You make the best choices you can at the time Beth, knowing you'll never have to live this life again.' Val shakes her head, her voice cracks. -You'd never want to.'
Thirty-one-year-old Beth, who's grown up in Western Australia's wheatbelt, is running from her past when she heads to an island in Papua New Guinea. Interwoven with Beth's narrative about the joys and brutalities of island life is the story of her parents' passionate, tender love for each other. But Clem and Rose's union is beset with tragedy, forever marking the lives of those around them.
Bloodlines is a layered novel with shifting settings, times and voices. At its heart it is a story about love – love found and love lost – and the choices that shape us. If offers insight into the complexities of daily life in Papua New Guinea and how it feels to be an outsider in our closest neighbour's land. It is also a story about family, exploring the bonds that tie us to our clan – specifically, the changing relationship between father and daughter as a young girl grows into a woman; the grief, and acceptance required. On many levels, it is a novel about letting go of the past and forgiveness of self, of saving and being saved. Above all, Bloodlines asks us to consider what it means to make a home, and what we might owe to those who dwell in it.
Nicole Sinclair's short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the Review of Australian Fiction, Westerly, indigo Journal and Award Winning Australian Writing, and also forms part of the artworks along Busselton Jetty. Her short stories have won the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Award and the Down South Writers Competition. Bloodlines is Nicole's first novel and was shortlisted for the 2014 TAG Hungerford Award. Nicole has lived and worked in Papua New Guinea and now lives in the south-west of Western Australia with her husband and two (very young) daughters.
Margaret River Press
Author: Nicole Sinclair
Question: What inspired Bloodlines?
Nicole Sinclair: Bloodlines was inspired by my experience of two very different places: the wheat belt farm (and town) in Western Australia where I grew up, and an island in Papua New Guinea where I worked as a volunteer in a local school. In many ways, the narrative is a tribute to both the physical landscape and the people who I felt a close connection to in each place. It is an exploration of family and friendship, love and loss.
Question: Can you talk about the difficulties in writing a book with dual narratives?
Nicole Sinclair: I always wanted to write a book with dual narratives because I am curious about how one story informs another, and how the past shapes the present. My writing process is quite spontaneous and organic (just as well – it had to find space around having babies!) and luckily, both the PNG and WA strands flowed well enough. I wrote the bulk of Bloodlines in fragments by hand (yes, 83 000 words by hand) and the most challenging part was compiling these pieces in some sort of order that worked. At times I physically laid the fragments out on the floor and moved the order around. I felt like a dress-maker fitting all the pieces of a garment together. It was tough – but one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.
Question: Why did you choose to set the book in WA and Papua New Guinea?
Nicole Sinclair: Both PNG and the WA wheat belt hold great significance for me and, in different ways, have been very formative in how I view myself, and the world. So, choosing to set my novel there has allowed me to explore this further and, in some way, pay homage to how places might shape us. They are quite disparate settings, so it also allowed me to look at the -push-pull' of places and tease out some of the inherent issues such as belonging and un-belonging, home and dislocation.
Question: What was the best thing about creating the character of Beth?
Nicole Sinclair: I loved being able to re-live all of my PNG memories – Beth's first ride around the island, for example, allowed me to recall what it had been like for me: all those wonderful new sights, sounds, smells.
Question: How much of your real life motivated Bloodlines?
Nicole Sinclair: While some aspects of the novel are inspired by my life – such as my travel experience, rural upbringing and becoming a mother for the first time – Bloodlines is a work of fiction. I am curious about the intersection of real life and creativity – and the very act of writing this novel has taught me a great deal about that interplay.
Question: What originally motivated you to become a writer?
Nicole Sinclair: As I child, I loved stories. I loved reading and being read to, and I loved writing stories too. Mum let us stay up an extra half hour if we were reading so I guess we were -tricked' into reading from a very young age. We have a rich family culture of cups of tea and storytelling around the kitchen table which I always enjoyed, and my dad was a shearer so spending time in a shearing shed was full of colourful stories, phrases and pranks. I was also fortunate that I had teachers throughout my school years who encouraged my creative writing.
Question: What's next, for you?
Nicole Sinclair: At the moment, I am happy to soak up the events surrounding the release of Bloodlines. And when the dust finally settles, perhaps I'll return to a collection of stories I began about ten years ago. More pressingly though, I'll be spending time with my young daughters. Juggling the novel and babies has not been easy and I want to enjoy being a mum again (without being preoccupied with the writing project).
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Margaret River Press
Author: Nicole Sinclair