The day before our event with Bianca Zander, we had promised our friends at Hachette that the weather was going to cooperate. And while it was no stunner, we were assured that it was better weather than they’d dealt with for the Auckland launch the week before. Good work, Wellington weather gods. Good work.
A crowd full of friends and family packed out the chairs and Bianca wove her way through conversations and congratulatory hugs before taking up her spot in front of everyone. ‘It’s so great to finally be holding this copy of the New Zealand book,’ she told us, brandishing a copy The Predictions, newly published by Hachette. She told us about the uncertainty of publication locally, after the initial release in the USA with HarperCollins back in May. So there was great satisfaction in finally seeing the book available in the place it was written and (primarily) set.
After that moment of celebration, she went on to explain a little about the development of the book. It took her three and a half years, which was ‘positively fast’ compared to the five years she spent on her first novel, The Girl Below.
She talked about not having explicit experience with living on a commune (the major setting of the book) but spoke about time spent running wild in a communal garden as a child, and researching communes for articles later in life. ‘With fiction, we talk about world building, when you’re writing a fantasy novel – but you have to do it with any fiction.’ Her 2004 documentary The Freedom Flat (about a social experiment concocted by some Dunedin students – a year of living without rules) served as an early source of inspiration, as well as later reading about the ohu scheme under the Kirk Labour Government.
The reading she chose was from early in the book, providing a tasty little snippet that left us clamouring for more. There were thoughtful questions from audience members – and thoughtful answers in response. One former classmate commented on the echoes of Bianca’s MA film script, which Bianca agreed with. Her scriptwriting background has influenced her prose style, as ‘scriptwriting is so unforgiving of any lack of plot tension.’
And what’s next for Bianca? After a two book deal, she’s quite happy to have the pressure off – even if she didn’t really realise it was there until it was gone. For now, ‘it’s quite nice not to have anything on!’ We’re sure that whatever she takes on next – whether or not it relates to the David Bowie symposium she attended recently (this writer is excited by the idea) – will be well worth everyone’s time.
The Predictions (Hachette NZ) is $30 and available in store now or from our online shop HERE.
Review and photos by Briar Lawry