I’ve been bouncing in my chair like an impatient toddler waiting for the release of Australian author Charlotte McConaghy’s US debut, Migrations (Flatiron, Aug 2020.) In addition to being an immersive, satisfying read, Migrations offers a case study in setting, pacing, and character development.
Migrations follows the emotional journey of a young woman named Franny who hitches a ride on one of the world’s last fishing vessels to track the final migration of the Arctic tern before the bird goes extinct like most other animals on this future Earth. McConaghy doles out clues to Franny’s past at a brilliant and well-controlled pace that kept me rapt until the last page. She even gifted me with a measure of hope for our shared future on this planet.
Julie Carrick Dalton: Charlotte, welcome to The Writer Unboxed, and congratulations on the launch of Migrations. Your opening lines took my breath away. “The animals are dying. Soon we will be alone.” I found myself weeping at several passages, mourning creatures we have not yet lost. What emotion do you hope to evoke by matter-of-factly dropping readers into such a stark—yet likely—future?
Charlotte McConaghy: I’m so sorry for making you cry! While it wasn’t my intention to depress readers, I do think it’s necessary to confront this potential reality or else we have no chance of avoiding it. It’s too easy to bury our heads in the sand and pretend none of this is happening, and I wanted to maybe startle readers out of this complacency. I think by facing the truth of this environmental crisis, and looking at what it will feel like to lose our animals, we can accept that things need to change, and that we need to be the ones to change them.
JCD: In Migrations, your main character Franny is chasing Arctic terns on their final migration before facing extinction. What about this specific bird captured your imagination?
CM: When I learned that the Arctic tern was the bird with the longest migration of any animal – from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again within a year – I fell in love with it. In their lifespans, they will fly the equivalent distance of to the moon and back three times, and that feat blew me away, especially given that each year the journey for them becomes harder due to human impact on the environment. So the terns became a metaphor for courage, the courage Franny would need to undertake her journey, and the courage we will need in order to face this catastrophe. [Read more…]