SpineOut : February - March 2018
Spine Out FEBRUARY / MARCH 2018 Q&A WITH CLAIRE ATKINS You’ve said that your previous novel, Nona and Me, was inspired by your time in Arnhem Land, and the dichotomy between the Aboriginal community you lived in and the wealthy mining city nearby. What prompted you to write Between Us? The beginnings of the story came from volunteering in Villawood in my early 20s, helping to coordinate children’s activities with a group called ALIV. It really shocked me to see children living in such confined, restrictive conditions. When I moved to Darwin I became aware of the fact that primary and high school age asylum seekers were allowed out of detention to attend mainstream schools, and my imagination ran away with thoughts about what it must be like to live between those two very different worlds. What attracts you to Darwin, and how does living there affect your writing practice? Do you have a favourite place to write? I like the wide open spaces and the feeling of being surrounded by untamed nature. I like the sense of community and the laid-back lifestyle. Living here has definitely influenced my writing to date, mostly in terms of the settings. Nona & Me was set in the remote community of Yirrkala, Between Us is set in Darwin. I’m always very aware of the changing seasons and landscapes and the subtle impact of weather on the characters’ emotions. I write from anywhere – my dining table, my desk, the local library or sometimes even one of those public picnic tables looking out at the ocean. What kind of research helped you flesh out the story and the voices of Anahita and Jono? Were there any specific pieces of research that really helped you write this book or create a particular scene? I interviewed a lot of people over the course of a few years. I spoke to teachers, asylum seekers, refugees, government workers, security guards, settlement workers and more. I also read material online, including reports from people in detention. One memorable interview included learning things like how birthdays are celebrated in detention, and the fact that detainees aren’t allowed the remote controls to the air conditioners in their rooms – specific details like this of course are only background for the story, but it all helps to make the novel authentic and real. Which YA books have you loved recently? Novels that I’ve lo ved lately include Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood and Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar. We are so lucky in Australia to have an amazing wealth of wonderful YA authors! BEHIND THE WIRE PAGE TWO DELVING DEEPER A great deal of the tension in Between Us arises from a desperate desire to control borders, both literal and figurative. Although it manifests in different ways, each of the three characters – Ana, Jono and Kenny – want to protect the things that make them feel safe, and to find a place where they feel that they can belong. What does the word ‘home’ bring to mind when you think of it?
October - November 2017