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becke_davis
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Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

[ Edited ]

This week's featured guest is debut author BIANCA ZANDER. I know she's doing a online book tour, but I'm not sure if she's actually in the U.S. for a book tour, too, or if she's going to be visiting from overseas. I'll have to check with her to see what time zone she's in this week!

 

 

Bianca's schedule is listed here - and, oh look, she's visiting WORDSMITHONIA, which is Ryan's blog!

 

http://tlcbooktours.com/2012/05/bianca-zander-author-of-the-girl-below-on-tour-junejuly-2012/

 

Bianca is on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/#!/biancazander

 

She's on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/BiancaZander

 

British-born Bianca Zander has lived in Auckland, New Zealand, for the past two decades. An established journalist, she has written for numerous publications, including The Listener, the Sunday Star-Times, and theDominion Post. She has produced radio shows and written for film and television, including writing the dramatic short film The Handover, which screened in competition at the Chicago Film Festival. Bianca holds an M.A. in creative writing from Victoria University, Wellington. The Girl Below is her first novel.

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

The Girl Below  

 

The Girl Below

 

Overview

Suki Piper is a stranger in her hometown. . . .

After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won't let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier.

 

But the more involved she becomes with Peggy's dysfunctional family, including Peggy's wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, whensomething happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . .

 

A breathtaking whirlwind of mystery, transgression, and self-discovery, Bianca Zander's The Girl Below is a haunting tale of secrets, human frailty, and dark memory that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new literary talent.

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Reading Guide

 

The Girl Below

 

The Girl Below By Bianca Zander


 

Questions for Discussion

 

1. In each chapter of The Girl Below we are transported back and forth between memories from Suki's past and the current events of her return to London. Why does this format suit Suki's story? How does it shape the way we understand her character? Did you change your opinion of her and her sometimes questionable choices as you learned more about her past?

 

2. Even as an adult Suki is terrified of Peggy's statue, Madeline. She nearly turns down the opportunity for housing and work that Pippa offers because she cannot bear to face this inanimate object. What explanation can you find for Suki's fear of this statue? Do her feelings toward Madeline change over the course of the story?

 

3. Suki is picked on at school and by family friends, but her mother brushes it off as teasing and insists she would have a thicker skin if she had grown up with siblings. How does being bullied shape Suki's character? How does it inform the way she relates to Caleb?

 

4. The initial incident in the bunker haunts Suki through adulthood, until she is able to somehow redeem the fateful events one strange night in Greece. What do you think happened in the bunker the day after the party? How does each family member's response to the episode reveal more about their character?

 

5. Although Suki lacks consistency in almost every area of her life, she faithfully writes in her journal every day. Is this writing helping Suki to process her life, or is it keeping her stuck in the past? Have you ever kept a journal? What types of memories do you write about most?

 

6. Hillary's locket has special significance. Though Suki breaks it as a young child, it repeatedly returns throughout the story in meaningful ways. When is it mentioned by Suki or other characters? What calls Suki's attention to it throughout the story?

 

7. Caleb seems to only trust Suki and lets his guard down in front of her alone. What do you think Caleb sees in Suki? Do you think he is always attracted to her, or do those feelings grow as the story progresses?

 

8. When Suki goes to stay with Peggy she is confronted by long-repressed guilt about not caring for her mother more during her battle with cancer. She tells us, "I felt disgusted by her, then ashamed of those feelings, then angry and frustrated at her for not being a normal, healthy mum. Round and round the feelings went, driving me from her bedside." Do you think Hillary understood Suki felt this way? Why do you think she kept the truth of how sick she was from Suki? Do you think it was liberating for Suki to not know as a teenager or did it only add to her guilt?

 

9. Suki returns to England to find virtually nothing of the life she had left behind ten years prior. What does London actually provide her upon her return? Have you ever arrived in a once familiar place only to find it completely changed? How did you respond?

 

10. Pippa takes a risk inviting Suki to watch over their home while they travel to Greece. She takes an even greater risk by asking her to care for Caleb. What does Pippa see in Suki that establishes such confidence in her? Would you have been able to take the same risks Pippa does?

 

11. Suki narrates the story of her life, but is often uncertain about the accuracy of some details. She doesn't seem certain about what happened in the bunker, what the presence is in the attic bedroom, or what exactly she found in Pippa's closet. Do you still trust her as a reliable narrator? What moments, if any, were you uncertain that Suki was telling readers the truth?

 

12. In Auckland, Suki starts to regularly meet with a therapist named Arthur. During one of their sessions he asks, "Have you always believed in things other people can't see?" From her fervent belief in Santa to the hand in the cupboard, Suki has certainly always been open to the supernatural. Have you ever experienced the inexplicable like Suki does? How do you respond when something strange occurs that seemingly has no reasonable or natural explanation?

 

13. What role does alcohol play in the lives of these characters? What are the different reasons the characters drink? Who do you think is in control and who do you think is struggling with a real problem?

 

14. Suki's childhood friend Alana ends their friendship after confronting Suki about her narcissistic tendencies. Do you read Suki's character in the same manner Alana does? Does Suki have a particular problem, or is her selfishness typical of a twenty-something trying to get her life in order?

 

15. At the close of the story Pippa and Suki share a freeing swim in the warm ocean water and join Pippa's family in a dance with the local townspeople. Drawn together by their mutual loss, Pippa and Suki seem to be starting a true friendship. But Suki now has a secret that must be "taken to the grave." How have the secrets kept in this story protected characters? How have they strained relationships? How do you judge when the truth is best kept a secret in your own life?

 

16. What does the title The Girl Below mean to you? At the close of the story Suki liberates someone from the bunker and believes this act has somehow freed her as well. Do you agree? Why do you think Suki needs to save the girl in order to move on?


 

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Please welcome BIANCA ZANDER!

 

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Ryan_G
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

I just finished this the other day,and I'm trying to digest it still.  Thanks for coming by the boards.

"I am half sick of shadows" The Lady of Shalott

http://wordsmithonia.blogspot.com
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ReadingPatti
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Hi, Bianca, Hope you have a great visit.

 

I like the title of your book. I must check it out.

 

ReadingPatti

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Hi Everyone - If Bianca is joining us from New Zealand, she'll be something like 13 hours ahead of us. (The mind boggles!) This will throw off the timing of her visit, so if you have questions for her, go ahead and post them now for her to answer later. Thanks!

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Hi everyone - Yes, Bianca IS joining us from New Zealand! I'll relay a message from her below.

 

FROM BIANCA ZANDER:

 

Thanks so much for the welcome - and for inviting me to take part in the mystery forum! 

Alas I am stuck in New Zealand so we'll have to work around the time difference.

Basically 4pm to 9pm EST is 8am to 1pm New Zealand time, so that's probably our best window. I can also answer questions overnight - while EST-ers are sleeping!

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eadieburke
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Welcome Bianca:

 

I finished reading THE GIRL BELOW the other day. I liked the book very much but feel as though I have a lot of unanswered questions. I have started to read through the book a second time but this time I am reading the chapters from the past and then will go back and read the chapters from the present next. The book is making more sense as I read through it the second time. I don't really want to ruin the book for those who have not read it yet but I would like to get some answers about the book.

 

SPOLER ALERT:

 

First of all, Suki is not a very likable person at times. She is very immature and narcissistic. I believe she was a victim of sexual abuse. I gathered that by the hints you gave about the hand coming out of the boiler closet undoing the back of her dress many times. But there seemed to be no room for a person in the boiler closet. So, was that real or did she imagined that? Was she also abused in the air-raid shelter the day after the party? Seems to be because she seemed to have blacked out, lost the locket, hurt her jaw, someone lost teeth which were on her strawberry dress when she finally got out of the shelter. I think she lost her childhood self because of the happenings in the air-raid shelter and needed to go back as an adult in order to release the childhood Suki so she could go on with the rest of her life.

 

She also had a very hard time being comfortable sexually through her adult life. Her little trist with Caleb is deplorable and really made me detest her. Maybe if I understood Suki better, I could understand her actions but try as I might, I can't seem to like her very much.

 

I have more questions but maybe you could start to give me some insight about if I am on the right track about Suki.

Eadie - A day out-of-doors, someone I loved to talk with, a good book and some simple food and music -- that would be rest. - Eleanor Roosevelt
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maxcat
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Hi, Bianca, welcome to the forum. Your book sounds interesting and I will check it out. Thanks for being here this week.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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dhaupt
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Hi Bianca and welcome to Mystery.

 

Wow a debut author, but i see you're definitely not new to writing, it sounds like your novel would appeal to more than just mystery buffs.

 

Thanks for the visit you're novel is going on my pile:smileyhappy:

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

I saw this on Twitter today: http://networkedblogs.com/yTFHx

 

Bianca Zander’s 5 Things I’d Tell the Teen Me

by LIZ

Our guest today: Bianca Zander

Why we love her: Not only does her debut novel rock, but the 5 things she’d tell her teen self are spot on!

Her latest: The Girl Below

The scoop on it: After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won’t let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier. But the more involved she becomes with Peggy’s dysfunctional family, including Peggy’s wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . .

Our thoughts: Want to dive into something a bit deeper at the pool this summer?  Then pick up Bianca’s engrossing novel.

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Leave a comment and we’ll choose a winner on Sunday June 34th after 6pm PST.

Fun Fact: Bianca is a Brit but has spent the last two decades in New Zealand!

CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS…BIANCA ZANDER’S 5 THINGS I’D TELL THE TEEN ME

1. Go easy on the war paint, especially foundation. Later on in life, you will spend a small fortune trying to get your skin to look half as good as it does now, and you will look at photos of yourself in badly applied orange gunk and wince. Instead wear sunscreen, drink water and don’t smoke. Sticking to this theme: the single most beautiful thing in the world is youth. At this point, it’s impossible to comprehend just how beautiful you are simply by virtue of being young, but one day you’ll wish that for even one second you had appreciated what you had, while you still had it.

2. In social situations, don’t waste time feeling embarrassed or self-conscious. Ninety nine percent of the time, people are too absorbed in their own dramas to pay even the slightest bit of attention to yours. Even if your dress is falling off, chances are no one has noticed, and if they have noticed, within seconds their attention will have switched back to its default focus: their own dress.

3. Don’t bother crushing on guys who aren’t interested in you. They will never be interested in you—and no amount of witty puns, sidelong glances or white-girl dance moves will change their minds. The same applies in reverse: if a guy IS interested in you, don’t dismiss him as a psycho until you know that he really is one.

4. What your mother says about guys being only interested in one thing is truer than you can imagine. This is confusing in relation to the last point because occasionally a guy who isn’t interested in you will go to great lengths to have sex with you, and if he does: run a mile. You won’t run a mile, you’ll be pathetically, cringingly grateful but after you have slept with him, he will get dressed in the blink of an eye and the fact that he’s not that into you will hit you like a freight train. Which brings me to point 4b: always use a condom.

5. Despite falling into all the above pitfalls, you will also eventually fall in love, and even though it seems utterly inconceivable, your first love will not be your last. Try to remember this when your first love cheats on you and then dumps you for a trashy-looking slut.

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Bianca - Is there any chance you'll be coming to the U.S. on a book tour? If you do later on, let us know - especially if you do any book signings at Barnes & Noble stores!

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Bianca-Zander
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!


Ryan_G wrote:

I just finished this the other day,and I'm trying to digest it still.  Thanks for coming by the boards.


Thanks for taking the time to read my book. I'm actually glad to hear that it's taking a while to digest - there's a lot going on in The Girl Below, and personally, I like a book that makes me think about it afterwards. I wanted it to be like a puzzle that takes a while to work out. Let me know if you solve it!

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Bianca-Zander
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Thanks ReadingPatti, I hope you enjoy it when you do check it out :smileyhappy:

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Bianca-Zander
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

I would love to come to the States for a book tour! I will hopefully make a visit later in the year - fingers & toes crossed.

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Hi Bianca - I'm glad you were able to sign in okay! An "author" tag should show up under your name the next time you sign in.

 

Congratulations on all the great reviews you're getting! Are you working on your next book now? If so, can you give us any hints as to what it's about?

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Bianca-Zander
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!


Hi Edie, I'm thrilled that you liked the book so much - and thanks for taking the time to come up with such interesting questions.
You're right that Suki is not very likeable at times, due to narcissism and immaturity, and that's one of the things I wanted to explore: how does a girl like this break out of the prison of her own self-absorption? If narcissism is her problem, how does she become aware of it enough to change? What she goes through is essentially a 'rite of passage', if you like, that's quite necessary for a lot of people that age to go through (I know it was for me!), even if she does it in a more dramatic way.
I'm sorry you detested Suki after the Caleb tryst! The whole point of the tryst is that this is probably the single worst judgment call of her life - a call so bad that it effectively snaps her out of the destructive relationship pattern she's been stuck in. Sometimes it takes a bomb...
As for solving the mysteries in the novel, you're on the right track with this:

"I think she lost her childhood self because of the happenings in the air-raid shelter and needed to go back as an adult in order to release the childhood Suki so she could go on with the rest of her life."

 

It really helps to consider the events of the novel as a modern-day myth or fairytale. Some of it only makes sense on a psychological level. Now, I know that sounds like a cop-out on my part, but believe me it isn't. I actually think there are certain truths about about the human psyche that can only be approached in a non-literal way. That's what makes myths and fairytales so enduring and powerful. So, try to think of what's happening to Suki as a manifestation of her inner struggle. A sequence of events does exist that 'solves' the puzzle, but I think it's more interesting to find your own way to them.

 

I hope that helps!

 

 

 

 

 

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!

Bianca - What was the hardest part of writing this book for you?

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Bianca-Zander
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Re: Please Welcome Author BIANCA ZANDER!


becke_davis wrote:

Hi Bianca - I'm glad you were able to sign in okay! An "author" tag should show up under your name the next time you sign in.

 

Congratulations on all the great reviews you're getting! Are you working on your next book now? If so, can you give us any hints as to what it's about?


It took me a while to sign in - thanks for the advice on how to fix glitches! - but here I am.

 

Yes, I am hard at work on my next book, which is called The Predictions. I don't want to say too much about it, other than it involves communes, rock stars and the idea of fate.