Brontide by Sue McPherson is the final book to feature in our shortlist for the 2019 Most Underrated Book Award.
Brontide is a coming-of-age story set in the coastal town of Taralune in Queensland. Exploring themes of racism, familial dynamics and modern masculinity, this story unfolds through a series of fictional interviews between McPherson and the four unique and interlinked adolescent boys at the centre of this narrative. Praised for its authentic dialogue and accessibility to younger audiences, Brontide is a hilarious and occasionally heart-wrenching story of growing up in country Australia.
From the judges:
Young adult books have the latitude to delight in experiments with form that are often denied to those in the adult market. Sue McPherson has taken full advantage of this and truly played with structure in her novel Brontide, a small marvel with a big heart. Despite its brevity, these pages hold a deceptively ambitious structure, told via interviews with four high school boys in a small Queensland town. These four voices ring out with irreverence, humour, pain and longing—their thoughts are presented unvarnished, resulting in big moments that are in turn hilarious, confronting and even heartbreaking. Utterly unpretentious, this is a hidden gem that would particularly appeal to reluctant teen—or even adult—readers who still want complex and nuanced storytelling. The book is not without flaws, but the reader is quickly swept up in a compelling narrative and few will leave dry-eyed.
Interview with Author Sue McPherson
What drew you to the story of Rob, Pen, Benny Boy and Jack?
I wasn’t drawn, the boys called me in. They needed their stories told and thankfully I listened (I don’t always listen to my characters). I’m a bit of a sook, I don’t mind a bit of grit and I love a bloody good laugh. The boys know this.
What was your experience like working with Magabala Books? How did it influence the process of writing your book?
Writing for Magabala Books is always a privilege. Regardless of what I throw at them, they listen. Magabala are not only great at what they do, they’re family. They’re also a very cheeky mob
What was your favourite part of the creative process for Brontide?
Having the courage to write a story regardless of who it may offend was a huge lesson. I had to stop and listen to the boys. To listen, to tell the story the way it was intended and change the format. It was liberating and life changing as a storyteller.
Why did you choose to employ an interview-style format for the novel? How did the format influence the way the book came together?
As a reluctant reader in high school and an old book worm now, I specifically wanted to write a good yarn that anyone could access without getting bored. I tried writing Brontide in a normal format, but it felt flat and bored me to tears. I strongly believe the format was needed. Younger Sue would’ve loved Brontide. If I was given the option back in high school, maybe I would’ve fallen in love with books and words earlier.
What are your writing rituals?
Coffee and Darrell Lee milk chocolate bullets when needed. A great day of writing works like this: In PJs when sons and hubby leave for work in the morning. In PJs when sons and hubby return from work in the afternoon. I’m so much into storytelling, changing out of PJs isn’t an option. I love these days.
What is the key message you want readers to take away from the book?
Love is our greatest superpower.