This week’s installment of the Weekend Name Drop features another talented New Zealand writer who has transitioned from journalism to fiction, writing novels for an international audience. Meet Bianca Zander.
Name: Bianca Zander
Creative field: Novelist, Screenwriter, Journalist, University Lecturer
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Best known for: Authoring the novels, The Girl Below (2012) and The Predictions (2015); Recipient of the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writers’ Bursary (2012) and the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship (2014); Lecturer of Creative Writing at Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
My connection: I first learned of Bianca when I was added to the list of panelists for the 2016 Ruapehu Writers Festival. I paid even more attention to her once I was asked to chair her Fiction Anthology session along with Emily Perkins and Nix Whittaker. Leading up to the festival, we corresponded by e-mail and I began reading her book, The Predictions. I met Bianca in person five minutes before our talk after listening to her speak in the previous session on “Place as Character”. Our talk was well received and I found Bianca to be warm, funny and articulate. I’ve since finished reading The Predictions, enlightened by our panel’s discussion and Bianca’s revelation that one of the themes at the heart of the novel is about children forgiving their parents, as parents’ mistakes and experimentation are often a result of good intentions as they find their way.
Inspiration for this writer: Prior to our session at the festival, I started reading three books written by other authors attending. Bianca hooked me in Chapter Two of The Predictions. I won’t give away what was in the chapter, but it was bold, graphic, realistic and in keeping with the spirit of her setting and the promises she was establishing at the outset of her narrative. The rest of the book did not disappoint. It features a fictitious 70s commune in New Zealand which introduces the theme of parental experimentation; an intense romance between Poppy, her first-person protagonist, and Lukas; and a wonderful treatment of the psychological effects of allowing others to speak prophecy over our lives. In addition to the compelling content, it was Bianca’s writing that spurred me on – sometimes a writers voice just seems to fit in a reader’s head, and her narrative flowed easily for me.
Why you should check her out and share with others: While Bianca has been writing in various forms for years now, her star is on the rise as a novelist. She has published her novels through HarperCollins in the U.S. and won some recent significant awards in New Zealand. The Girl Below was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Her writing is fresh, humorous, and bold. In The Predictions, Bianca takes us through the 70s and 80s seamlessly, moving between the two diverse settings of rural New Zealand and London. Readers should check her out now so they can say, “Oh, yes, I’ve read Bianca Zander,” when she makes even bigger splashes with her future work.
Sample of work:
“Hunter opened the meeting the way he opened every meeting, with a speech that went on for twenty-nine years. Lately these had been about oil shock and getting prepared for an economic collapse the following year, but on this occasion he went all the way back to Gaialand’s founding philosophy. He talked about how they had wanted to break away from mainstream society, the stifling conventions of the suburbs, white picket fences, meat and potatoes for dinner followed by cricket commentary on the wireless. Then he got around to the seven of us, how we were the first generation to be born at Gaialands and how special that made us. ‘You alone are unique among men – and women, of course,’ he added.
‘You have grown up with an unrivaled spirit of freedom that we have instilled in you from birth. To grow up outside the constraints of conventional society, liberated from the shackles of the nuclear family, well’ – he paused for effect and looked at each of us in turn – ‘I don’t need to remind you how privileged that makes you.’
He was right that he didn’t need to remind us. We’d heard this speech so many times before that I sometimes fell asleep with his mantra ringing in my ears. We were privileged. The hope for the future! The chosen ones who would lead humanity into a New Age of enlightenment. The Age of Aquarius is nigh!
I didn’t tell Shakti that at this point in the meeting, I had glanced over at Lukas, and he had done something he never had before: he rolled his eyes at me and mimed a yawn. It wasn’t his reaction that surprised me – we were all bored to death – but the fact that he had directed it at me, and not his best friend, Timon, who sat next to him, and with whom he most often shared his asides. I had smiled back to let him know I agreed with him and then I felt warm all over, as though I had moved out of the shade.”
– Chapter 3, The Predictions
Here’s a video review for Bianca’s novel, The Girl Below. The review starts at the 25:50 mark:
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.