Shortlisted for the 2010 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize 2010
A stunningly original work of speculative fiction, Black Glass reveals a first-world city increasingly dominated by surveillance, segregation and civil unrest.
Tally and Grace are sisters living an itinerant life on the outskirts of society, being dragged from one no-hope town to the next by their drug-dealing father. When an explosion literally rips their lives apart, killing their father and leaving a stricken Grace with the belief that her sister is dead, both girls flee separately to the city.
The girls have always imagined that beyond the remote badlands ('the Regions') lies another, brighter world: glamorous, promising, full of luck. A place that one day, they've assured each other, will be their shared destination. But as each soon discovers, if you arrive there broke, homeless and alone, this mythical city is a dangerous place - a place where commerce and surveillance rule, and undocumented people ('undocs') like themselves are confined to life's shady margins.
Stylistically inventive and told in a number of voices, including a 'moodie' (someone who alters the 'mood' of a venue or city street), a journalist sick of churning out journotainment, and unidentified members of the anti-government protests, Black Glass has echoes of Catherine O'Flynn's prize-winning What Was Lost.
Meg Mundell has been published widely in Australian newspapers, journals and magazines, including The Age, The Monthly, Meanjin, Best Australian Stories, Sleepers Almanac and The Big Issue. Black Glass won the 2008 D.J. (Dinny) O'Hearn Memorial Fellowship and was shortlisted for the 2010 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize. She is now completing a memoir on trucking culture, titled Braking Distance. Meg has worked as a journalist, university lecturer, magazine editor, researcher and government advisor. Originally from New Zealand, Meg now lives in Melbourne.
Author: Meg Mundell
Question: What inspired you to write Black Glass?
Meg Mundell: The relationship of the two sisters, the characters themselves came to me first - they were the inspiration, themselves.
Question: Can you talk about creating the character, Grace?
Meg Mundell: A funny thing happens once you start writing a book or a story, I've found. When you are writing and things start going well the characters start doing things for themselves, they start moving around by themselves and doing and saying things that you don't expect. They begin to take on a life of their own. You have control over your characters in some ways but in some ways they almost take their own control of the situations and form their own characters.
For Grace I had to do some research into the affects of grief on people because she has gone through something very terrible and traumatic. I had to do some research into grief and think about how that would affect how somebody would make their way in the world. I knew that Grace would be very shocked and very numb; Grace often retreats into her fantasy world to cope with things. Grace also happens to be very beautiful and her beauty sometimes gets in the way of what she wants to do in the world because people read her at surface level and she gets a little bit caught up in this with her fantasies about being a movie star.
Question: How did your previous career as a journalist help write Black Glass?
Meg Mundell: Yes, I still am a journalist and researcher as well as doing a PhD at the moment, I have always written fiction and they have all always existed together. I think, it is more than my interests of really loving research and writing have led me in the directions of my career. I do love research, it sounds so nerdy but it is so exciting! Learning is fun especially if you are getting to choose what you are learning about.
Question: Who would you recommend reads Black Glass?
Meg Mundell: I don't want people to think that Black Glass is just a book for teenagers because the two main characters are teenagers. I hope that grandmothers, grandfathers, parents and people of all ages can read Black Glass because I think the characters span a broad range of ages and it is for an intelligent reader who wants a book that is fast-paced and exciting but they don't want the story just fed to them, they want to add the clues together, themselves.
My parents have both read Black Glass and believe me if they didn't like it, they'd tell me, they are pretty frank; they are in their 60's and they were about to relate to the characters and the world that is being created. I have had feedback from reviewers and one man who was in his 50's or 60's stated that he completely understood Black Glass and didn't feel that it was just for a younger audience.
When I was a kid we didn't have a division of books in terms of audience, everybody just read everything. I hope Black Glass is for a broad audience.
Question: Are you currently working on another novel?
Meg Mundell: I am working on another non-fiction book and there is a novel lined up after that. I am trying to finish the non-fiction book first so I don't get confused as to which world I am in.
Interview by Brooke Hunter