First of all, huge congratulations to Danielle Binks on the release of her debut… and what a job well done!!!
Sorrento, Victoria – 1999
Fred’s family is a mess. Fred’s mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca’s girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred’s just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.
But even as the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia’s ‘safe havens’ on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.
Knowing what an intense story this could be, I was surprised at how easy it was to get engrossed into this book. I felt I was able to connect with the characters and really follow the story intently. The themes of this book were so important – from family, to friendship to the issues of refugees, specifically Kosovar-Albanian refugees in the late 90’s. The story really is touching and one that will stay with me for awhile. Written very well and very engaging – highly recommended to readers from 10 years old and up though some parental guidance may be required for some of the themes covered in the book. I really appreciate being part of this blog tour. With many thanks to Hachette Publishers and Aus YA bloggers for providing me with an advance review copy and for having me on board for this blog tour. Please read on for a short Q&A with the author herself!!! Congrats again, Danielle!!!
Could you describe your writing process when writing this book and how this experience felt constructing your first novel?
My writing process for The Year the Maps Changed was horrendous, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
I had the idea in about 2016, to go back to examine this year I remembered from my own childhood and the real political event of ‘Operation Safe Haven’. I wrote a prologue in the heat of my first brainstorming, and then …. I went off and conducted procrastinated research for about 5-years. Don’t get me wrong, the research was important – but 5-years was a little ridiculous and it’s clear to me now that I was stalling. I was very intimidated to write historic-fiction, and get something *wrong*. But then towards the tail-end I just got so sick of myself for putting it off, that I wrote the first draft in a fever of 3-months … and discovered that actually; researching is not writing, WRITING is actual writing. Funny, that.
And a sign that I could have written this a lot earlier if I’d just got out of my own way, was the fact that the prologue I wrote on Day 1 in 2016 didn’t change. It was my launching-off point and remained my prologue forevermore. It’s the one part of the story (the crucial beginning that gave me a framework for the WHOLE thing) that I got right from Day 1, and I should have followed-through more quickly …
Your story is inspired by true events – was this a personal experience or something you came to know and followed closely over time?
I was the same age as my protagonist in 1999, and so while I remembered ‘Operation Safe Haven’ it was truly only ever vague recollections and more this feeling of … needing to tuck that little spark away somewhere, and take it out to examine later. Which I did – and partly because around 2015/16 politicians were throwing out the idea of reopening the Point Nepean Quarantine Station, and using it as a detention centre. But that got a lot of pushback from locals (and luckily, has not happened) – and a lot of the pushback was to do with how that wasn’t in the spirit of Operation Safe Haven and the last time refugees had been housed there. It wasn’t a ‘detention centre’ then, as we awfully know them now – it was a Safe Haven. Two beautiful words I remembered from long ago, and I decided to go down that rabbit-hole of history and memory …
By the time I got around to wondering what that historic event meant in a wider context for Australian and world politics, I was able to see this remarkable story unfolding with the gift of hindsight, and from a vantage point of knowing how Australia treats refugees and asylum seekers *now* – so I wanted to go back and kind of track how we got to such a point of inhumanity and brutality.
Is there a particular character in this book you can relate to? Why?
Oh gosh, Fred. I gave her the best and worst of me – and some things I gave her were a reflection of my own childhood (like a father in the police-force, and a grandparent who lives out the back of the main house). Fred and her actions are largely coloured by grief, and come out of her through fear and anger, and that wasn’t me. I haven’t had nearly as tough a life as Fred has – but also; I wouldn’t have handled the kind of childhood Fred’s had, with such eventual grace and understanding I don’t think. She’s a prickly character, which I also relate to (and frankly, I quite like reading young female characters who are sometimes awful, and nasty, selfish and egotistical – I think young female characters often get this ‘goodness’ injection to them in the hopes that readers don’t turn against them, but I wanted to show a young girl who is grappling with a lot and making mistakes but by golly, she’s also growing and embracing).