books

Interview – Antonia Honeywell

07/06/2015

About the author

Antonia
Honeywell, author of The Ship, had the dream of being a published author since
the age of eight which came true in the summer of 2013. She also blogs about
reading and her writing influences from the UK where she lives with her husband
and four children.

 

About the book

The Ship

Welcome to
London, but not as you know it.

Oxford Street
burned for three weeks

The British
Museum is squatted by ragtag survivors

The Regent’s
Park camps have been bombed

The Nazareth Act
has come into force. If you can’t produce your identity card, you will be shot.

Lalla, 16, has
grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul.
But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised Lalla and
her mother that they will escape. Escape is a ship big enough to save 500
people.

But only the
worthy will be chosen.

Once on board,
as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows.

Where are they
going?

What does her
father really want?

Interview

Today on the
blog we have Antonia Honeywell for an interview all about her influences and
writing views.

The Ship
gives us many different and diverse characters from all over the world. How
important is culture and society in your writing?

It was hugely
important to me that the people chosen to populate the ship came from a variety
of backgrounds, because when collapse comes, whatever form it takes, it will
affect us all. In The Ship, one of the main contrasts between the desperate
struggle for life on land and the comparatively luxurious life on the ship is
that, on the ship, the people have time to enjoy culture (for example, in the
form of the contents of all the world’s museums and galleries, digitally stored and
brought on board) and society (in their debates and conversations, and their
shared reading). They are able to create their own art, as well as appreciate
and study what has gone before. The emergency government they’ve escaped has
outlawed the use of resources to create art; the opportunity for
self-expression is one of the most attractive features of life on the ship. The
irony is, of course, that they’re
buying into a life every bit as unsustainable as the one they left behind.
Do you think
it is necessary to use personal experience in writing? Do you think it has an
impact on the voice of the book?

I’m
not sure that any writer can avoid using personal experience in their work,
either directly or indirectly. But I do think that the best writing occurs when
the writer is invisible –
or rather, when the
voice of the story serves only the story. If personal experience impacts upon
the voice of the book to the extent that it can be recognized, it tends to jar.
The story must come first. The personal experience I used in writing The Ship may
surprise you; in any case, it shouldn’t matter. The book belongs to the reader.
Your book
explores so many human rights violations that are relevant to today’s world,
how did you come to focus on these ones in particular?

I focused on
many more in the earlier drafts! As I developed the novel, I gravitated away
from the easily identifiable violations of false imprisonment, death penalties,
apartheid and discrimination and tried to focus on the less obvious ones. For
example, we know that thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible food are thrown
away every single day. We know that wealthy people have better access to legal
representation, education and healthcare than poor ones. We know that zero
hours contracts make it impossible to create a secure family life. We know that
engaging with society is becoming increasingly difficult for those without
access to technology. And yet it’s
easier to disengage from these debates than to change things, partly because
these very injustices make life easier for a selected few. And ironically, as I
focused on these smaller issues, the bigger ones came naturally into play.
Everything is connected.
Are there any
other human rights issues that you would like to write about in a dystopian
novel?

I would love to
write something exploring the treatment of the elderly in society. I’d also like to
look at the way Western civilization is predicated upon a perceived right to
make choices, and the consequences of that. But whether the novel in which I’ll do that is
dystopian or not remains to be seen. I like making things up, and sometimes I
watch the news and despair that I didn’t have to invent a single element of the
dystopian world of The Ship.
Do you think
that human rights are an important element to explore in fiction aimed at not
only young adults but at adults too?

 
I think human
rights are the only rights that should be explored in anything. If we could get
human rights sorted out, everything else would be automatically dragged along
into a better world.
Can you
recommend any dystopian novels our readers may not have heard of?

Dystopian
fiction is always interesting, because it is always about the society in which
it’s
written, rather than the society it creates. The Ship isn’t really about a group of people living
on a ship – it’s about the
overwhelming urge of a parent to protect his child, and about humankind’s instinct to put
itself first. So if you go back to some earlier, supposedly out of date
dystopias – John
Christopher’s
The Death of Grass, for example, or Robert Swindell’s Brother in the Land, or Nicolas
Fisk’s
A Rag, A Bone and a Hank of Hair, you can see how the concerns of society have
changed over the decades. In terms of more up to date novels, I’d heartily
recommend Jane Rogers’ The
Testament of Jessie Lamb and Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army. This is assuming you’ve read the
essential classics of the genre, such as George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Aldous
Huxley’s
Brave New World, all of which remain incredibly influential.

Here’s where you can find her online:

Look out later this month for a giveaway to win one of three signed copies of The Ship by Antonia Honeywell.
 

  

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