Transporting readers to sunny Australia, Claire Zorn’s award-winning YA novel One Would Think The Deep tackles important contemporary issues such as loss, relationships and mental health. With just over a month until publication date, we decided to delve deeper into Claire’s inspiration for this novel with an exclusive Q&A.
What inspired you to write One Would Think The Deep? Was there one eureka moment or was it more of a developing idea?
All my stories are inspired by music. There is a song by The National with the beautiful line ‘I had a hole in the middle where the lightening went through, I told my friends not to worry’. That line made me imagine a teenage boy dealing with grief and pain and struggling to reconcile those emotions with the tough guy expectations society and boys/men put on them. I wanted to put a very sensitive guy in a macho environment, like the surf scene – particularly in the 90’s when there were far fewer females on the scene.
I also read a news story a couple of years ago about two brothers who got into a fight with each other at a pub; one had punched the other and put him in a coma. When interviewed, their parents emphasised how close the brothers were and spoke about both the victim and the perpetrator with unwavering love and affection. I was struck by the complexity of the situation as well as the support the parents showed for both their sons. So often in fiction we read about characters, particularly male characters, whoa re either good or bad. I wanted to flesh out and explore the grey area in between, especially in relation to violence.
We know Sam develops a passion for surfing in this novel, is that a hobby of yours as well?
No, I love being in the ocean, but I’m not a surfer. I do have this weird fixation with things like surfing and snowboarding. I think they are beautiful and elegant – things we do not often associate with extreme sports.
How about Jeff Buckley? Why was he the artist you chose for Sam’s musical obsession?
One thing I really wanted to express was the intimate relationship teenagers often have with music (I relied heavily on music to get me through my teens). I wanted to explore the affect a musician’s death can have on a teenager. I still remember the vigils held for Kurt Cobain when he died but he was too obvious a choice. I chose Jeff Buckley because of the way his music can be both delicately beautiful and brutal.
What is your favourite thing about Sam? Is there one moment in his story that you think readers will connect to?
I love his sensitivity. I think readers, particularly male readers, will identify with the moments when he doesn’t speak up and challenge the behaviour of his peers because he fears rejection and just wants to fit in.
Other than Sam, who was your favourite character to write?
It’s a toss up between Minty and Ruby. I love Ruby’s quick wit and fearlessness. Her dialogue was fun to write because she says a lot of things I would never say. Minty is a real charmer and embodies that lovely larrikin thing that is so typically Australian.
Sam is 17 in One Would Think The Deep and this could be a complicated age where we are discovering who we are. Is there any advice you’d give to your 17-year-old self?
Don’t try and change. You are fine just the way you are and the things you don’t like about yourself will turn out to be your greatest assets.
The setting of One Would Think The Deep is very different from rainy England! What is the best thing about living in Australia?
The ocean. Swimming in the ocean is just the best. I’m lucky enough to live on the coast, so it’s something I can do quite often. The conditions have to be just right, though, I get scared so easily!
What is your favourite Aussie slang word?
Goon bag. It’s a cask wine, a wonderful Australian invention.
One Would Think The Deep is your third novel, what sets it apart from the other two?
It’s more complex and the characters are more nuanced. It’s also for a slightly older audience.
Finally, if you weren’t a writer, what do you think you would be doing instead? Is there another talent you have or wish you had?
I can draw and paint. I’m actually working on a picture book at the moment, something very different to novel writing.