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An Interview with Bren MacDibble

Across the Risen Sea is a phenomenal story set in a post climate change affected world of risen seas and floating cities. What was the original inspiration behind this idea?

I wanted to continue my theme of exploring changed worlds and after spending a year travelling the coastlines of Australia I was very interested in sea inundation and coastal erosion. I also liked the idea of a girl rescuing a boy, an idea as old as The Snow Queen.

In the novel, your fearless heroine Neoma has such a distinct voice. What made you decide to tell Neoma's story in a first person narrative? Did you experience any particular challenges throughout your writing progress?

I love the full immersion of a viewpoint. I love the idea of only knowing as much as your character, of discovering and learning, and making mistakes because you don't have all the information you need to make some decisions... just like childhood! I also like writing future kids and trying to decide what has influenced their speech. Kid slang is just the best. Thinking what is important to a group of people in the future is also fun and a little challenging, which is why everyone uses the word gentle in their greetings. They're trying to live environmentally gentle lives. Getting the language flowing to a point where it won't be too different or too annoying for a 2020s reader is certainly a challenge!

Across the Risen Sea, along with your other children's books How to Bee and The Dog Runner, are all largely focused on issues surrounding climate change and the environment. What draws you to these kind of narratives? And what do you hope readers take away from your stories?

As a child I was always interested in what comes next or what survival looks like if something goes wrong. So I write the kinds of books I would have liked. I realise there are a lot of children suffering from anxiety around the future and our environment so I try to write empowering stories. I try to show that life can go on however changed. I try to show resourceful characters, because I don't know what's ahead of young readers in their lives but I'm guessing they will have to deal with a lot of uncertainty and make a lot of changes.

What's next for your writing journey?

Zana Fraillon and I are finishing off a story together. Two viewpoints, present (Zana), meets future (me), with a story from the past affecting them both. It's been so much fun working with Zana and it's an exciting story.

This question is about your favourite children's books - what's a book you loved as a child, a book you love now, and a book you can't wait to read?

As a child I loved Baby Island (it's probably not aged well) about two girls whose life-boat casts off early before any adults board it. On board are just the two girls holding four toddlers. Fun tales of survival on a desert island ensue! Recently, I've enjoyed the Tarin of the Mammoths books about a cave boy who's trying to prove his worth to his clan and has to undertake a journey alone. Really looking forward to reading To Catch a Falling Star.

And finally, my favourite question I always love to ask, if you could invite any five people for dinner - past or present, real or fictional - who would you invite and why?

Oh Fern! Right now, after being locked in the state of Western Australia since March, I would have five of my family members visit! Otherwise I'd like to have dinner at Pippi Longstocking's house with Matilda, Ramona Quimby, Hermione and Edwina the Emu in her ballet slippers. Why? Because it would be raucous and hilarious and we all need a laugh this year.

Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble is available now, published by Old Barn Books. Paperback £7.99

Bren was raised in a muddle of backwater villages, farms and towns in heartland New Zealand. She's lived in Whanganui, Hawkes Bay, Waikato, Tauranga, Frankfurt, London, Auckland and Sydney before finally stopping off in Melbourne for 20 years, where she raised two children. But the wandering was too deep in her bones. Bren rode motorbikes across the US twice, and around parts of Australia, then finally after a house fire, sold everything and moved into a bus. How to Bee and The Dog Runner as well as her YA book have won multiple awards.

For more information, visit Bren's website at


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