What is your favourite character from one of your books and why?
Well, of course I can’t have a favourite character as I’m the author and the others will get jealous! I still feel very involved with Sylvie as my main character in Watch Over Me because of her compassion, toughness and sensuality, her enormous capacity to love.
But I have a soft spot for Taj, my sardonic AI car and companion to Zeke in When We Have Wings. Taj is one of the more beloved characters readers have in Wings, hands down, because to have a sarcastic, cynical car is so amusing. An agent of mine (not my current agent) didn’t like there being ‘a talking car.’ She probably doesn’t even remember wanting me to get rid of Taj even as she would be tooling around now with SIRI or some other GPS talking to her.
Why are you the best person to have written Watch Over Me?
Because I’ve brought a combination of personal passions and skills and knowledge to this book that I think is very unusual in the Australian context. I don’t know if there is anyone else in this country writing about contemporary war and the way it affects women and civilians in the way I am – I didn’t see other fiction writers at the military conferences I was attending as a journalist or making contacts and friends with serving soldiers and veterans the way I have been. Watch Over Me is very passionate but also informed about the way war affects men and women and it moves on from all the certainties we love to rehearse about World War II. We are not in that morally clear world any more. I’ve also brought the kind of imagination and love of worldbuilding to the book that readers enjoyed in When We Have Wings.
What is your all-time favourite book by an Australian woman writer?
The Commandant by Jessica Anderson. An underrated book and so wonderful: Jane Austen meets The Fatal Shore, I think someone described it. Sparkling wit contrasted with the horror of the Moreton Bay penal colony and the fascination of the relationships between the Commandant and his family and subordinates – all this and the true mystery of his disappearance. I wrote a piece for The Conversation on why this is an Australian classic.
What sort of paranormal being would you like to be?
I’d be a mermaid. Not a Disney mermaid but a real siren. I’m entranced by the sea and would love to spend my life combing long emerald tresses and singing enchanting songs while being mysterious and dangerous. Given the way humans are treating the oceans, I’d be extra dangerous I think.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing (work and/or play)?
My favourite things are reading and swimming, especially with my children. And snorkelling, bushwalking and watching movies. And eating. I want to take up sketching.
When did you discover the Australian Women Writers Challenge? Do you think the challenge has had any impact on the awareness and discoverability of Australian women writers? Have you personally benefited in any way?
I think it must have been about the time it all started and you and I, Elizabeth, were on the International Women’s Day panel at the Carrington with Kirsten Tranter and Tara Moss. That was super-fun. I do hope it’s had an impact on the awareness of Australian women writers but don’t know how you’d quantify it. Perhaps by surveying librarians? I’d hope it would be a resource for teachers and librarians and others who are in a position to recommend books. I imagine I’ve benefited as my first novel, When We Have Wings, got quite a few reviews out of the Challenge.
Thanks, Claire, and best of luck with Watch Over Me.
Synopsis: Watch Over Me
The pressure of my blood, the beat of my heart, is a message to you. You read each second of my body’s life.
It is the present day. The foggy northern city of Port Angelsund is under occupation by the soldiers of Garrison. Sylvie is a young woman just trying to survive. When she is singled out for punishment at a Garrison checkpoint, a young lieutenant rescues her from torture. Though she knows the terrible risks of collaboration, she cannot stop herself from falling in love. Watched by Garrison’s vast machinery of surveillance, Sylvie discovers she is also under the protective and suspicious gaze of her lover. (Read more about Watch Over Me here.)
- Wednesday May 3, 12:30-1:30, at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts (SMSA), Pitt St Sydney in conversation with Thomas Keneally;
- Book Launch on Saturday May 6, in the Library at the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba, launched by Patti Miller; and
- Varuna/Sydney Writers’ Festival event with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project) May 30, 11am-12:30pm at the Carrington Hotel.