Saturday, April 18, 2015

0 Jane Higgins, author of THE BRIDGE, on letting reading teach and inspire you

We're thrilled to have Jane Higgins join us to share more about her award-winning novel THE BRIDGE.

Jane, how long did you work on THE BRIDGE?

I worked on it for about three years, although I was playing with the idea of it for a while before that.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Try these: they are all compelling. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden, the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Feed by MT Anderson.

What do you hope readers will take away from THE BRIDGE?

For me, THE BRIDGE is about two things. First, there’s the possibility that when you meet your enemy face to face you might discover that your world is more complex than you thought.  And secondly, it’s about the power of friendship. I work a lot with young people in my day job as a researcher and I’m always struck by how important their friends are to them.  Ultimately, THE BRIDGE is a story about friendship, what borders it might take you across, and what you might discover about yourself and your world on the way.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I have one ‘training wheels’ novel sitting in a drawer at home. I guess I worked on that for six or seven years. It got rejected by numerous agents and publishers, but that’s okay; I learned a lot while I was writing it. In 2008 I joined a writing group consisting of established writers and poets as well as beginners like me.  I wrote THE BRIDGE with helpful feedback from them. In 2010, after two substantial rewrites, I submitted it to a New Zealand publisher, but it got rejected, so I did another rewrite and finished that in time to enter it in Text Publishing’s Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. To my profound and lasting delight, it won. Text (in Australia) published it in 2011 and it was picked up for North America by Tundra after that.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

There was no big revelation, but there was a moment when I realized that this was not going to work as a short story, and that I had to let it be the novel it wanted to be.  After that, I wrote in an exploratory kind of way – I was discovering the world of Cityside and Southside at the same time that my protagonist, Nik, was.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have a day job as a researcher, so I have to squeeze my writing into the ‘nooks and crannies’ of my day (and night). When I get the chance I write at home at a desk that is a little crowded with writing stuff: books, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a candle, pens and pencils; also a miniature TARDIS which is not exactly writing related but I do like to look at it to ponder the power of the imagination. I don’t usually listen to music. If I do, it will be instrumental because I find lyrics distracting. I’m definitely more of a pantser than a planner and I like to hone and polish as I go, which is undoubtedly inefficient, but it’s the fun bit! When I finish a section I read it aloud because I want to write with cadence and rhythm and the best way to test that is to read aloud. When I’ve finished a whole draft, I read it aloud to my husband Paul, who listens and asks questions, spotting plot problems and contradictions and helping me solve them.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

I guess my favourite piece of advice is also the most obvious, and that’s to read. Read, read, and read some more. Read widely and well, read great writing, read as a writer, let it teach and inspire you.

What are you working on now?

At the end of last year I finished a sequel to THE BRIDGE. It’s called HAVOC and it’s set about six months after the end of THE BRIDGE. It has just been published in New Zealand and Australia by Text. And now I’ve started something new.


The Bridge
by Jane Higgins
Tundra Books
Released 4/14/2015

The City is divided. The bridges gated. In Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation, waiting for a chance to overrun the residents of Cityside.

Nik is still in high school but is destined for a great career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services, the brains behind the war. But when ISIS comes recruiting, everyone is shocked when he isn't chosen. There must be an explanation, but no one will talk about it. Then the school is bombed and the hostiles take the bridges. Buildings are burning, kids are dead, and the hostiles have kidnapped Sol. Now ISIS is hunting for Nik.

But Nik is on the run, with Sol's sister Fyffe and ISIS hot on their trail. They cross the bridge in search of Sol, and Nik finds answers to questions he had never dared to ask.

The Bridge is a gritty adventure set in a future world where fear of outsiders pervades everything. A heart-stopping novel about friendship, identity, and courage from an exciting new voice in young-adult fiction.

Purchase The Bridge at Amazon
Purchase The Bridge at IndieBound
View The Bridge on Goodreads


Jane was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. Over the years, she has traveled away, but she returned in the 1990s; she and her husband, Paul, live there still, even though the ground now shakes at regular and unnerving intervals and has done since the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011.

Growing up, she read a lot of classic science fiction, fantasy and myth, and was captivated by the astonishing beauty and strangeness of the universe and by the writers who explored it – in fiction and non-fiction. She tried some exploring of her own, in the company of the very cool people in the Canterbury Astronomical Society – people who made their own telescopes and tracked the patterns of the solar system from their own backyards. She watched Dr. Who (almost, but not quite, from the beginning), Star Trek (favourite episode: The Trouble with Tribbles – great, because so silly) and The Prisoner (great, because so weird), and kept reading. She went to university and completed a degree in astronomy and mathematics and thought about spending her life sitting on a mountain being an astronomer.

A trip away to Europe, post-degree, derailed those ambitions. Seeing serious poverty and serious preparations for war for the first time was a powerful experience. She came home to study social science and learn from some amazing people about its concrete expression in the world through campaigns against poverty, oppressive labour laws and racism in New Zealand and elsewhere.

She became an academic at the University of Canterbury then at Lincoln University, specializing in research with young people about their lives. She wrote a lot of non-fiction for academic journals, kept reading and finally had a go at writing a novel.

She was lucky to be part of the inaugural intake of the Hagley Writers’ Institute – more wonderful people, including tutors and fellow scribblers. In their company, The Bridge grew from a short story into something longer and more complicated.

She still works as a researcher with young people, still reads, still writes (and still watches Dr. Who).

What did you think of our interview with Jane Higgins, author of THE BRIDGE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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