Fun with Friends—Helen Lowe Talks with Fellow Authors from Australia and New Zealand: Today’s Guest Is Jane Higgins
About the Series:
“Fun with Friends” is an SF Signal interview series in which I feature fellow SFF authors from Australia and New Zealand. The format is one interview per month, with no more than five questions per interview, focusing on “who the author is” and “what she/he does” in writing terms.
This month’s guest is Jane Higgins, a New Zealand YA author whose first novel, the future dystopia The Bridge was published in 2011 to critical and popular acclaim.
Allow me to introduce Jane Higgins:
Jane was born, raised, and still resides in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she works as a social science academic, primarily researching on how young people craft identities and create pathways from school to their post-school lives. Growing up in Canterbury, the big skies inspired her love of astronomy and space travel, and she was drawn to the strange worlds of myth, science fiction and fantasy, especially stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin. A few years ago she decided to try writing fiction and wrote a futuristic war story in which the central characters are young people crossing borders and working out where they belong. This initial story, which became The Bridge went on to win the 2010 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing and was both a New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards’ Honor Book, and also “Children’s Choice” book in the YA category, in 2012. Jane still works as a researcher with young people, still reads, still writes (and still watches Dr. Who.) She is currently working on a sequel to The Bridge.
To find about more about Jane, see her website, here.
An Interview With Jane Higgins
Helen: The Bridge is future dystopian SF, currently a very popular genre for YA readers, although I suspect that’s not why you wrote it. So why, then: why future dystopia and why YA?
Jane: Why YA? They say you write the books you love to read. I’ve always loved reading, but I think the time in my life when reading was most magical, and when I was most able to get completely lost in a book, was when I was a teenager. I can still remember vividly how I felt reading some of my favourite books back then. I can remember where I was when I read the first page of Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (in my school library) and when I read the last page of The Lord of the Rings (by gaslight in my parents’ cabin in the mountains of Canterbury). So when I decided to try writing fiction, I gravitated towards the type of story that I loved most when I was growing up.
Why future dystopia? I wanted to write about some young people caught up in a war, as so many are around the world at present. But I didn’t want to import into the story all the current context of a particular war. So I made one up. To do that I took some current trends and pushed them a couple of hundred years into the future. I didn’t sit down and think: “ok, I’m going to write a dystopia,” but it’s not too surprising that when you project trends like global conflict and climate change into the future, things do look fairly grim. But it’s not all grim! I hope that readers find that the book is also about the way friendship and simple human decency make it possible to navigate those challenges.