on 1 December 2013
The idea of someone just disappearing and not having any idea what happened to them is horrible. The most famous case we’ve had in recent times is that of Daniel Morcombe – a thirteen year old boy who went missing from a bus stop on the Sunshine Coast in 2003. In this novel it is a mother that vanishes rather than a teenager. I love the bleak cover and the look on the model’s face.
So tell us Lee…
What concept or situation about Misplaced makes it unique?
Death is final. It’s terribly sad, but the person is gone. But when someone goes missing, there’s always a chance they might come back. That perennial spark of hope is perhaps the thing that makes loss through disappearance the most difficult. In Misplaced, Adam’s grandpa has Alzheimer’s, an incurable disease in which a person loses their memory over time. I felt this was an important parallel to Adam’s story of loss as a person suffering from Alzheimer’s can have occasional periods of lucidity, providing family members with the cruel hope that the person might one day come back.
What inspired you to write Misplaced?
I’m not sure inspiration is the right word. This story was written for my dear friend, Florence Bloise. One evening in 2003, Florence went missing in France. No trace of her has ever been found. Sadly, this situation is more common than you might think: all over the world people go missing every day. Most turn up after a few days but some, like my friend Florence, are never found. An artist, Florence has three children, now in their teens. In writing Misplaced, I wanted to examine how those left behind might cope, or not cope, under those uncertain circumstances. How does one move on? Is it even possible? Perhaps in my own way, I’m still searching for Florence, and for closure.
The manuscript was sponsored by Creative New Zealand in the form of a writing mentorship. How did that work?
Yes, I was very lucky to be able to write Misplaced with the mentorship of one of New Zealand’s literary heavyweights, Graeme Lay. Graeme is the author of over 40 titles, including several best-loved titles for teens. As you might imagine, having a New Zealand icon as your mentor can be highly motivating (if somewhat terrifying). With Graeme’s guidance, I was able to lift my writing to another level. A former teacher, he was a bit old-school when it came to critique, and rather than using the review function on the computer, he preferred to use a pencil. If he liked what he read, he would put a little tick in the bottom corner of the last page of the chapter. So, when my work came back in the post, I would tear through to the last page to see if there were any ticks. On one occasion, there were two: I was elated! But Graeme could be tough too, at one point telling me that a chapter was too contrived and needed to be deleted. Delete a whole chapter! But he was right, and Adam’s story is much stronger for it.