Abigail Sorensen has spent her life trying to unwrap the events of 1990.
It was the year she started receiving random chapters from a self-help book called The Guidebook in the post.
It was also the year Robert, her brother, disappeared on the eve of her sixteenth birthday.
She believes the absurdity of The Guidebook and the mystery of her brother's disappearance must be connected.
Now thirty-five, owner of The Happiness Café and mother of four-year-old Oscar, Abigail has been invited to learn the truth behind The Guidebook at an all-expenses-paid retreat.
What she finds will be unexpected, life-affirming, and heartbreaking.
A story with extraordinary heart, warmth and wisdom.
Jaclyn Moriarty is the author of bestselling novels for young adults and adults, including the 'Ashbury-Brookfield' books. Her books have been named Best Books for Young Adults by the American Librarian Association and translated into several languages. The first and second books in The Colours of Madeleine trilogy, A Corner of White and The Cracks in the Kingdom, won the NSW Premier's Literary Award and the Queensland Literary Award, and both were nominated for a number of other prizes. The Cracks in the Kingdom won the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel. Jaclyn grew up in Sydney, lived in the US, England and Canada, and now lives in Sydney again.
Gravity Is The Thing
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Question: What inspired the story of Gravity Is The Thing?
Jaclyn Moriarty: A couple of different things; one was a fantasy I had that some kind of external committee could send me guidelines on how to live my life. Sometimes I think I'm not very good at living. I need an expert to send me regular updates on things like where I should buy my clothes, the kind of skin care products I should use, whether I should break up with my boyfriend because I feel cranky with him today or if I would regret that for the rest of my life, etc. So I came up with the idea of Abigail receiving regular chapters from The Guidebook in the mail.
Also, one day my then 4-year-old said to me, 'Can we please swap sometimes? Like, you be the child and I be the mummy?'
'Ha ha,' I said. 'Yes, good idea, we can play that game sometime.'
'No,' he said. 'Not as a game. In real life.'
'That's just not possible,' I apologised.
'Anything is possible,' he said, 'if you truly believe.'
I realised that this phrase from the self-help industry has infiltrated popular culture so completely that my 4-year-old had accepted it as true. That made me think about the logical conclusion of the concept, and I decided that The Guidebook has actually been setting Abigail up to achieve the truly impossible.
Question: What was the best part about creating the character of Abigail?
Jaclyn Moriarty: I liked the fact that I was writing her at different stages in her life"at 15, 25, and 35"and that I could see that she was essentially the same person all along, but that she was also changing, both in superficial ways (so when she was a lawyer, her language and tone changed) and more profoundly, as a result of the things that were happening to her. As I was writing in the first person, Abigail was doing all the work and I felt like I was just watching.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?
Jaclyn Moriarty: (Laughs) I don't think I would admit it if they were. I never base characters on real people, partly because of defamation law, and partly because I think that leads to tension between what the novel needs the character to be, and the person I know in real life. For example, if I was feeling annoyed with the person in real life I might find myself accidentally killing off the character.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Jaclyn Moriarty: Even though I don't base characters on people I know, I do steal traits, hobbies, careers etc. So I do know somebody who has no sense of smell, like Niall in the book, and somebody else whose eyes disappear when they smile, and so on. I also know somebody who works in pest control and who is fascinating about termites.
I often write in cafes, and listen into the conversations around me " most of the conversations that Abigail overhears in her Happiness Café were taken from real life.
Question: Do you have a morning ritual or routine? Can you share it with us?
Jaclyn Moriarty: I usually wake up at 5am.
Then I look at the clock and think: YES! I'VE STILL GOT HOURS MORE SLEEP!
I fall back to sleep very happily. I wake up again around 7.45 am and feel sad that I have no more sleep time, but resigned to getting up.
I wake my 12-year-old and try to persuade him to get out of bed in time to have breakfast and walk to the bus stop. He pretends he is getting up.
After a while, I wake him again and try to persuade him to get up in time to have breakfast and have me to drive him to the bus stop. Not long after that, I wake him a third time and tell him if he gets up now he can eat breakfast in the car while I drive him to school. And so on.
After I've sent my son sprinting from the car into the school, I calm down, and go for a walk into Kirribilli, where I walk across the Harbour Bridge and back, looking at the water for inspiration, and then I go and do some writing in a cafe.
Question: Can you tell us what you're currently working on?
Jaclyn Moriarty: I am usually working on something for young people (either children or young adults) at the same time as a novel for grownups.
So at the moment, I'm writing my third children's book set in the Kingdoms and Empires (currently called The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst) and a novel about a woman who works in a Time Travel Agency. (It's working title is either The Time Travel Agency or The Tango Dancer's Guide to Casual Sex.)
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Gravity Is The Thing
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty