Ghost Bird is an exceptional YA debut by Wuilli Wuilli woman, Lisa Fuller. It explores the relationship between Stacey and her very different twin Laney, who disappears. Stacey seems to share some of Laney’s experiences through nightmares and she resolves to find her despite times of deeply unnerving danger.
Thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords, Lisa.
Thanks for having me 😊
How did Ghost Bird reach the attention of your publisher, University of Queensland Press?
This manuscript won the David Unaipon in 2017 (it was called Mirrored Pieces back then), so it automatically went to UQP, luckily for me.
What is your experience of the literary scene in Queensland and the ACT?
I’m a Queenslander originally, but I’ve been in Canberra since 2006. I really love it here, especially the writing scene. There are plenty of active groups for nearly every genre. I’m a member of Us Mob Writing, the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and the ACT Writers Centre, and I’m doing my PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Canberra. There are a lot of people I can go to for honest feedback and support.
What genre is Ghost Bird? Psychological mystery thriller or something else?
That’s so hard! I like the YA classification because I feel like it’s been accepting of my mish-mash of genres. I’m a total specfic and romance geek but it’s also got elements of history, mystery, thriller, all the things I love. Can I call it a Murri Mash-up?
How are Stacey and Laney “mirror twins”?
Mirror twins are rare. They’re also called mirror-image twins, because standing face-to-face it’s like they’re looking into a mirror. For example, one will be right-handed, the other left-handed; if one has a birth mark on their left cheek, the other will have it on their right. That type of thing.
How did you differentiate between their voices?
I thought I was being so original with their voices. But my family says I’ve essentially recreated my eldest sister and myself. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but we are very different, just like Tace and Laney. I guess ‘write what you know’ is a truism for a reason. And luckily my sister thinks it’s hilarious. I’ll leave you to guess who’s who.
Stacey has a special place where she goes to be alone. Do you do this as well and, if so, where do you go?
I need my space sometimes, mostly I escape into books. I’ve been lucky enough to run away to Varuna a few times. I love that place! There’s a lot of great things about having a large, loud, involved family and community, but as a quieter person I need my alone time too.
You describe the settings in the novel viscerally and memorably. Which place that you have described has left the most impact on you?
All of it. It’s my home, my country. It’s in my blood and a big part of who I am. It’s strange because as a teenager I was bored by it and took it for granted, but now I miss it so much sometimes it’s visceral.
How have you incorporated Aboriginal culture into the story?
It’s all the way through it, the worldview, the community, everything. I wanted it to be a book my nieces, nephews and cousins could pick up and recognise themselves in. I was very careful with the spiritual stuff, and I consulted with six of my aunties during the writing process to make sure I was being respectful.
The girls’ Nan has died but what impact does she continue to have?
My mob believe when someone passes that they come back to visit. We lose them in a real sense, but in another way, they are never far away. Also, grandparents have a huge role in children’s lives, so she would have been a second mum for both girls. Just like any parent, her legacy lives on.
What do you want your readers to understand about racism?
I don’t think I had any big things to say about it. This is what I grew up dealing with, and it’s still happening today. I more so wanted to tell something that was true to life. I can see how it might be shocking for others though.
You use symbols with care in Ghost Bird. Could you tell us about one or more of these?
If you mean the ghost bird, then this is something we absolutely believe to be real. I’ve been known to run away from tawny frog mouths, and most Murris I know avoid them like the plague lol.
Which of your secondary characters would you like to write about further?
Rhi was a complete surprise – she forced her way into the story and I’m so glad she did. I’ve been toying with an idea for a sequel with all the characters, but I’m not sure how it would work yet.
Who are some Australian authors you admire?
There are too many to write them all: Melissa Lucashenko, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Isobelle Carmody, Tony Birch, Anita Heiss, Claire Coleman, Anthony Eaton, Victor Kelleher, Lili Wilkinson, Oodgeroo Noonuccal… too many!
What are you writing now or next?
I’m working with black&write! on a middle grade fiction called Washpool, that follows my two eldest nieces into a whole new world. I’m also writing a novel for my PhD that plays with second person narrative and is set around a mystery on a university campus. And I’ve got a children’s book contracted to Magabala that’s about living far away from the people you love.
Thanks very much for your responses, Lisa, and all the very best with Ghost Bird.
Thanks Joy, I had fun!