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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Patricia Donovan talks about The Collections

Patricia Donovan up in Christchurch and graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Master's Degree (with honours) in English Literature.

After graduation she worked in corporate communications in Australia and New Zealand, and is the author of a comprehensive reference book for the profession: Communications. The Four Essential Steps to Best Practice.

She is the author of two previous novels, The Remarkable Miss Digby which was shortlisted for the NZ Booklovers Adult Fiction Award 2022, and The Madison Gap. She lives on the beautiful Kapiti Coast. Patricia talks to NZ Booklovers.

The Collections is a departure from your previous novels, can you tell us a little about your new book?

The Collections is a dystopian story, set in Christchurch during 2041, about a woman struggling to take control of her own fate. The narrator – Claris Millar – works in a government Collections Depot but after her beloved husband is taken there to die – a sacrifice he makes willingly to help reduce population pressure – she finds her job increasingly abhorrent. She is plagued by unease and indecision; should she abide by law, or should she break it?

What inspired you to write this book?

During 2020, debate in New Zealand on the pros and cons of euthanasia was happening at the same time as alarm was spreading worldwide at the rate of population growth and the scary prospect that our planet may not be able much longer to sustain it.

The optimum population for the planet is one and half billion, two billion at most, yet there are now nearly eight billion of us. What is to be done?

Musing on possible answers to this question, I imagined what it would be like if we trusted superannuates, when they receive their first pension payment, with a suicide pill to use if and when they see fit. This idea led me down a dystopian path of exploring how far a distressed humanity, at the end of its tether, might go to resolve both the global population crisis and the consequent degradation of the planet.

What research was involved?

I had to find out what a crematorium looked like, how it functioned, and what drugs are used to end a person’s life. And I wandered the streets around Claris Millar’s home in Christchurch for a couple of days to get the feel for the location, and ensure accuracy of place and street names.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Something classical, moody and moving. In the story I refer to Tartini’s cello concertos and these suit the tone of the novel perfectly.

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead character?

Lesley Manville comes to mind.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

Exploring the human condition. And imagining how we might address over-population, while at the same time answering the urgent need to restore the planet’s health by putting the trees back.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Sending my characters out into the world has been celebration enough. By the time it went into production, I was already distracted by a new cast of characters demanding my attention.

What is the favourite book you have read recently and why?

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. It’s highly intelligent social satire, funny and utterly absorbing.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m working on a series of crime stories. Book 1 is set in the public sector and introduces my novice (accidental) sleuth.

Mary Egan Publishing


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