April 23... long time no blog. Too many distractions. Need to check my domain is up to date.
'I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say', said Flannery O'Connor. Seems like a good quotation to begin a blog. I think.
Writing becomes a habit of mind: whole conversations rehearse themselves inside a person's head... relating closely, or not at all to what's actually said. In that sense, reading is like writing... except that some total stranger is speaking the other part.
So... I read what someone else says to recognize what I've thought but not managed to say... or for the thrill of the unimagined yet. Mindscapes...
January 25 2017
This is the eve of the day Australians are called to celebrate who they are. And if you measure who you are by what you've done... not the best date to celebrate, any more than a bloody battle over
sovereignty at the River Boyne in 1690 is much to celebrate....
The year is stirring... time to stop reading... as I have been, constantly, over the holidays... and run into
writing again... I have actually been revising what I persist in calling poems.... sometimes writing is also
about feeling what you think.
HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALASIA
Trained it down to Melbourne to be one of the HNSA'S 'meet the author' panel in
Melbourne's Mail Exchange Hotel: an opportunity to share views and clues about historical fiction.
Q & A
The immediate inspiration for LIVING LIKE A KELLY was, quite simply, an old woman’s face. In the historic courthouse building in Beechworth, there is a photograph of Ellen Kelly with two of her grandchildren. Looking into those deepset eyes in their nest of wrinkles and imagining how much they had seen… that was the moment I knew I’d write her story. I have been fascinated by myths and mythmaking all my life and there would be no Ned Kelly myth without his mother.
2. The novel formed the creative component of a PHD in Creative Writing, illustrating its critical thesis,
SUCH IS LIFE: MYTH AND MEANING. My enquiry was into the subjective nature of mythmaking and how
stories made through individual memory and imagination might become the myths of a whole society. I was also interested in adding a woman’s voice to a predominantly male narrative.
3. As a migrant to Australia, I am particularly interested in the colonial experience: how you cope when
everything you’ve taken for granted all your life no longer applies, how you adapt or don’t adapt,
how you create a new tradition.
4. My primary resources were books: historical documents such as those available in the State library,
secondary sources such as the books arguing for or against Kelly as well as histories of the period: the
outstanding one being Ian Jones’ NED KELLY: A SHORT LIFE. I was also lucky enough to have
Ian Jones’s personal advice and support; with him, I have explored the various Kelly sites in and around
5. This is a difficult distinction. The definition of historical authenticity contrasts historical actuality with
historical myth or fiction. Yet does not thE myth become real as people believe in it and act
accordingly? Whose fact is accepted as the fact of the matter, and how do we go back to check?
Suffice it to say that I think the historical novelist has a responsibility to stay true to the facts in so far
as they are known… and where they are not known, to imagine within the bounds of historical
6. My favourite character in LIVING LIKE A KELLY would have to be Ellen herself. After that photographic
encounter, I discovered a headstrong, horse mad little girl from the North of Ireland…very much like
myself. On the other side of the world, she grew into a woman of courage and
resourcefulness, who may have loved not wisely but too well... but who didn’t give in.
7. As an historical novelist, to some extent your plot is already there; it is difficult to imagine a Ned Kelly
novel without his trial and execution. Interest, therefore, is as much in the weaving of the web as its
length and breadth. For that same reason, you can’t fly by the seat of your pants
either; there is the matter of historical conscience.
How long a book takes to write depends very much on circumstances; writing the novel as part of a
degree, for instance, ties you to an academic program. Other factors include availability of resources,
expenses, work commitments... and how long the story has been percolating away in your
head.Simplest of all, your life may get in the way.Without undue interruptions or delays, however… a
year sounds like a reasonable space.
8. Authors of influence include…
Hilary Mantel…. inside Cromwell’s skin…
Tim Winton… the Riders… going back to go forward…
Kate Grenville… how circumstances shape us…
David Malouf… an Imaginary Life… Ransom…mythmaking
9. Believe you have a story worth telling.
Give it time. Draft and redraft; if it’s worth telling, it’s worth telling as well as you possibly can.
10. My next book, OF BREATH AND BLOOD, is out there at the moment.
Set in Parramatta Female Factory, it centres around the 1827 riot, where the women
broke out of the factory to protest against conditions within it.