Quintette of Questions: Meg Mundell

Today I’m asking Meg Mundell 5 questions about her latest book!

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

My latest book is called The Trespassers, but it was originally called The Fever Diaries. The book evolved during the writing process, so needed a new title. It took awhile to come up with another name, but it fit perfectly. I love the word “trespass” — it’s poetic and evocative, strong and ominous, but also allows for nuance and ambiguity. Who decides what constitutes “trespassing”? Perhaps it depends on where you’re standing.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

Billie, the ex-nurse/singer, would be played by PJ Harvey – a tough, hard-drinking, Scottish version of PJ Harvey, but with that same incredibly powerful singing voice.

I’d try to case a talented Deaf child to play Cleary. But if we couldn’t find the right person, I’d go back in time and hire Henry Thomas (ET), when he was 9 years old. And give him an Irish voice coach.

For the teacher, Tom, I’d hire Dev Patel. He’s got the sensitivity, the English accent, and the soulful eyes (but he’d have to be clean-shaven, for plot reasons).

3. What five words best describe your story?

Tightly-paced, terrifying, compassionate, multi-layered, resonant

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple ?

Pooh Bear and Piglet.

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

Stand By Me, by Ben E. King –a timeless song about love and loyalty in dark times. For me it reflects the relationship that blooms between Billie (the nurse) and Cleary (the young boy). When Cleary’s left all alone on the ship, terrified and victimised, she becomes his protector, his anchor, his best friend.

About The Trespassers

A shipload of migrant workers flees the pandemic-stricken UK, seeking a fresh start in Australia. For nine-year-old Cleary the journey promises adventure, for former nurse Billie it’s a chance to put a shameful mistake behind her, while struggling schoolteacher Tom hopes for a brighter future. But when a crew member is murdered and people start falling gravely ill, the Steadfast descends into chaos. Trapped on the ship, the trio must join forces to survive the journey and its aftermath. 

The Trespassers is a beguiling novel that explores the consequences of greed, the experiences of migration and exile and the way strangers can become the ones we hold dear.

Buy The Trespassers

About Meg Mundell

Photo: Joanne Manariti Photography

Kiwi born and bred, writer and researcher Meg Mundell migrated to Australia by boat in the late 1990s. Her second novel The Trespassers (UQP 2019), a near-future literary thriller set on a migrant-labour ship, has been shortlisted for a 2020 Aurealis Award and optioned for TV. Her first novel Black Glass (Scribe 2011) was shortlisted for two Aurealis Awards, the Barbara Jefferis Award, the Norma K. Hemming Award, and the CAL–Scribe Fiction Prize.

Her journalism, essays and short fiction have appeared in Best Australian Stories, The Sydney Morning Herald, TheAge, The Monthly, The Guardian, Meanjin, Overland and elsewhere.

Meg is also the author of the digital short story collection Things I Did For Money (Scribe 2013), and the editor of We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place & Belonging (Affirm Press 2019), a collection of true stories by writers who have experienced homelessness. Her academic research focuses on place, homelessness and spatial justice.

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So many book launches and author talks have had to be cancelled, I’ve decided to run as many Quintettes as I can to share some great upcoming work – and let you stock up on things to read while we’re all self-isolating.