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Monday, 24 July 2023

Kelly Norman's Understanding Molly - Q&A

Kelly Norman is a woman of many titles. A mother, a high school librarian, and now a writer! She has been inspired by all these roles to produce her story Understanding Molly. Which introduces us to a young girl who experiences ADHD and ODD and how day-to-day life can be different, crazy, scary and hard. This book identifies the struggles but also highlights the good and what families and friends can do to help. Come with us as we interview author Kelly Norman and learn more about this chapter in her life.

Q: What inspired you to create a novel about a child with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder)?

 A: I began writing the novel as an exercise in self-care and mindfulness. Having five children at home, two of whom have either ADHD or ADHD/ODD, I have lost count of how many nights I have gone to bed feeling nothing but defeat and frustration.

Parenting is hard at the best of times; but parenting both neurotypical and neurodivergent children, together, under one roof, felt impossible.

It seemed as though the harder I tried to keep everything under control, the more chaotic life became. I kept asking myself the same questions, over and over. “What was I missing?”, “What am I doing wrong?”, “Why won’t my children listen to reason?”

After a particularly difficult day, I sat down at my kitchen table and decided that I would try to step into the shoes of an ADHD/ODD child. Afterall, how can I possibly expect my children to see things from my point of view, when I wasn’t willing to give them the same consideration?

Such a simple form of empathy has changed not only the way I parent each of my children individually, but also the way that I view the world.

Q: Was it a challenge finding the authentic voice of 11-year-old Molly and her peers, and did you have any tricks to tap into that age mindset when writing?

A: Yes and no. I was very mindful not to base the character of ‘Molly’ on my own children or any situations that had actually occurred under my roof. I needed her to carry her own voice, her own feelings and of course, her own personality. The way in which ‘she’ would react to circumstances became so fluid within my imagination, that the story almost wrote itself. I could see things from her point of view, and I could empathise with how she was feeling. I felt it too.

I would often reach a peak moment within the story and close my eyes. I would take a moment to put myself into ‘Molly’s’ position and write accordingly. Everything fell into place once I was immersed in her mind-set.

Q: When reading Understanding Molly, we see some chapters written from different characters' perspectives in Molly’s life. Why was it important to you to show these POVs and not just Molly’s?

A: I felt compelled to not only share with the reader Molly’s point of view, but also the perspective of those around her. ADHD and ODD has a broad reach; not only does it impact those who live with the condition, but also those around them. As such, it was my intention that whoever picked up the book would find a meaningful connection with at least one character, but also be able to empathise with the rest.

Q: What is the biggest takeaway you hope young readers will remember and learn from your novel?

A: I believe that it is so important for young people to understand that every person they meet is worthy of acceptance and understanding. Although we might struggle to comprehend people’s actions or begin to rationalise why they react the way they do, it is imperative that we practice empathy. By taking a moment to look at a situation from a different perspective other than our own, the way in which we view the world begins to change. That conflict driven game of tug-o-war that we are each trying to conquer becomes less important and can pave the way to a peaceful resolution.

Q: Having the opportunity and experience of working in school libraries, do you believe this made it more difficult or easier to write a book aimed at children?

A: In some ways, easier. Children are so diverse in the books they choose to read. They want to either be taken away on an adventure, or they want to read something they can relate to. Something that lights a spark within them.

With the right combination of humour, guidance and connection to story, books have a wonderful way of positively influencing young minds. All it takes is that one novel to turn a reluctant reader into an avid booklover. Helping children discover a love of reading is perhaps the best part of my profession. If my book can spark that wondrous light in at least one child out there, then my job, as a writer, is indeed done.

Q: After finalising this novel and knowing about these particular disorders in young people do you have any advice for teachers, librarians and parents who might find themselves in need? 

A: Be kind to yourself.

There are countless days when I struggle to get by. I think we all do. The unpredictability, the anxiety, the tendency to “make it up as we go along”, is always there in the background, and it’s both mentally and physically exhausting.

Throughout the years I’ve lost count of how many times my husband and I have been advised to, “just ignore it”, or “don’t let it land”, but we are human, and it hurts.

I have never pretended to have all the answers, oh, how I wish I did, but the one thing I have learnt is the importance of self-care and empathy.

If you think this is hard for you, take a moment to imagine how hard it is for these children. They don’t have the ability, or the coping skills, that we have gathered throughout our journey. As such, it is up to us, as the adults in their lives, to help them pave their own path and teach them self-love and acceptance.

Reach out. Seek professional help. Forgive yourself during your most difficult days and celebrate the little wins.

I know it might feel as though no-one understands what you are feeling, but I do. I really do.

Click Here to Buy Understanding Molly now!

Monday, 22 May 2023

Dianne Griffin’s From Cornwall to Moonta – Q&A


With the steady hand of ones family's history, in-depth research and invaluable experiences to guide her please read along as we interviewed author Dianne Griffin for a behind the scenes look of her new book From Cornwall to Moonta and more!

Q: How did you mediate between fact and faction in the process of producing From Cornwall to Moonta from your family history? 


A: I depended a lot on research. Over a 15-year period I interviewed all family members, especially old aunts and uncles who actually knew the central characters Ben and Emma—asking for their stories. I quoted many tales from my grandparents’ book, History of Agery. I searched thousands of old newspapers, acquired hundreds of books on the subjects of emigration, early South Australia, and books such as Life and Death in the Age of Sail. From the information I had, and some psychological profiling, I began to compose their personalities.

Example: William Trethowan emigrated first, and, looking at his choices, I deduced he was the more adventurous of the two men. Ben was more cautious. Ben’s wife was a bit like her brother, hyperactive.

I stayed as true to events as I could. There were a lot of stories that were true. And once my characters had been through one event, it was easier to follow on. I acquired British weather records to understand the extremely wet weather of the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s. And I have a book of calendars that shows the full moons. Full moons upset some people, and yet it is great for a night out in the 19th century when there were no lights. People scheduled events for the full moon. I travelled to Cornwall several times and visited the relevant addresses.  I spoke to local historians and cousins of Emma and Ben’s. I researched every inch of Helston where Emma worked as a servant. And I walked in their footsteps when we took the train from Falmouth to Plymouth.

Q: What was the most fascinating thing about British, Australian or your own personal history that you discovered in the years researching this project?

A: Hundreds of enthralling facts come to mind. It is one of the reasons I wrote the book. These fascinating insights could not be lost to time. 

E.G. Wakefield’s plan for South Australia was called A Cure for Pauperism. And the paupers weren’t treated exactly as promised. Wakefield wrote in his book, Letters from Sydney, (although he never was in Sydney), that land prices were to be kept high enough (one to two pounds an acre) to stop labourers from buying land immediately. Land in NSW was 5 shillings an acre. Ben and Emma’s rail journey through the glorious Cornish countryside from Falmouth to Plymouth, peppered with over 40 of Brunel’s fabulous tall wooden lacy viaducts (we made the journey for research purposes). Migrants staffed the ship throughout the journey. Some of the passengers (labourers) were even conferred Constable status for the journey. 

On a more personal level, I realised how differently each of us views our siblings, parents and grandparents, uncles, and aunts.

Example: my two old grandfathers were pleasant—fun to me as a child. A pat on the head, a few sweets. But don’t ask their children. That is a whole different story. Almost unbelievable. It helped me a lot, to understand their backgrounds.

Q: How did your experience working as a nurse assist you in understanding the health issues faced by migrants to Australia in the 19th century? 

A: Being a nurse is understanding medicine, and how it affects our patients. Probably most important is knowing about cross-infection. Even in the 2020s, non-medical staff still don’t know the simple basics of antisepsis, and how to prevent cross infection.

In the previous centuries, patients, especially women, were not listened to by most of their doctors. I could feel their frustration, their sense of inadequacy and the crushing self-blame, when their families, children suffered and or died.

Q: Regarding the legacy your grandparents and great-grandparents left behind mentioned in From Cornwall to Moonta, the kind of people they were, the life they lived, and the struggles they faced — what are you most proud of?

A: With both my great-grandparents and my grandparents, who were never wealthy, I am most proud of their generosity, particularly their anonymous donations to the poor. Even with their large families, during the great Depression they gave work and food to countless, homeless, jobless men. My aunt complained that she and her sister had no money, and that they paid rent for living at home. “Yet Dad gives money away” she cried. But even my aunt and her sister gave free music lessons to their anxious poorer students. And my grandfather succeeded as a responsible farmer, giving countless years to the committees of the district—schools, church, councils and organisations such as the Wheat and Barley Board.

Q: Having experienced re-immigration to both England and Australia in your own life, what were the biggest challenges you overcame? 

A: Saying goodbye, even when not forever, hurts. And on arrival not having your friends to help you through. Finding our way around in strange places. In Ireland I took my baby to the supermarket in a large pram. It was heavy work, a few hills. As soon as I arrived there was a terrifying announcement, someone had phoned to say there was a bomb in the store. Imagine the chaos as people exited the building! 

When we emigrated to Australia, it was much more relaxed for a while. Then there were the shopkeepers etc., who turned away from our strong accents and served Aussie speakers first. I was incensed. And we were endlessly plied with Irish jokes. The Australians just didn’t see they were basically saying we were stupid. My children were so upset, that I searched around for an “Australian” joke.  They didn’t so much as use it out loud, but it helped, until they made friends.

Q: Will readers who enjoy From Cornwall to Moonta be seeing more from you in future creative writing projects? 

A: Yes. I have begun to write about the next generation, (my mother) and the next, which is my story. As a nurse to the rich and famous I was flown to the Bahamas and also flew a patient who was in status epilepticus, from Adelaide to Greece. I travelled on the Orient Express, having booked for the wrong night. We followed an Easter procession in Italy of a bleeding Christ figure, hoisted on strong shoulders, and shared painted hard-boiled eggs with strangers in Greece. And then there was the search for my father’s story. And my own lifelong journey, silencing the critical little voice in my head.

Click here to Buy a copy of From Cornwall to Moonta now!

Monday, 15 May 2023

Fred Madryga’s A Pathway to an Ending – Q&A


Author Fred Madryga, a man of many stories with a wealth of different careers to his name, shares with us these and more enlivening experiences in his new book A Pathway to an Ending. In this interview today you will hear extras from our author's life, ideas around certain messages and the fortifying experiences and memories gathered along the way which lead to his book's creation.

Q: In all the things you have achieved in your life: career, activities, or something else, what have you regarded as the most challenging but most rewarding?  
A: There have been achievements and challenges, and some people do seem to have concentrated on a central aspect in their lives. In fact, in the extreme, they may even be definable by that fact. We have our billionaires–it used to be millionaires–and supreme athletes, brilliant scholars, and even great travellers. But most of us do not reach such pinnacles in our lives, and I am one of those. Reaching such heights, takes enormous talent, dedication and, I suspect, something beyond just good genetics, though that does count.  
    My view is not intended to put me, or anyone else with a different pattern of life down, or to suggest that we are lesser. In my private heart, I am suspicious of the idea of greater or lesser. The divine right of kings, and queens I suppose, and the things that they did, were my first clue in studying the issue. It isn’t that I don’t believe in excellence, you will find it in such places, but you will find a human being, too. No, those of us with different life patterns have our moments and our lives can be meaningful. They just aren’t popular in the moment of time that we exist.  
    My view of my own life began during the egocentric period we all experience while passing through early puberty. Up until that time, I see myself as having things happen to me. Oh, I was engaging in a lot of rudimentary thoughts, but it was during early adolescence that I realized I would not be a Bob Cousy. He was five foot ten and probably the only guy of that height to play in the NBA. I was five foot eight. In the end, I found that I would not be a professional athlete, and certainly not a professional basketball player. Indeed, I would have to play sports for the intrinsic value of playing. So, I tried quite a few sports and became good at some of them. A competitive spirit remained, but that, and how to deal with it, is another story. A corollary to my thinking about sports was finding out that one had to search for where one fit and what one was good at. The realization developed an interest in developing myself. And I have been interested in doing so ever since. 
    Developing oneself as a human being is not a simple process. One has to go beyond egocentrism and include other people in it for one thing. There were also a lot of interesting problems that emerged along the way, and some were very challenging. A few that were especially tough for me were learning to think for myself, learning to build on strengths as well as correct errors, learning not to need approval from others too much, learning not to be too defensive, and learning to remain open to others and their ideas. When I am at my strongest, I can satisfy those requirements, and I am happiest as a human being. That has been my greatest challenge and my best reward. 
Q: What was the process leading up to your decision to write A Pathway to an Ending and what helped you make it a reality? 
A: There were decisions along the way, but writing Pathway does not seem like a decision. In fact, as I have said to others, it was a bit like Kurt Russell stumbling through the movie Big Trouble in Little China. Like him, I kept bumping into things that I did not see coming, and I did not know that I was writing a book until very late in the game.   
    One day I found a story that I had written about 35 years before buried in my papers. Its title was “The Change.” As I recall, I gave it to David Reiter to read back then, and, after reading it, he said something like; “Hmmm you’re a poet.” My wife and I liked to read to each other. So, I read the story to her, and she liked it. After hearing her comments, I went on to edit it. She read it out loud to me, and I followed up by writing another story. We repeated the process with that story and all the ones that followed.  
    Somewhere along the way, friends began reading the stories. They liked them and suggested that I publish them. I was shy about the idea, but I eventually sought out someone to help us with editing them. Publishing a book was now a vague thought in my mind. More time passed and some pressure came on me from talking about what I was doing with my friends. There were now 16 or 17 stories and they covered much of my lifespan. It took a while, but, at some point, I came to think they might be a memoir. I now accepted that I was preparing a book. As you can see, I wasn’t burning up the decision-making process at any point. 
    As your question implies there were many things that helped make the book a reality. Reading out loud with my partner and hearing her comments helped a great deal. I am grateful that we still do it. Another thing that helped seems so darned simple that it feels like one should not have to mention it. I continued writing each day whether it was easy to do or difficult. The best time for me was early in the morning. Life situations could intervene, but I came back every time. Writers must write. It seems so simple and yet it can be so hard to do.  
    There were many other things that helped me along the way. Having friends read and comment was a good idea. The only thing I didn’t do to get someone to read my stories was walk down the street and grab them by the arm. And that was only because I didn’t think of it. Hiring an advanced student to comment and do a preliminary edit of the stories helped, too. The person I chose was very concerned about preserving my voice, which I found encouraging and instructive. I believe this to be a primary requirement for someone reading your work. Buying a good editing program helped, though it was not a substitute for the other things. 
    The next stage involved approaching publishing companies for their initial comments about the book. Eventually, David and IP introduced help at an advanced professional level. He, and his assistants, did the final edit and formatted and published the book.  
    Another huge step came from Sibell Hackney who created the cover and spine designs. She and her partner Stephen Burles read many of the stories, and she created three designs on the basis of them. Stephen helped all three of us decide what the final design would be. Sibell carried the design forward, while Stephen wrote the author’s description. They both did a beautiful job and took the pressure right off me. Of course, David was in the background assessing the product and providing information so that the designs would fit the publication formatting. He and I both edited the final product. Sometimes it feels like everyone else did more to create the book than I did, and I am truly grateful for their efforts. 
Q: Is there a chapter of yours that you like the most and can you expand on why? 
A: I do not have a favourite. I like something about all of them. Some were harder to write than others. “Jonesy’s Gyppo” was the toughest to write from a technical point of view.

    Some readers I have talked to still find the details concerning logging hard to follow. I really tried to make sure this would not happen. Maybe next time. 
    The story that was the most fun to write was “Rex.” Though I still feel sad when I recall looking at him in that boat at the end. On some days, I feel that “Feeding Time in Camp” was as much fun to write as “Rex” was. The story does have the presence of good memories for me about the cook and pearl diver. The further I get away from writing about meeting the bear, the funnier the story feels. In reality, the event wasn’t all that funny at the time it was happening. 
    The most difficult stories to write on a personal dimension were the “Offender Learning Curve” and “Ending.” The dead goose experience in “Ending” still makes me cry. And artist Emily Carr’s passage still causes tears, though for a different reason. Geese calling as they fly over is still a bittersweet sound. I am glad that I wrote all of it. “The Dog Ran” and “The Raptor Came Back” were difficult to write, but very personally satisfying. They were originally one story, and I split them up. I’m still not quite sure that it was the right thing to do.  
    Thank you for asking the question Emma-Clare, there are few things I like more than talking about my stories. 
Q: There is a large amount of emphasis on the environment, land, and country in your book. How would you describe its role and importance in whom you became and the life you lived? 
A: You are right, Emma-Clare, country plays a large part in my life. Sometimes it surprises me how central and important nature is to me. This seems especially true when considering how many years I spent growing up and being educated in big cities. I did start in a one-room school in Yale, British Columbia at 5 years of age with eight grades and a wood heater in the same room. And my early experiences and moving in and out of the country to work, learn, and hunt and fish over the years have kept the country in me. One set of my grandparents was in the country. And that is where my parents moved to upon retiring and living out the last part of their lives. Up until then, they always visited it in one way or another. Then, when my partner and I retired about twenty years ago, we moved back to the country much as my parents had. She told me that she found a home when we moved here. It was a simple truth and may not be surprising for a person who was bombed out as a child during WWII and saw her first sunrise at 15 years of age. But how she felt surprised and pleased me. Early experiences are important in one’s life and they can be hard to overcome if one needs to. 
    Nature can be a hard teacher. She is amoral, and if she decides to drop a rock on you there will be no emotion while she is doing so. If we destroy our world and ourselves, she will continue while hardly missing us. So, I guess that is where my faith is – in nature. It doesn’t matter to me whether a god created nature or a mysterious single cell that physicists haven’t described yet. For me, she sets the order, and she will have the last word. Or the last laugh. It depends on how I am feeling at the time I am thinking about the issue. Nature will always exist and will always be larger than us. What would we have to do to prove this to be wrong? Destroy her? We would destroy ourselves and everything else. 
    I feel humble in the face of nature. The feeling of humility came while looking at the sky at night from the roof of our two-story house with my brother, and realizing how small we were in comparison to what is out there. How small our world truly is. I respect mother nature’s ability to throw rocks, too, it tempers the humility a bit as I duck. Yes, nature is female, in case you balked at my using the term. Sexual dimorphism is very, very old. And, to me, nature is a female mother and surrounds us all.  
Q: As you explore the ideas of an ending, a close to a final chapter, what takeaway message about this theme did you intend to give readers, and has that changed your outlook since you finished the book? 
A: Hmmm…takeaway message, kind of sounds like going to a drive-in restaurant, Emma-Clare.  
    Oddly enough, I wasn’t thinking very much about what the reader would take away from the end, other than what my experience was. “Ending” was the only valid finish to the book that I could think of, and writing it took much of my concentration. I did hope that a reader might use the fact that their life would end to temper their judgments in some ways and to appreciate the beauty in life more. I also hoped they would prepare themselves for it.  
    I don’t believe my outlook has changed all that much since writing the ending. One thing that has happened, is that I have returned to the medieval idea of instruction manuals for dying properly. I was aware that such were written in the West from a Christian point of view during those times. The idea concerning denial of death in the West described by various authors made me assume such writing had died out. Writing the ending in my book led me to Google the topic. It looks like there are such books being written in the present day. It is an area that I might explore further if I get the time, and change could come from it. 
    I have tried to prepare for death with mixed success. I believe that things go dark after dying, and one won’t be conscious, thinking or feeling after it happens. That is what being knocked out has been like, though the experience can have some interesting precursors. A general anaesthetic does the same thing. 
    The last time I had that experience, I told the nurses around me that I loved them because they help people. Then I said “goodnight” and got up to a count of 4 or so. There was nothing after that. I’m pretty sure that pain ends and is a blessing for many. And I am saddened by the loss of beauty that I experience while I am alive. I don’t believe that I will miss the pain.  
Q: And lastly, if you could navigate and experience the world as an animal for a day, what animal would you choose and why? 
A: I would choose a large bird of some kind; a Heron, or a big Raptor, something that could take me long distances at a decent elevation. The bird would fly north to see if the man and his dog were still around and whether there were any bones in the snow blowing over the rocks on the divide. The bird would be prepared to avoid a fight with the man. Such preparation would be necessary because it would be meeting a raptor. Such creatures can be aggressive, and I am not sure how the man’s transformation would affect his self-control. It would be enough to see the dog running free below me. No danger there. There would not be the time in a single day to do much more. If I was allowed by the creator, I would take my partner and a few friends with me on the trip. 

Click here to buy A Pathway to an Ending now!


Interview by
Emma-Clare Daly
Editorial/ Promotions Consultant, IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

Monday, 17 April 2023

Anne Vines' The Ship Wife - Q&A

Discover a journey through history and storytelling today as we interviewed author Anne Vines about her gripping tale of endurance, survival, overcoming and more in her book The Ship Wife. Inspired by the true story of Elizabeth Rafferty an Irish convict sent to Australia in 1797. 


Q: What initially drew you to find Elizabeth Rafferty and to discover her life story?

A: Years ago, I read about the notorious convict ship the Britannia, which brought Elizabeth to Australia. Then I met an enthusiastic family historian, who had researched her family and was struck by Elizabeth’s story. So, I heard a snapshot of Elizabeth’s life and a mention of the sea captains she encountered and lived with. 

Initially, I had no intention of writing about Elizabeth, even when the family historian insisted that it would make a great novel and she would love me to write the story. I only write from the imagination, I declared, and not about real historical people. But the story stayed in my mind. I could not help looking more closely into the women on the ship, Britannia. Elizabeth was the captain’s ship wife – the woman he kept in his cabin for the voyage. He was the notoriously cruel Captain Dennett. Yet he set Elizabeth up with money, for life. How had she managed that? 

What was it like for her and the other women convicts on the ship? I had studied the period at university but had never looked closely at the women who were the property of the officers and sailors on the convict ships. I was a little reluctant to imagine it; I had never wanted to get under the skin of a sex slave, but Elizabeth’s case made me more curious. Was she someone not only to pity but to admire? 

Elizabeth and her fellow convicts on the voyage were Irish. With some Irish background myself, I had instant sympathy and curiosity. My university study of the convict era had been mainly from British sources. How much was the sudden transportation of Irish convicts to New South Wales the result of an Irish crime wave and how much was it political – a method of clearing out the poorer classes or the more rebellious folk?  

Captain Dennett killed six convicts on the Britannia by flogging – he ordered 800 lashes for one man. Governor Hunter in Sydney summoned Dennett to a special court hearing upon his arrival. The English government changed the supervision of convict ships from then on. The story had wide relevance. How did Elizabeth keep her relationship with the captain despite that? How did she get on in Sydney, as the de facto of an infamous captain?  

Then I took note of the other two sea captains she was involved with – a whaler and a respectable anti-slaver. Oddly, their lives had parallels with hers. And I found that her daughter married a slave trader – the only one who was transported to New South Wales. He was a singular case, and books had been written about him, but not a novel. Though my focus would stay on Elizabeth, these other three characters gave heft and intrigue to the story. I decided that it would be foolish not to turn this strange tale into a novel.

Q: Were there many aspects of history or of Elizabeth’s story that you were surprised to uncover?

A: Although I knew that most Irish records had been destroyed in 1922, I was still surprised that so much of Elizabeth’s life is undocumented and impossible to verify. Even her crime is unknown. Historians have suggested that it was sedition. I was intrigued by the history of the Defenders and similar rebel and protest movements in Ireland at that time. Most of the convicts on Elizabeth’s ship were part of the Defender protest movement.

I was also surprised to learn how long Irish convicts stayed in gaol before they were transported, and that women and men were in prison together in Ireland at that time. Elizabeth must have struggled with hunger and privation and probably ill-treatment. 

The fear of mutiny on ships was something I had never thought about. Captain Dennett’s paranoia about a mutiny on the Britannia and his manic severity once he suspected it were extreme, but mutinies were a problem. Ship life for sailors, let alone convicts, exemplified the vast inequalities of that time.

I was stunned to read the will of Captain Dennett in which he makes a bequest to Elizabeth. He declared himself the father of her child and then he left Sydney the day after the child was born. It was more so exciting to find documentation of Elizabeth’s property, of her children, and of her travels overseas from New South Wales. There were many details of her later relationships which were extraordinary to me.

Although I was aware of slavery in general, I had not known that a slaver had been transported to New South Wales or that he had been swiftly pardoned in England and then had become a respectable squatter in Tasmania. 

Q: How do you expect contemporary readers will react to the position that women like Elizabeth found themselves in when relating to men on the voyage to Australia and after resettlement? 

A: I can’t expect a particular reaction, but I hope that readers will have sympathy for Elizabeth and her fellow female convicts. Today, we have more understanding of the position of sex slaves and sex workers. The history books of the past were often silent about the mistreatment of convict women by men, whether fellow convicts or authorities, and sometimes condemned the women as immoral and uncivilised. Recent books have shown more understanding of reasons for the women’s behaviour and their lack of resources and opportunities. 

Currently, journalists and survivors of sexual abuse have shone light on the abuse of the powerless by those in power. It is a problem that people are facing and trying to alleviate worldwide. The experiences of Elizabeth and the women she knew are not locked in a distant past but resonate today. 

I hope that readers will appreciate the success that Elizabeth achieved in New South Wales despite the power imbalance between men and women and the prejudice against convict women.

Q: How did you go about negotiating a balance between historical facts and your novel The Ship Wife?

A: The gaps in Elizabeth’s story are huge. There was plenty of room for a novelist’s imagination and craft.

In the creation of Elizabeth’s character, personality, and circumstances, I have remained true to the historical record, but have made decisions about her background and her motivation. I have attempted to recreate the settings in the novel with accurate detail. After 1822, Elizabeth disappears from the records, but I enjoyed imagining a middle age and an old-age version of her. I think such a character deserves a full life story.

My focus was on Elizabeth, so although there might be other interpretations of aspects of the stories of minor characters, I looked at their lives from her perspective.

Q: How does this project represent a development of your creative practice compared to your previous publications, and what aspects are you proudest of?

A: Although I have written and published short stories based on my life experiences, this is the first time that I have written a novel about real characters and used real people as my protagonist – and antagonists. The research I did needed to be more specific and detailed. Instead of a character coming to me, I began searching for Elizabeth: for this novel, unlike my others, I did not begin by hearing a character reveal herself in my mind, I had to find evidence, fill in the gaps, and develop historical knowledge to understand what sort of person she might have been and what her life was like. I had to make her into a character. The creative process was more conscious and deliberate. I blended the research and the imagining to a much greater extent than usual. I waited until she became as real to me as my other imagined characters are. Once that happened, I could write with full force. I am glad that I created a positive and rounded character and one that, although true to the historical period, has many resonances with our times. I am happy that I have made a living woman out of only a few documentary clues. 

I enjoyed the challenge of blending what I imagined of Elizabeth’s story with the actual history of the time.