In this haunting new novel, Katerina Klova and her mother are crossing the Atlantic by ocean liner. When Anne suffers a psychotic breakdown, Katerina is left alone on a ship full of strangers who span classes and stations, all of whom carry their ambitions, fears and obsessions with them. For a seventeen-year-old girl, the daughter of an ambassador, it's an exciting, frightening world to navigate.
Through the eyes of Katerina and her own family's place within a fracturing world, we see the way damage, yet also hope, are passed from one generation to another. A.S. Patrić's writing is achingly tender, the tone merciless but heartbreaking in its compassion.
The story takes place over one day and night, New Year's Eve, 1939. The RMS Aquitania steams across the Atlantic ocean. On the horizon the world is about to explode.
A. S. Patrić is a bookseller and teacher of creative writing. He is the author of two short story collections, Las Vegas for Vegans and The Rattler & other stories, and a novella called Bruno Kramzer. His debut novel Black Rock White City was published to critical acclaim in 2015 and won the Miles Franklin Award in 2016. Atlantic Black is his second novel. He lives in bayside Melbourne with his wife and two daughters.
Author: A. S. Patrić
Question: What inspired the story of Atlantic Black?
A. S. Patrić: A floating world about to explode. That notion appealed to me. I wanted to book a ticket on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic on New Year's Eve 1939, even if it was purely an act of imagination.
Question: What was the best part about creating the character of Katerina?
A. S. Patrić: I've spent the last three and a half years with Katerina Klova. Her resilience, perception, her desire to live an authentic experience, her courage to reach beyond received definitions of self, all made me feel as though I found her rather than created her. Her company was the best part.
Question: What research did you do, prior to writing Atlantic Black?
A. S. Patrić: Research came after I booked that ticket; none prior to writing. Much of it was reading articles or books about the experience of travelling across such immense stretches of water, and then diving into various intricacies and details, like what kind of chocolate might be bought in 1939 or what does it feel like to smoke opium.
Question: Can you tell us about how it felt to win the 2016 Miles Franklin Award?
A. S. Patrić: I wondered what having a child would feel like before my two daughters came into the world. Winning the Miles Franklin is not as immense an experience as that but it's similarly difficult to describe briefly because it changes your entire world.
Question: What's next, for you?
A. S. Patrić: I have a collection coming out next year called The Butcherbird Stories. It'll be my sixth book in seven years so I should probably take a break soon. Maybe an ocean cruise somewhere tropical"always liked the sound of the Solomon Islands.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Author: A. S. Patrić