There is something whimsical, compelling, even frightening, about the idea of a coastal community. A group of wind-beaten and artistic human beings, joined together by the concept of survival, fear, and the constant, unwavering prescence of the sea. It is something that has always facinated me, and I have waited for someone to write a novel based on this idea. Graham Swift, with his novel 'Waterland' came close, and in the meantime I have even taken to writing my own, inspired by the rugged landscape of North Cornwall, but surely it is Diana Sweeney, with her novel 'The Minnow', who has won the game. 'The Minnow' is a fiercely tender coming-of-age story with the fluidity and mysteriousness that comes only with the flowing of water, and she is here to talk about her inspiration for writing the novel, and why she thinks coming-of-age stories remain ever significant in the hearts of teenagers and adults alike.
1) What inspired you to write 'The Minnow'?
I was inspired by a strange dream that occurred midway through my PhD thesis. I realised (at the time) that I was feeling extremely stifled by the non-creative trudge of academia. The dream turned out to be the first chapter.
2) Tell us about the importance of the coastal community in the novel.
There are some dream-like scenes on or near the coast, but the township is inland. This was important as it adds to the feeling of isolation.
3) How can you relate to Tom?
Great question. My life doesn't mirror Tom's, but I've experienced things that enable me to relate to her pain.
4) 'The Minnow' has been described as having the 'aching beauty of swimming underwater'. How did you set about achieving this effect in your writing?
I love fish and watery stuff - which fit perfectly with what was happening in the story - but during the writing, it felt as though it was coming from Tom, not me.
5) Were you inspired by a particular natural disaster to write about the flood that devastates Tom's life in the novel?
The Queensland floods happened during the early writing, and some of the images were extraordinary. Added to this, I was in Townsville just prior to the tsunami which devastated the town.
6) Why do you think coming-of-age fiction is so popular to both young people and adults?
Coming-of-age fiction is the real deal. We might grow and mature, but many of us still struggle with the raw emotions of our teenage years, and the YA genre speaks to that part of us. It doesn't presume to know the answer. It just says, "yeah, I feel it too".