In conversation with Cli-fi author Sue Parritt

After reviewing Pia and the Skyman a few days ago, it’s a pleasure to speak with author, Sue Parritt and discover what motivates her to write Climate Fiction.

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Starting with the obvious, tell me a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Bournemouth, a seaside town in southern England. At 19 I married my childhood sweetheart, Mark, and seven months later we emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. We have one son, David. After graduating (B.A. University of Queensland 1982, with majors in English Literature, Drama and French) I worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. I now live in a bayside town, Mornington, in southern Victoria, where I spend many hours writing in my beautiful garden studio built by Mark.

 When did you start writing fiction?

I have always loved books. As a sickly child often away from school for weeks at a time, I read voraciously, immersion in fascinating stories enabling me to forget about illness for a while. My favourite childhood books were: David Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Good Wives, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Moonfleet, a novel set not far from my home. My grandparents loved Dickens and I read most of his works from their nineteenth-century editions. My parents stressed the importance of education, provided a houseful of books, recordings of Shakespearian plays and the opportunity to discuss what I had read or heard. My father, in particular, shared his love of literature with me, often reading aloud excerpts from Shakespeare, poems and the Bible.

Writing has been a passion since my teenage years when I wrote poetry, usually reflecting my feelings about social issues or newly discovered love. During my teens and early twenties, I also entered public speaking competitions, often including snippets of my poetry in my speeches. I spoke about the threat of nuclear war, mental illness, and pacifism.

Since taking early retirement, I have written four novels: Sannah and the Pilgrim, the first of a trilogy, which draws on contemporary conservative attitudes towards climate change and refugees to present a dystopian view of a future Australia. Published by Odyssey Books in 2014, Sannah and the Pilgrim was commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award 2014. The second, Pia and the Skyman was published in April 2016, the third, The Sky Lines Alliance is scheduled to be released in October 2016. My fourth book, Safety Zone, deals with gender equality, pacifism and emerging feminism and is yet to be published.

During my employment at the Victorian College of the Arts, I was encouraged by a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television to try my hand at scriptwriting. I have since written several drafts of a feature film screenplay: Feed Thy Enemy based on my father’s unusual experiences in Naples during and after World War II. So far I have been unable to find a producer, so plan to rewrite the project as a novel. My short TV drama script, ‘Last Fling’ (based on a short story, published in ITA 1996) received First Prize in the FAW Whitelight TV Drama Award 2009 and I have also written the pilot for a TV series based on Sannah and the Pilgrim.

That’s an impressive achievement. Every author draws inspiration from other authors. Who inspires you?

I don’t have a favourite author or genre. I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are: Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Jolley.

I am inspired to write by the issues facing our twenty-first century world, such as climate change, refugees, war, inequality. By creating speculative fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ordinary people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable future.

Having just read Pia and the Skyman I’m interested to hear what drove you to write it.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

Pia and the Skyman, is the second book in my trilogy of a future Australia scarred by the ravages of climate change and decades of totalitarian government.

In this tale of loyalty, betrayal and duplicity, I focus on a tiny population forced to flee their home and the ramifications when a significant percentage, including hundreds of children, are refused asylum due to unacceptable difference. I present choices for the reader that are intended to be disconcerting as Pia and Kaire risk not only lengthy imprisonment to help those still suffering in apartheid Australia, but become involved in a conspiracy that if discovered, will see them wandering the universe forever stateless.

Age 20, Pia’s heritage is Pacific Islander and European. She is passionate, volatile, adventurous and unwavering in her determination to help liberate her people from generations of domination by an oppressive regime. Intelligent and savvy, she knows how to survive in a harsh world.

Age 28, Kaire is of European descent. A senior pilot from space station Skyz59, he originally came to Earth on a pilgrimage to experience the world of his ancestors but appalled by the society in which he found himself, now assists those trying to undermine the Australian government as well as those fleeing imprisonment for seditious activities. Naïve, uncomfortable with conflict, especially if it involves physical violence, Kaire still struggles to cope with Earth-life.

Pia and the Skyman took me a year to write, in sharp contrast to Sannah and the Pilgrim, which, including research, took about four years. As the second book in my trilogy, I already knew the central characters and had a good idea of the plot. I spend most weekdays (10-5) writing and occasional weekends if I have a deadline. My dream of becoming a published novelist has been realised with the publication of two novels and a third to be released soon. I took a risk in giving up paid work eight years ago to concentrate on writing but have no regrets. Writing is making retirement the best time of my life.

You can find out more about sue parritt by visiting her website. www.sueparritt.com
find my review HERE
and you can purchase pia and the skyman at AMAZON and all good booksellers
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Pia and the Skyman by Sue Parritt

Sue Parritt’s Pia and the Skyman is the second in her Climate Fiction trilogy, following on from Sannah and the Pilgrim, which I reviewed last year.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

From the very first sentence, Pia and the Skyman engages the reader in the action, Parritt quickly and skilfully establishing the backstory carried over from Sannah and the Pilgrim. Sannah’s daughter, Pia, and her former lover, Kaire, are thrown together to help maintain ‘the women’s line,’ a resistance movement in a climate changed future, set up to help free prisoners doomed to a lifetime in underground desert prisons in what has become an ‘Apartheid Australia.’

Then there’s the matter of Kaire the Skyman and his cohort of clones languishing on a space station that was launched many centuries before with the aim of seeking another planet for humanity. Kaire is not without criticism. “How arrogant to imagine they could wreck one planet then move on to another without a backward glance.”

Lies, deceit, betrayal and tragedy along with a healthy dose of passion carry the narrative along in what turns out to be a remarkably engaging read.

Pia and the Skyman is a thoughtful, carefully considered work.   Parritt’s writing is assured, confident and commanding, a steady pace maintained, the use of passive voice creating an emotional detachment befitting the stark conditions of a climate changed dystopia. “Desert desert go away…let us live another day,” the children in the playground chant.

Parritt is adept at creating an edge-of-survival atmosphere without recourse to over dramatisation. Her setting is vividly real, painted with a simple palette, and fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Her characters are deftly portrayed and immediately recognisable.

The scenario Parritt depicts is not far removed from our own current reality, the story a metaphor for our times, and a logical extrapolations of successive Australian governments’ commitment to off-shore detention of asylum seekers in gulags. Environmental refugees are among us now. How many more will there be if we don’t amend our ludicrous dependence on fossil fuels?

There’s a deeply pacifist moral undertone that runs right through the story, carrying forward values of peace and right human relations, values elevated partly through Kaire, who in a fashion represents the higher moral ground. “Down there [in Aotearoa] his fellow settlers were doing their utmost to live a sustainable life, yet still found time to help those at risk in Australia. He wanted to shout out his admiration, tell them never to give up the struggle.”

Pia conveys values of compassion and goodwill. She acts, decisively and sometimes impulsively, exemplifying the determination and resilience of all the women who sacrifice their own safety for the sake of others in the Women’s Line – a powerful symbol of cooperation, collaboration and resistance founded on principles of solidarity and trust found amongst women in all situations of oppression and hardship the world over.

Through Pia and the Skyman Sue Parritt makes an important statement about the myopia that seems to have befallen our political leaders, especially in Australia. Humanity will be faced with harsh choices if environmental conditions become as brutal as they are in Parritt’s reality. As well they might. And I very much doubt humanity would have the capacity to respond all that differently to that of Parritt’s Apartheid Australia. On the whole we seem incapable of transcending our own selfish, divisive and hate fuelled beliefs. We’ll need a lot of goodwill and far-sightedness to avoid the scenario contained in this trilogy. Sue Parritt might as well be a soothsayer.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN CAN BE FOUND AT ODYSSEY BOOKS

Sannah and the Pilgrim by Sue Parritt

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I’ve just finished reading Sannah and the Pilgrim, my first journey into the sub-genre of climate fiction. I’m not a reader of the fantasy genre, then again, I wouldn’t call Sue Parritt’s book fantasy. Instead Parritt paints a stark post-climate change dystopia that contains as much realism and social commentary relevant to us today, as it does details of an imaginary future world. The message is clear, challenge the status quo or this is where we are heading. And for that alone, I commend the author.

The story is simple and straightforward. Sannah discovers a strange man on her doorstep who calls himself a pilgrim. Together, and with the help of co-conspirators, they seek the escape of political prisoners while there is still a chance to do it.

In Sannah and the Pilgrim there are no tangents into the deep introspections of tortured hearts and minds. The narrative voice is matter-of-fact, an apt style that mirrors the, for the most part, taken-for-granted acceptance of Australia’s apartheid social structure hundreds of years from now.

The story is compelling and satisfying, the landscape bleak, yet in the end Parritt allows her readers to take away a little hope. I would recommend this book to younger readers looking for a good climate fiction read. 4 Stars