Today’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).
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…
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)