Who did the Cover Design for Fathoms?
June Park, a graphic designer from South Korea and based in the Netherlands, created the American cover. Allison Colpoys, an illustrator and book designer from Melbourne, is responsible for the Australian and UK covers. I was so thrilled with the direction the designers took the brief, which asked for imagery that brought a synthetic element to an undersea environment.
Is there an audiobook of Fathoms?
Yes, the audiobook, produced by the Simon & Schuster audio department, is voiced by the very talented Shiromi Arserio and is available through Audible.
How long did it take you to write fathoms?
I started the book in 2013, but over the course of writing it I took two extended breaks of six-months each — so I say that it took me six years to write Fathoms. From 2014 to early 2018 I had a full-time job in Sydney, so I largely wrote in the early mornings and on weekends in cafes and local libraries. In 2018 I was awarded a paid writing fellowship at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment in Society, in Munich, which allowed for much needed space and time to complete the manuscript. The following year entailed structural edits, and re-writing in tandem with feedback from my editors. I finished the book during the catastrophic 2019/20 bushfire season.
Why whales, and not some other animal?
Whales are global clade of animals, found in oceans surrounding the poles as well as in the tropics. Even people who live in high-rises in cities wonder at them, as these are the biggest animals on the face of the Earth. In the book I write about how the anti-whaling movements of the 1980s offered people the opportunity to participate in a trans-hemispheric environmental citizenry that was only imaginable because whales are animals familiar to many nations. I wanted to wrestle with systemic changes in ecosystems as large as oceans — and I was interested in symbols that unite us, and that put us in touch with the better urgings of our nature. For these reasons, whales were the perfect 'trojan horse'. They were a way to talk about the power of our affection for nature, and the extent of our entanglements with remote wildernesses.
I want to get more involved in caring for the health of our oceans. Where do I start?
Welcome! You start where you are. The future of Earth's oceans is being built not on the shorefront or in the deeps, but in the human world of shopping, commuting and consuming. I hold back from offering a prescriptive set of changes in the book, because I recognise that each of us has a different set of manoeuvres and opportunities available to us, according to our contexts and communities. You might reflect on ways to limit plastic pollution, or how containment-agriculture and food waste has drastic effects on the climate system, (reaching out to touch the lives of ocean creatures from tiny amphipods, to the immense blue whale). But environmentalism shouldn't have to mean wearing a 'hair shirt' and living an austere existence, divided from worldly pleasures. I believe a meaningful life comes from working in the service of your talents — whatever strengths and qualities you have, unique to you or rare in your circles, lean towards rallying that talent in an effort to create change. Don't be afraid of reaching out to strangers. Find ways to build on common ground. Hopefulness follows on from feeling useful; too often people believe it's the other way around.
What books Do you recommend in the same genre as Fathoms?
There are some amazing recent books, journals and bookclubs in the nature writing genre — and more particularly, about our relationships with animals during a time of ecological change. Emergence Magazine, Aeon, Yale e360, and Hakai Magazine are good places to start for shorter, journalistic writing. Try books by authors including Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Helen Macdonald, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Kathleen Jamie and Rebecca Tamás.
Do you do speaking engagements for schools?
Yes, please get in touch via the contact-form on this website. Generally, I do not do unpaid speaking gigs. I spend about a third of the year in the UK (east London), the rest of the time I'm in Australia but moving between cities. I'm mostly based out of Perth.
I'd like to set a chapter of fathoms for my class, or include it on a syllabus. is there a teaching guide?
Again, please drop me a line via the contact-form on this website. I have a set of discussion questions and a list of useful companion texts that may be helpful, depending on the teaching context.
Do you offer mentorship or supervision to writers?
I am a mentor in the Wheeler Centre's 'Next Chapter' initiative — a program that supports emerging writers under-represented by top-tier publishing lists in Australia. I also offer (paid) manuscript feedback via the Faber Writing Academy. I am connected with Macquarie University as an Honorary Fellow, but this is an unwaged, non-teaching affiliation with no supervisory capacity — I side-stepped out of academia some years ago. I have myself benefited from the mentorship of other writers in the past, and continue to, so I firmly believe in the importance of these sorts of professional relationships.