A reader gets into a lift with you. Describe TIPPING before they reach their floor.
AG: Tipping is a dark comedy set at a local school, when one mum reaches tipping point – thanks largely to her husband inadvertently locking her in the family car.
What real life events did you draw upon when writing the book?
AG: A very close friend of mine was locked in her family’s car, accidentally, by her husband. That hairy moment in her life became a funny story and then chapter one of Tipping. Other real events which inspired the book were scandals involving private boys’ schools in Melbourne. I read about these events as they unfolded. One of these concerned two boys who created an offensive Instagram account using photographs of girls in the local community. How the community around the boys and girls responded to what had happened online fascinated me. Some people were outraged on behalf of the girls, some were defensive of the boys. Some parents articulated their position online and were trolled for it. The two boys were ultimately expelled but not before the behaviour of some adults escalated. In another instance, a vice principal was fired for cutting a boy’s hair, as it failed to comply with the school’s uniform code. In this case, the community rallied behind the man and its activism led to a reprieve for him and he was given his job back; but the haircut revealed deeper issues at play at the school. Ultimately the relatively newer principal left.
Inspired by these events, I decided to use a sexting scandal as a springboard into a story about a mum who decides she’s had enough with the status quo – at home, at work and at her boys’ school. I also wanted to play with this idea of tipping points and see if I could create one, inspired by that vice principal and his ill-judged act.
You have researched behavioural design. How did you weave your findings into the story?
AG: I was very interested in how people’s behaviour can be changed by targeted tweaks to the environment in which people live, work and learn. How you don’t need to de-bias every person’s mind to create say gender equality. I loved learning about this and saw a very neat way to use this information in my story. I wove this material into the storyline about the school that my main characters’ children attend. Carmichael Grammar goes through a process of change thanks to key tweaks to its environment, teaching and even school day. I was inspired a lot by the work done at Harvard Business School to address its gender equality issues. At Harvard, they introduced a raft of changes of this nature. And those changes had a real effect.
What books have you been reading recently?
AG: I have just finished Humankind and Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman, which I enjoyed a lot. I’m currently reading Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski and The Mordbids by Ewa Ramsay.
What do you hope readers gain from having read TIPPING?
AG: I hope readers enjoy the light, playful tone of Tipping as well as being engaged by the ideas in it. Ideally, I’d love it if readers gained a fresh sense of what’s possible…
Tipping by Anna George is available in store and online now.