Monday, February 17, 2020

Anne Charnock Author Interview


Photo Content from Anne Charnock

Anne Charnock's latest novel, DREAMS BEFORE THE START OF TIME, is the winner of the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and was shortlisted for the BSFA 2017 Best Novel Award. Her novella THE ENCLAVE has won the BSFA 2017 Best Short Fiction Award. This novella is written in the same world as her debut novel, A CALCULATED LIFE, which was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick and The Kitschies Golden Tentacle Awards.

SLEEPING EMBERS OF AN ORDINARY MIND, her second novel, was named by The Guardian as one of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2015

Anne Charnock's journalism has appeared in New Scientist, The Guardian, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune and Geographical. She was educated at the University of East Anglia, where she studied Environmental Sciences, and at The Manchester School of Art, England where she gained a Masters in Fine Art.

As a foreign correspondent, she travelled widely in Africa, the Middle East and India and spent a year overlanding through Egypt, Sudan and Kenya.
        
  


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
It took courage to start, because my career in journalism taught me to write concisely. This led me to believe I couldn’t write anything as long as a novel. However, living in an area of England famous for its wet weather, I wanted to imagine a future where climate change made my home as sun-baked as Tuscany in Italy. This added a cheerful note (for me at least) while I drafted my first novel, A Calculated Life—a dystopia in which the gap between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-nots’ is becoming ever greater.

Tell us your latest news.
My fourth novel, Bridge 108, is released this month. It is set in the same world as my first novel, though they can be read in any order!

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
At school I never dreamed of becoming a novelist. I was more interested in seeing the world beyond my hometown, in having adventures. As a young child I devoured Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin. Looking back I realise that Tintin was a reporter, so maybe the idea of journalism lodged in my brain during my very first days as a reader. Today, I love novels with complex storylines and fragmented structures, as though navigating these novels is an adventure in itself. For example, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, Sara Taylor’s The Shore, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Being published means I can justify research trips! In 2018, I took a train journey from England to China, stopping off in Moscow, Astana (recently re-named Nur-Sultan) and Almaty in Kazakhstan, and crossing into China to stay in Ürümqi and Beijing. My prize money from winning the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Dreams Before the Start of Time helped to fund this journey. The experience will no doubt permeate my work.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I don’t like to spoon-feed my readers as I’m sure they prefer to follow their own trains of thought. But I’d be delighted if they read Bridge 108, a climate change novel, and reflect on their own relationship with the environment and with nature.

In your newest book, BRIDGE 108; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
Bridge 108 is the story of a young migrant who becomes separated from his mother as they escape drought and wildfires in Spain. He is trafficked to England where he is put to work in a textiles workshop making upcycled clothing. The story is told in multiple voices – Caleb’s and the voices of adults he meets along the way—and charts his passage into adulthood. He never loses hope of bettering himself and finding his parents.

For those who are unfamiliar with Caleb, how would you introduce him?
I’d say that Caleb has a remarkably positive disposition who nevertheless comes to see that his parents made some pretty bad choices for him. He wants to make his own way in the world rather than follow the path that his parents had mapped out for his future. He’s resilient and sometimes too trusting, but he does wise up as he grows older.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love Caleb to meet both Elena and Lila in Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. Caleb is enslaved in an enclave that feels similar to the poor Naples community that Elena and Lila are brought up in. I believe they’d help him to become more streetwise!

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
In my journalism days, I drove overland with my husband from London to Nairobi, though Egypt and Sudan. The journey, and the need for self-reliance, has helped me gain a sense of perspective, and to know what is important, and what is mere noise.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
Oddly enough, I have rarely felt scared when travelling, even when I find myself if potentially dangerous settings. But I am terrified when I stand at the top of a ski slope, knowing there’s only one way off the mountain and that’s to ski down it.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I wouldn’t have given away a box a matches to a fellow traveller. We were queuing to get off a barge, which had taken us down the Aswan High Dam Lake to Sudan. It was a chaotic scene, and I forgot that I’d placed my engagement ring in the matchbox for safety (not one of my best ideas). I didn’t see my engagement ring again. I now wear my late-grandmother’s engagement ring, so there is a happy ending to this sorry tale.

TEN SPOILER-FREE QUOTES FROM BRIDGE 108
CALEB

“I told Ma Lexie my documents were lost, but I still have them. Mother sewed them into the straps of my backpack. She made me sleep with my pack strapped with a belt to my arm, while she slept across the tent’s entrance.”

“Skylark offered to help me but warned me not to tell the other people in my group because she couldn’t help everyone. She had space in her sidecar for just one, and she thought I had—what did she say?— real grit. She chose me.”

“This job is perfect. It’s hard work, but I don’t miss school any more, only my friends. Yesterday, though, I nearly lost my nerve—pushing the needle through fur—it woke up memories, and the soles of my feet began to sweat.”

MA LEXIE
“If I were more calculating—which I need to be, according to the family—I’d be more guarded. There’s no doubt Caleb is a charmer, which can be a dangerous quality. It’s easy for a charmer to morph into something darker, a trickster, a con merchant.”

“My Ruben saw himself as the family strongman—keeping rival clans off our street. He patrolled after dark, checking every recycling bin from one end of our street, right across the market square, to the far end of the enclave. He said he needed eyes in the back of his head to stop other street clans from pinching our stuff. He knew every bin on our patch, had them all marked, and checked they were all positioned where they should be. I’ve pictured him so many times, totally pumped up when he caught them red-handed. I see him, ploughing into them with his baseball bat.”

SKYLARK
“Within sixty seconds of her message hitting me, I’d jumped down the hostel stairwell three steps at a time and leapt on my bike, but I didn’t tear up the streets because the sidecar’s been rattling these last few days like it’s full of empty cans, and I really must check it out before it frikkin’ detaches, goes careering off and smashes. I took it slow, but I still made enough noise to wake the whole enclave.”

“I prefer a fleapit like this where I feel welcome and no one asks those awkward questions like: Where are you from? What’s your line of work? And mostly I don’t care where I sleep.”

“That Caleb is either smarter or more stupid than I first realised, and I can’t make up my mind which it is. He’s at the age where he could be both.”

JEROME
“Until I started this job, I gave no thought to the enclaves. Occasionally glimpsed at a distance from a car, or from the air, they squat beyond the metropolitan centres and suburbs. Out there, literally.”

JASPAR
“See, it don’t seem right somehow, not that I’m going feeble in my middle age. These migrants do their indentures and then they’re set up to fail. One noisy birthday party and they’re dragged in for disturbing the peace.”



From the Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning author, a dystopian novel of oppression set in the climate-ravaged Europe of A Calculated Life, a finalist for the Kitschies award and Philip K. Dick Award.

Late in the twenty-first century, drought and wildfires prompt an exodus from southern Europe. When twelve-year-old Caleb is separated from his mother during their trek north, he soon falls prey to traffickers. Enslaved in an enclave outside Manchester, the resourceful and determined Caleb never loses hope of bettering himself.

After Caleb is befriended by a fellow victim of trafficking, another road opens. Hiding in the woodlands by day, guided by the stars at night, he begins a new journey—to escape to a better life, to meet someone he can trust, and to find his family. For Caleb, only one thing is certain: making his way in the world will be far more difficult than his mother imagined.

Told through multiple voices and set against the backdrop of a haunting and frighteningly believable future, Bridge 108 charts the passage of a young boy into adulthood amid oppressive circumstances that are increasingly relevant to our present day.

You can purchase Bridge 108 at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ANNE CHARNOCK for making this giveaway possible.
5 Winners will receive a Copy of BRIDGE 108 by Anne Charnock
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