Today I welcome Australian author Sue Parritt to my blog. Please enjoy her guest post about writing her book Sannah and the Pilgrim.
Set in twenty-fourth century apartheid Australia, ‘Sannah and the Pilgrim’ is a tale of courage defiance and deceit as a group of women risk their lives to undermine an oppressive regime. The women gain unexpected support for seditious exploits when Sannah, the village Storyteller, finds a stranger (Kaire, who insists he’s a pilgrim) on her domestep. But when Sannah turns ‘Truth-teller’ even Kaire’s white privilege and advanced technology cannot save her from subsequent retribution.
What inspired me to write my book?
Anger, abhorrence and disbelief motivated me to write ‘Sannah and the Pilgrim.’ I was and remain, appalled by past and present Australian governments’ policy on refugees and asylum seekers. News bulletins and current affairs programmes helped fuel my deep concerns about the direction our country is heading. From a country that welcomed scores of displaced people after the Second World War, we are becoming xenophobic, rejecting those that have fled what for most of us are inconceivable terrors. As a migrant myself, I tried to imagine how I would have felt, if instead of paying my ten pounds and travelling here on an ocean liner, I had been forced to flee my homeland, hand over my life’s savings to greedy people smugglers and risk my life by boarding a leaky overcrowded boat.
My thoughts then turned to a different category of refugees, those we can expect in the not so distant future. Low-lying Pacific islands are already under threat from accelerating climate change, about which wealthy first-world countries have so far failed to act. Soon there will be a flood of environmental refugees seeking a safe haven in our sparsely populated and prosperous nation. How will our government react then, turning back the boats won’t be an option?
I felt my option as a fiction writer was to draw on contemporary government policies regarding refugees and climate change to create a portrait of a future Australia that is, to my mind, entirely possible. The idea to divide the country into zones according to race of origin came from a thinly veiled proposal made by an ultra-conservative politician some years ago. Research into climate change led me to place my characters in the most inhospitable part of twenty-forth century Australia, the extremely hot, humid and disease-ridden north. Confined to the Brown Zone, the descendants of Pacific environmental refugees, are forced to cultivate the remaining fertile coastal strip to produce food for White Southerners, whose zone, although more suitable for human habitation being hot and dry, is too arid to support agriculture.
I was inspired to create the role of Storyteller for my protagonist, Sannah, by the manner in which information is often distorted by both the media and government in order to provoke certain reactions. For example: fears of being swamped by refugees are intensified by using terms such as ‘illegals’ and concerns over rising utility costs assuaged by promises to repeal the Carbon tax. Sannah’s people are kept in ignorance through a steady diet of Tales (a weird blend of historical fact and fiction) delivered by government-trained storytellers. In similar fashion, we are fed only what governments and multi-national companies want us to hear and it takes a great deal of effort to uncover the truth. Lies ensure compliance in both twenty-first and twenty-forth century Australia.
When Sannah the Storyteller, a descendant of environmental refugees from drowned Pacific islands, finds a White stranger on her domestep, she presumes he’s a political prisoner on the run seeking safe passage to egalitarian Aotearoa. However, Kaire’s unusual appearance, bizarre behaviour, and insistence he’s a pilgrim suggest otherwise.
Appalled by apartheid Australia, Kaire uses his White privileges to procure vital information for Sannah and her group of activists regarding new desert prisons that are to be built to house all political prisoners. The group plans sabotage but needs help, and Kaire is a willing accomplice. But when Sannah turns Truthteller and threatens to reveal the country’s true history, even Kaire’s White privilege and advanced technology cannot save Sannah and her daughter from retribution.
Sue Parritt is an Australian writer, originally from England. Her poetry and short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies in Australia, Britain and the US. After graduating B.A. University of Queensland 1982 (majors: English Literature, Drama and French), Sue worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to pursue her long-held dream of becoming a professional writer. Since then she has written ‘Sannah and the Pilgrim,’ numerous short stories and poems and ‘Feed Thy Enemy’ a feature film script set in Naples in 1944 and 1974 based on a true story (Sue is currently seeking a producer). She recently completed a second novel ‘Safety Zone’ and is now writing a sequel to ‘Sannah and the Pilgrim’ – working title ‘Pia and the Skyman.’
You can find out more about Sue on her website.