MEET THE AUTHOR
Bren MacDibble is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. She grew up in New Zealand, and then heaved on a backpack and spent a couple of years exploring the world. Bren has lived in Whanganui, Hawkes Bay, Waikato, Tauranga, Frankfurt, London, Auckland and Sydney before finally stopping off in Melbourne for 20 years, where she raised two children. She now lives in Kalbarri on the insanely gorgeous mid west coast of Australia. Across the Risen Sea is her 2020 novel for children and hit the Aus, NZ and UK shelves in August.
From the publisher:
Neoma and Jag and their small community are ‘living gentle lives’ on high ground surrounded by the risen sea that has caused widespread devastation. When strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced, the friends find themselves drawn into a web of secrecy and lies that endangers the way of life of their entire community. Soon daring, loyal Neoma must set off on a solo mission across the risen sea, determined to rescue her best friend and find the truth that will save her village.
Across the Risen Sea is an action-packed, compelling and heartfelt middle-fiction adventure, set in a post-climate change landscape, from the multi-award winning author of How to Bee and The Dog Runner.
On with the questions!
In Across the Risen Sea your main character, Neoma bravely sails off on her own to rescue her best friend. Had you done much sailing yourself before writing the novel?
Have I done much sailing? A little. Not enough to feel completely safe on the water, but enough to understand how the sails and rigging work. When I was in my 20s I went out a couple of times on hire yachts in the Bay of Islands NZ with friends. The last time I did that I got hit by a swinging boom and went flying across the deck and landed on a stanchion and I still have a scar on my spine! My advice: when someone yells tack, duck! This person didn’t yell tack. I’m still angry at them. I sometimes go out when I’m in Auckland, the city of the sails. Last time I went out on Auckland harbour, the skipper went to take a phone call and left me in charge and a ship was coming in. So I was whispering, I have to tack! I have to tack! And he was waving his hand for me to wait. And then the ship sounded its fog horn! Those things are so loud! We had plenty of room to tack, but it was still terrifying! That noise goes right into your chest and stops your heart!
Your characters’ names all seem to match their characters perfectly. How do you come up with names for characters?
I love how the fashion for names change constantly. Names in Western Australia are fun and modern, names in Melbourne are traditional, and so I try to think about future people. What might they name their children? What’s important to them? It was easy in How to Bee, fruit and flowers. In Across the Risen Sea it was a little harder. Fish and boats are important but they are everyday so I thought about what was exotic, big cats may well become extinct if people are forced up into high country so Jaguar was easy. The moon and tides are important and so is new beginnings in this story. Neoma means new moon. Sometimes I just use names I grew up with. Saleesi was one of those.
The consequences of climate change is a recurring element in all three of your recent children’s novels. Can you tell us why you write climate change into your fiction?
I mainly write about post climate changed worlds to keep the conversation about climate change going. I realise it’s scary and when humans are scared we turn away from the thing that scares us, so by writing about children surviving in these worlds, I’m hoping to keep people looking at climate change instead of looking away. We can only solve problems we face. I’m hoping it also gives a safe fictional space for people to talk about these issues. ‘What would I do if I were Neoma?’ is easier to talk about than, ‘What would I do if my family was threatened?’. Fictional problem-solving is always easier than real life problem-solving but it uses the same brain muscles and I think everyone needs to develop more problem-solving muscles.
Do you have a tip for young writers who might like to write their own dystopian adventure stories?
Leap a little bit into the future. Change something and then write a list of all the things affected. You’ll be surprised how much everything is connected. As we’ve seen, warming temperatures lead to sea level rise, leads to coastal erosion, relocation of cities, building of dykes and sea walls, and fresh water issues. Felling forests leads to invading wild animals habitats, their extinction, excess fresh water runoff, new deserts, new diseases. You decide which ones you want to use in your story, it’ll be too hard to use them all. In truth our planet is small and EVERYTHING is connected, but as humans we can only examine a few ideas at a time, and this is a story not a text book. Ask yourself, how do people live now? What’s important to them? It will always still be family, friends, water, food, shelter, peace and safety. Can they find these things in this ruined world? Make sure they do, at least by the end, or your story may be too scary!
Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
I am working on two projects right now. One with Zana Fraillon, so that’s like half a project because she is a very good team member and has made it so easy. We are writing a children’s novel together which combines an ancient myth with the present and brings a boy (Zana’s character) to the future, where he meets a girl (my character) living in a sparse kind of Utopia, where humans care for the planet. I’m also working on a story alone set in the desert where strange new humans are being born and the main character is fiercely protective of their little toddler sibling who is one of these strange new humans. I like writing this one, now I practically live in the desert! Red sand will be pouring out every time readers turn a page!
Across the Risen Sea is out now. Look for it at your favourite bookstores and libraries!
Click here to download Teachers’ Notes for Across the Risen Sea (scroll to the end of the page that opens)
Read our 2017 interview with Bren MacDibble
Visit Bren MacDibble’s website for more about her and her books.