The pressure of my blood, the beat of my heart, is a message to you. You read each second of my body’s life.
It is the present day. The foggy northern city of Port Angelsund is under occupation by the soldiers of Garrison. Sylvie is a young woman just trying to survive. When she is singled out for punishment at a Garrison checkpoint, a young lieutenant rescues her from torture. Though she knows the terrible risks of collaboration, she cannot stop herself from falling in love. Watched by Garrison’s vast machinery of surveillance, Sylvie discovers she is also under the protective and suspicious gaze of her lover. When her older brother returns on a terrorist mission that will throw the city into chaos, Sylvie’s loyalties are tested beyond breaking point. Her deep bond with her brother and her illicit passion for her Garrison officer are loves that cannot coexist. Whatever she does is betrayal.
We were thrilled with the opportunity to ask a very talented author a handful of questions about her upcoming book. Claire Corbett gave us some thought provoking answers and revealed a little about her upcoming plans for new work in the near future. Watch Over Me was a cracking read and hits shelves May 2017 and Words and Warpaint is telling you to do yourself a favour and get your mitts on a copy ASAP!
- Can you tell our readers a little about your background in relation to the military aspect of the story?
I was always aware of war growing up, from the tales of my grandfathers’ military service in WWII to my parents’ protests against the Vietnam War. There was an awareness that some wars are unjust and we were conscious of the judgement at Nuremberg: that following orders is not a defence, that soldiers are responsible for making their own moral decisions.
More recently, I realised how incredibly fast military technology and strategy is changing and began to educate myself more about those issues. I decided a good way to learn was to write about it and began going to conferences and writing articles on defence.
- Were any of your characters inspired by people you’ve known?
Not really. But there were specific things in the story that were inspired by veterans and soldiers I’ve known who kindly answered a broad range of questions. A British former Royal Marine commando told me exactly how he’d interrogate someone, though it wouldn’t be legal. Or I’d ask an Afghanistan veteran I know how my soldiers would hold their rifles, enter a café, report someone who was not in their chain of command and so on. These are things that are very hard to know if you haven’t been there yourself or know someone who has.
- What sort of research have you done to help you write a story filled with military strategy?
I’d started teaching myself about modern war and military culture in one of the most direct ways I could, by attending military conferences and researching and writing about strategy, both for WATCH OVER ME and for my next novel.
I began writing about defence, with articles including a cover story on the Royal Australian Navy for The Monthly. I became something of an expert (for a layperson) on the vexed and highly technical issue of submarines.
At that time, as far as I know, I was the only woman in Australia writing for mainstream outlets such as The Monthly on defence – there are women at various strategy think tanks such as ASPI but I never encountered another woman journalist writing about those issues. As a result of these articles, veterans and serving officers contacted me and gave me invaluable information from their personal experiences.
I also read obsessively, everything from Foreign Policy magazine to blogs by serving officers and military history and strategy academics. And some extraordinary books on modern conflicts by journalists such as Jeremy Scahill, academics like Eyal Weizman, books on urban military strategy by writers like former Australian Army officer David Kilcullen and books of testimony and reflection by soldiers.
- Watch Over Me is purported to be a dystopian novel, what was it like to write in this genre? Would you return to it again in future?
To be honest, I don’t see it as a dystopian novel; everything that happens in it is happening now and all the technology in it is here now or being developed. Having said that, our reality now is dystopian so maybe every truly contemporary novel is dystopian. As for what it was like – you have to run fast just to keep up with the present these days. I saw a news story yesterday about an American police force seeking the legal authority to use weaponised drones on their own citizens. That is dystopian. WATCH OVER ME shows the difficulty of writing a contemporary novel – if you truly write what is happening now, people think it is science fiction. I want to say – wake up. All this is happening. Right now. Having said that, my next book is partly about what is happening to our oceans so yes, you could say it will be dystopian.
- Have you considered writing about other arms of the military like the Air Force or Navy? Why?/Why not?
Funny you should ask. My next book does have an element to do with the Navy. Why? Because it’s a story that has grown out of my love for the sea. I don’t see myself writing about the air force any time soon though, just because no particular story has occurred to me. It’s odd because my family on both sides were mostly air force pilots and navigators in WWII. My paternal great uncle is actually one of the roughly 100 Canadian pilots listed on the monument as having fought in the Battle of Britain.
Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.
Or purchase at any of the links below:
Claire Corbett was born in Canada and has worked in film and government policy. Her first novel, When We Have Wings, was published in 2011 and shortlisted for the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award and the 2012 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. Her recent fiction and essays have been published in a range of journals, including The Best Australian Stories 2014/2015, Griffith Review, Southerly and Overland. She has written on defence and strategy for The Diplomat, The Strategist and The Monthly.
- Twitter: @ccorbettauthor
- Facebook: @clairecorbettauthor
- Website: clairecorbett.com
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