Harry Hartog Woden recently started their first ever book club.
Bookseller Claire Leyton was lucky enough to interview the author of Tin Heart, Shivaun Plozza, Woden's first ever book club novel.
Shivaun Plozza is an Australian author who writes Children’s and YA novels. Her debut novel, "Frankie" was shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards Older Readers as well as numerous other awards and recognition.
Shivaun was lovely to talk to and extremely helpful with any questions I had for her in the lead up to our book club.
Tin Heart is the story of Marlowe, who has recently had a heart transplant and gotten a second chance at life. It is the story of what comes after the tests and waiting and operations. Set almost a year after Marlowe received her new heart, Tin Heart explores the ‘what comes next?’
What made you choose to write about organ donation?
Shivaun: I was inspired by my brother, who had gone through an organ transplant because of an on-going illness.
What drove you to start Marlowe’s story at the “beginning” of her life post-transplant?
Shivaun: I found it difficult to reconcile my feelings of utter joy that my brother had received a second chance at life with my feelings of sorrow for the family of his donor, a family we would never know anything about and could never personally thank. I wondered what that must feel like for a recipient, to know someone died for you to live. As much as families of donors rightfully view donation as a gift they can be proud of, it’s still a tragedy and it’s still heartbreaking and the need to find a way to thank them somehow is strong. I wanted to explore what that’s like – how do you move forward from something like that?
There are quite a few strong themes in this novel. Are these taken from your own life at all? Are you an organ donor? Are you a ‘vegan warrior’? Do you attend protests?
Shivaun: Marlowe’s social anxiety and her feelings about having a prominent scar come from me and while I am not as intense as Kate (Marlowe’s mother) I do believe firmly in animal rights and have been a vegetarian for more than twenty years, with long periods of being a vegan too. While the story bears no resemblance to anything I’ve been through – not even what my brother went through – I think it’s impossible not to infuse a bit of yourself into your writing.
Are the characters from Tin Heart based on people you know? How do you flesh out side characters in your books? (For example, Marlowe’s mum and brother were excellent characters that felt really well done in their reactions and behaviours towards Marlowe and her situation and how people would feel and act in real life to this). Does this come from personal experience or research?
Shivaun: They’re not explicitly based on people I know, though, as I said, sometimes things seep in without you meaning for them to. I am a character writer – creating complex, flawed, authentic characters is what attracts me most to writing a novel – and I’ve always felt that you need to construct your characters and plot in conjunction with one another because character is plot. So when I’m developing a story I think about what kind of character would be in the greatest conflict if this story were to happen to them. It’s a little cruel, really, but you always need to think about how you can make life really hard for your characters. And if I’d created a character that already had autonomy and agency and a strong sense of self then there would be no conflict in Tin Heart and it would be dull. Marlowe’s family came about from my understanding of human nature as well as conversations with my editor.
How long did it take you to write Marlowe’s story?
Shivaun: It took about two years all up.
Was it always something you wanted to write or did it come to you out of the blue one day?
Shivaun: In 2012 or 2013 I came up with the idea for a ‘Romeo and Juliet style love story between a butcher and a vegan’ that I filed away with the intention of working on it in the future (I was busy working on my first novel, Frankie, at the time). When my brother had his transplant I began thinking about exploring the idea of organ donation and I felt like my butcher vegan romance story-line would work well with it so I combined the two ideas and Tin Heart was born.
Did you always want to write Young Adult novels?
Shivaun: Yes, always! Though I also write for children, too.
Now that you have published two well-received YA novels is this an audience you would like to continue writing for?
Shivaun: I would love to continue writing for teenagers though I also have ideas for younger age groups. I think I can guarantee I will continue to write for anyone under the age of 18 for a long time. For as long as people buy my books!