. 

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

– See more at: http://annabelsmith.com/?page_id=51#sthash.uQG57e6c.dpu

2 things that inspired The Ark

A few years ago I read Adrian Atkinson’s foreboding essay ‘Cities After Oil’, about the likely collapse of society as we know it, in a period of chaos following post-peak oil. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, in the ‘environmental lifestyle’ magazine G, I saw a snippet about the Svalbard Global Seed Bank, also known as the Doomsday vault. These two ideas came together in my mind and The Ark was born.

2 places connected with The Ark

Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Global Crop Diversity Trust)

Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Global Crop Diversity Trust)

Since the Svalbard seed vault was the inspiration for my book, I’ll never be able to think about The Ark without picturing Svalbard. Tunnelled into a mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, it can protect its seeds from nuclear war, asteroid strikes and climate change. Even if the power fails, the seeds will be preserved at or below zero by the mountain’s permafrost, and most seeds can survive at this temperature for two or more years.

However, I didn’t want to set my novel at Svalbard, for two reasons. Firstly, direct experience of the facility seemed essential for verisimilitude, but my son was only two years old when I began writing and it wasn’t practical for me to travel to the Arctic Circle. More importantly, I didn’t want my story to be constrained by reality. I decided to create my own seed bank. Research revealed that in the last ice age, there was a small glacier on Mount Kosciusko, and though it no longer has permafrost, this, if I wanted an Australian setting, was as close as I was going to get. Here I ‘built’ the National Arboreal Protection Facility, aka ‘The Ark’.

2 favourite methods of communication in The Ark

The Ark is a novel-in-documents. The story is revealed through blog posts, text messages, emails, memos and a variety of other forms. I really had fun coming up with some of these forms and inventing brand names for the software programs.

One of the document types I got a kick out of creating was a type of email called a Headless Horseman. Allegedly developed by the Yakuza, the program enables people to communicate in secret: The horseman cannot be detected by voyeur systems and can outride all known e-mercenaries.

Perhaps the most fun I had was with the voice recognition software program I invented, called Articulate. Articulate has the capacity to create transcripts of conversations, so it was a way to provide written evidence of some of the conversations (and arguments) which were essential to the novel’s action. Articulate also enables people to write the drafts of speeches, including notes to themselves for their delivery, which read as stage directions. One of the main characters, Aidan, loves to make speeches and has some particularly pompous stage directions in his draft transcripts.

You can follow Annabel on:
her website
Facebook
Twitter
You can buy The Ark here

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A September photo-reminder…

to look up and check your direction…

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Writers ask writers: writing in the digital age

Today the Writers Ask Writers group is celebrating twice over. First, a new book from one of our members is being launched today—a very special publication, and one that I have had the great pleasure of reading in successive drafts almost from its genesis.

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Annabel Smith’s The Ark was, as she describes it, ‘born digital’—a novel conceived, written and designed to be read as an interactive digital experience and that takes on the imaginative and ambitious task of inventing systems of communication for a dystopian future. It is also a character-driven novel—the hallmark of all of Annabel’s work—and a study of human behaviour under the extreme pressures of isolation, manipulation and fear. I’m delighted to be featuring Annabel as my next 2, 2 and 2 guest.

The topic of today’s blog, writing in the digital age, is in honour of The Ark on this auspicious occasion, and in celebration of Annabel’s stellar achievement in not only writing a brilliant work of speculative fiction but in mastering, through research and collaboration, the various technologies required to bring it into the world in the way she has.

Congratulations, Annabel!

YvetteWalker01We’re also celebrating the addition of a new Writers Ask Writers member: Yvette Walker, whose stunning debut novel, Letters to the End of Love, was shortlisted for the Glenda Adams Award for New Writing in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and has recently been shortlisted for the WA Emerging Writers Award in the WA Premier’s Book Awards. Yvette also works at one of our fabulous local indie bookstores, Collins Booksellers Cottesloe. A big welcome to Yvette!

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When I try to imagine what my writing life would be like without the internet for research, the view becomes cloudy. I don’t think I can imagine that.

Online research complements all the other kinds of research I do, and sometimes makes the impossible possible. My studio is full of images and maps I have found online, and I have archive boxes of information I could never have laid my hands on in a non-digital world.

Among the most valuable resources for me as a writer of historical fiction are the newspapers of the time and place I am writing about. When researching colonial Western Australia for The Sinkings, reading newspapers of the 1860s–1880s meant driving in to the Battye Library in Perth, searching subjects via card and microfiche indexes, lacing up microfilm readers and laboriously trawling up and down the columns of blurry broadsheets, continually having to adjust the focus manually. Oh, and also taking extensive notes, because obtaining photocopies of any page I wanted required taking the film to another machine (after queueing for a long time), lacing it up, trying to align the part I wanted to copy, calling for help from busy librarians because invariably I’d get it wrong or the machine wouldn’t be working, and, finally, staring in dismay at an illegible photocopy and realising I’d have to start the process again.

A few years into my research for Elemental, the National Library of Australia’s Trove resource came online. All Australian newspapers from 1803 to 1954 are available via the Trove website, and the database is fully searchable. You can print pages, and there’s even a transcript (electronically translated, and sometimes inaccurate, even comical, in its optical rendering) of the article shown on the screen—in case you don’t want to scroll up and down the columns of the newspaper page.

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The first time I tried Trove, I was almost speechless. Many times since I’ve blessed those far-sighted library and IT visionaries who brought us this truly amazing online source, this well-named trove of history delivered, in a few keystrokes, to our homes and offices.

Digital age? When it comes to research, I’m sold. How about you?

You can read what my writer friends have to say about writing in the digital age via these links:

Annabel Smith
Sara Foster
Natasha Lester
Emma Chapman
Dawn Barker
Yvette Walker

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2, 2 and 2: Deb Fitzpatrick talks about The Break

UnknownToday’s 2, 2 and 2 guest, and her book, are dear to my heart, and it’s a singular pleasure to have this opportunity to introduce them. Deb Fitzpatrick is a friend, an editing colleague and a writer I admire, a novelist with great compassion for the characters she creates and the world they inhabit. It was my privilege to edit her two YA novels—90 Packets of Instant Noodles (2010) and Have You Seen Ally Queen? (2011)—and I was thrilled when Fremantle Press invited me to work with her on her first novel for adult readers, The Break.

Deb lives and works in Fremantle, Western Australia. She has a Master of Arts (Creative Writing) from The University of Western Australia and occasionally teaches professional writing and editing at Curtin University. Her two novels for young adults were both awarded Notable Books by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and she has also published a novel for younger readers, The Amazing Spencer Gray (2013).

picisto-20140803233014-399214Here is the blurb for The Break:

The south-west coast is the kind of place people escape to. Unless you have lived there all your life, in which case you long to get away. Rosie and Cray chuck in their city jobs to move to Margaret River, while Liza, Ferg and Sam have been there forever, working their lives away on the family farm. Under pressure from developers, the two families come together in the community’s efforts against unwanted change. But a natural disaster on the coastline they love opens deep wounds, and the true nature of community is revealed.

And now, over to Deb…

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2 things that inspired your book

Living in Margaret River and Gracetown in 1994. I served beers at the Margaret River Hotel in the evenings and then would go home to Gracetown through the forest to hear the swell crashing on the rocks at north and south points. The entire community of Gracetown engaged in the morning ritual of checking out the surf from the balconies perched above the ocean. You could see the cars in the limestone carparks at each point and knew pretty well who was out in the water and where. Margaret River was beginning to really boom but it was still pretty hippy, with shops selling crystals and dreamcatchers and the smell of incense wafting about and people sleeping in cars. On the other hand, there were real estate agents and developers making a fortune and there was a sense of conflict about that. Everyone wanted a piece of the action, but not many people living there had more than two cents to rub together.

The Gracetown Cliff Collapse two years later, and how the community coped with that. Regional communities often have huge reservoirs of strength; Margaret River and Gracetown are wonderful examples of that, and it was incredible, and very moving, to witness those communities make their way through that tragedy. This was brought back to me when fires destroyed 39 homes in Margaret River in November 2011.

2 places connected with your book

The night sky. This was a big one for me in my childhood—my brother was a self-taught student of astronomy and we would regularly go out to our back patio on clear nights to see what constellations we could see. He knew all sorts of things about pointers and hot stars and I was in awe of him as much as I was of the sky itself.

Houses and all that they hold. For me, houses have had a huge impact on how I’ve felt, and how I’ve seen myself in the world. I had a wonderful few years in two houses in Fremantle in the 1990s, which I blended in the book for the Fremantle scenes. One was a sprawling, falling-down house in South Fremantle, with an outside laundry and rotting verandahs on two sides; the other was a two-bedroom semi-detached near Fremantle Hospital with a tiny sun-speckled back garden with a fig tree and grapevines and rats scampering about.

2 favourite sentences in the book

‘The great tree swings restless next to a wide weatherboard house, next to a dark and moving river, next to the blue fusion of two oceans.’ (p. 7)

‘He was sitting in the sag of an old single bed, and somewhere in the world was a woman he loved, who had once loved him, who had lain at night with her ear at his lips, listening to him, wanting his words, noticing the sliver of moon, its opaqueness, when life was clean, when he was clean, before he sullied it all with grubby need.’ (p. 189)

At the signing table

At the signing table

You can follow Deb on:
her website
Twitter: @DebFitzpatrick2
The Break is in bookshops now, and you can find out more at:
Fremantle Press

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