Q&A With Author Roxane Dhand

Today’s Q&A feature post is with Roxane Dhand, author of the newly released novel The Pearler’s Wife, published by Penguin Books Australia, RRP $32.99.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your new book?

Background

The Pearler’s Wife is based on a true story. I stumbled upon it (the story that is) on Western Australia’s far north-west coast in July 2013. To be honest, it was more of a bash of my foot on a great big rock because the year before, Broome had celebrated a 100 years’ anniversary.
Of what? I asked.
Broome, the pearling town turned tourist destination, I discovered, had a big past. It also had a secret. In its heyday, in the late 19th century, Broome had built a reputation not only as the centre of the mother of pearl industry, but also as a rough, remote trading outpost. The massively profitable pearl shell industry drew migrants from across Asia…Hard hat divers from Japan and Malaysia jumped on steam boats to Broome joined by other nationalities – the Chinese, and Filipinos – who signed on as tenders and deckhands. They were dirt cheap to employ and queuing up to come.

In 1911 though, the town’s prosperity came under serious threat.
Broome was a settlement made up of an almost exclusively Asiatic community. It was viewed with distaste by a Federal Government deeply entrenched in the “White Australia” policy. The idea of a coloured workforce on Australian soil was so offensive to the Australian Parliament that the Minister of External Affairs declared that from January 1913, only white divers would be permitted to collect pearl shell off the ocean floor.
The master pearlers (bosses) were horrified at what this would mean to the industry. They protested they could never afford a white man’s wage nor were they convinced that a white man would be able to stand the conditions on board a pearl lugger for any length of time.

Government would not listen and to prove that the pearl shell industry was, of course, suitable for whites, twelve ex-navy divers, experienced in hard hat deep-sea diving were brought out from England in 1912. The venture became known as the White Experiment.
The Pearler’s Wife grew out of their story.

The Pearler’s Wife is set in 1912 in the corrupt, claustrophobic new world of Australia. It tells the story of Maisie Porter, sent from England by her dismissive parents to marry a pearl-fishing captain (and distant cousin) she has never met. On the ship to Buccaneer Bay, she meets a charismatic Royal Navy Diver, William Cooper, who is being manipulated by the perilous pearl shell industry.

A wild, ungoverned frontier town is no place for a young lady just out from England. Her new husband proves aggressively disinterested in her. His main concern is sabotaging an Australian government initiative to force pearling captains to employ expensive Europeans. He is unscrupulous and Maisie soon finds herself embroiled in his world of murder, brutality and treachery. It will take all her courage, honesty and determination to protect the man she loves from the fierce and toxic secrets of her husband.

Which character was the most challenging to write about?

Probably Jane Wallace – Maisie’s new friend in Buccaneer Bay. She grew out of a woman I learned of called Daisy Bates who in real life spent years studying and caring for the Aborigines in the far outback of Western Australia. To make her plausible in the The Pearler’s Wife , I had to read all I could about her and gradually Daisy morphed into the character Jane I created for the book

What inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always had stories in my head since I was a little girl. Apparently I used to tell my sisters stories on long car journeys about a ladybird that lived in a toadstool – but if I did, I wish my mother had written them down! The desire to write was always there, I think, but sometimes you need a little push to get your started. The trip to Broome was more of a shove, really, and within three days I had the story down in outline.

What are some of your favourite reads?

The books I tend to favour (though not exclusively) are an interweaving of fact and fiction and have a root in history. So in no particular order, here oyare ten of my best:
1. Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier. One of the most perfectly crafted books, I think. Atmosphere, characterisation and brilliant story-telling – this book does it for me
2. The Woodlanders – Thomas Hardy. On the syllabus for A level English, I learned the term pathetic fallacy through reading this book which is the fifth of Hardy’s Novels of Character and Environment. “Woods that murmur and trees that sigh…” Just yummy!
3. Eve Green – Susan Fletcher. I love this book on so many levels. Feisty heroine, romance and great story telling. It won the 2004 Whitbread First Novel Award.
4. The Narrow road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan. A powerful beautifully written novel set in a Japanese POW camp in Burma. This won the Man Booker in 2014.
5. A Town Like Alice – Neville Shute. Another Australian writer. This strikes a chord because, as with my book, Shute stumbled on a little known (true) incident and drew on it to create this outstanding novel.
6. The Pursuit of Love – Nancy Mitford. This book is a delightful romp. Just one of the funniest and intensely observed portrayals of love and growing up in a dysfunctional family at about the time my own book is set.
7. Persuasion – Jane Austen. The bitter-sweet character of this novel earns its place on this list. Love lost and love recaptured, how we are sometimes “persuaded” along a course of action when deep in our hearts we know it is not the right one. Delicious!
8. Trail of Feathers – Tahir Shah. This book was inspired by a line from the chronicle of a sixteenth century monk which stated that the Incas ‘flew like birds over the jungle’. The author takes us on his personal journey to Peru and discovers that this ‘flying’ was inspired by a powerful hallucinogen and gives it a go! An A* read.
9. Katherine – Anya Seaton. One of the first historical (romantic) novels I ever read, thus a favourite which kick started a life-long affair.
10. Cross Stich – Diana Gabaldon. The book keeps reappearing on the shelves with different titles and is now televised as Outlander. I read it when it first came out in 1991 and devoured it in practically one sitting. Another historical romance, it is one of the best.

What projects are you currently working on?

The next book is down on paper and is set in 1190 at the time of Richard 1st and the Third Crusade. A couple of years back, I read Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and because I found it such a difficult read, I decided I would try to bring the period to life and, hopefully, make it more accessible. When I’m done with that, there’s another story I’m dying to write…..

 


About The Pearler’s Wife

A distant land. A dangerous husband. A forbidden love.

It is 1912, and Maisie Porter stands on the deck of the SS Oceanic as England fades from view. Her destination is Buccaneer Bay in Australia’s far north-west. Her purpose: marriage to her cousin Maitland, a wealthy pearling magnate – and a man she has never met.

Also on board is William Cooper, the Royal Navy’s top man. Following a directive from the Australian government, he and eleven other ‘white’ divers have been hired to replace the predominantly Asian pearling crews. However, Maitland and his fellow merchants have no intention of employing the costly Englishmen for long . . .

Maisie arrives in her new country to a surprisingly cool reception. Already confused by her hastily arranged marriage, she is shocked at Maitland’s callous behaviour towards her – while finding herself increasingly drawn to the intriguing Cooper.

But Maisie’s new husband is harbouring secrets – deadly secrets. And when Cooper and the divers sail out to harvest the pearl shell, they are in great danger – and not just from the unpredictable and perilous ocean . . .

Purchase Links

Penguin Random House Books Australia  *  Amazon Australia  *  iBooks  *  Google Play

 

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Q&A With Author Barbara Hannay!

Today’s Q&A post features author Barbara Hannay! Ms Hannay’s latest novel The Country Wedding is available now and is published by Penguin Random House, RRP $32.99.

 

What was your hardest scene to write in The Country Wedding?

This would probably be the scene near the end of the novel where Flora makes an important decision that will impact the rest of her life. Until I reached that point, I still wasn’t sure what she was going to do. (grin)

Who was the most challenging character and why?

Writing about a classical musician brought challenges, because I don’t play a musical instrument. Luckily I have a daughter, Emma, who’s a violinist, so I was able to call on her for help.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I would teach writing and run writing retreats, no doubt here in our lovely hillside home, just has my husband and friends have often urged me to do.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I have the clearest memory of this. It was early on a Sunday morning and I was seven or eight years old, reading in bed before the rest of my family woke up, and I got to the scene in Seven Little Australians when Judy dies.
I was devastated. I ran to my parents’ room sobbing and they wondered what on earth had happened.
‘J-Judy’s d-dead,’ I sobbed.
They were quite worried until Mum, who had also read the book, twigged. They were so relieved to know I was just being soppy about a book.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

This is a very difficult question to answer as I know of many, many wonderful romance novels that aren’t recognised in the literary world in the way they deserve to be. I recently read Anne Gracie’s Marry in Haste, a fabulous regency-set romance that has done very well in America, but would not be widely known in Australia.

What research do you do when you are trying to brainstorm for a book?

For The Country Wedding, I travelled to Shanghai. Even though the Shanghai sections aren’t huge, I found it really helpful to be able to walk the streets of the French Concession where my characters lived. We had a wonderful helpful guide who was happy to answer my hundreds of questions and she took us to a coffee shop (an unusual find in China where they mostly drink tea). The shop also sold secondhand books and I found a book in English that I’d been searching for all over the internet, so that was a double bonus.
I do spend a lot of time searching for the right reference books, especially for my historical research.

What can reader’s expect next from your writing?

I’ve given my work in progress an interim title of New Girl in Town. It’s set around a small country newspaper and returning readers will recognise Finn Latimer, the editor of The Burralea Bugle. Finn has a dark past, and the young city journalist who comes to work with him is trying to escape her own troubles. And there’s another secondary character readers will recognise from The Country Wedding who has gone missing.

 

About The Country Wedding by Barbara Hannay

Two country weddings, fifty years apart … and the miracle of second chances In the tiny Tablelands township of Burralea, Flora Drummond is preparing to play in a string quartet for the wedding of a very close friend. The trouble is, she can’t quite forget the embarrassing teenage crush she once had on the handsome groom.

All is as it should be on the big day. The little church is filled with flowers, the expectant guests are arriving, and Mitch is nervously waiting – but his bride has had a sudden change of heart.

Decades earlier, another wedding in the same church led to a similar story of betrayal and devastation. Hattie missed out on marrying her childhood sweetheart the first time around, but now she has returned to the scene of her greatest heartache.

As Flora is drawn into both romantic dramas, she must also confront a relationship crisis of her own. But the past and the present offer promise for the future and there’s a chance for friends, old and new, to help each other to heal.

From the rolling green hills of Far North Queensland to the crowded streets of Shanghai on the eve of the Second World War, this is a beautiful romantic saga that tells of two loves lost and found and asks the questions – do we ever get over our first love, and is it ever too late to make amends?

Purchase Links

Penguin Random House  *  Amazon Australia  *  Google Play  *  Angus & Robertson

 

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Q&A With Author Bram Connolly!

Today’s Q&A post features Bram Connolly, author of the newly released novel Off Reservation, published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.

Firstly, congratulations on the release of Off Reservation. Is Matt Rix’s character going to be part of a continuing book series?

Yes, The Fighting Season was designed to introduce the character, his background and some of his back story. I wanted Off Reservation to show the reader that he could operate outside of the military context. My plan into the future is to slowly unravel his life and have him operating further outside of a legal framework. He might not always realise that he is breaking the law, as the premise is that he is fallible and therefore manipulated by different government agendas and people with money and power.

You mentioned previously that Steph’s character was a challenge when writing The Fighting Season. In your latest novel, Off Reservation, which character was the most challenging to write?

This time the hardest character to write was Glyn, the Welsh SBS Officer. The SBS have a different culture to that of Australian Special Forces, so the danger was that Glyn and Matt would seem like the same person to the reader if I didn’t capture and convey their culture correctly. I have worked with Royal Marines and the SBS before, and I wanted to make sure that they were still seen as the highly credible force that they are. Glyn’s personality is also a little foreign to me. My default is to be self effacing, where an Alpha male like Glyn is always on the attack, so that took a lot of observation of people like that.

How did you brainstorm for writing Off Reservation?

To start with, there were a few scenes I just wanted to write. The ship under way scene at the start, Matt being released from 2nd Commando Regiment and the fight scene in Istanbul. I already had an idea that I wanted to write these. However, I think what you are asking is how do I structure the plot? Well, I sit in a cafe and just start day dreaming about a movie I’d like to see. I come up with a plot, then some twists, a setting and then I write a start and finish point and then the chapter descriptions in between. In this way I can start to imagine different scenes and interactions. For Off Reservation I actually went and walked the ground too. London, Istanbul, Sydney – all the locations except Iran, where I had to rely on lonely planet – I’m not sure the Iranians would love to have me poking around there cities looking for inspiration. Not yet anyway.

What book has grabbed your attention lately and why?

I have just finished Tribes, by Seth Godin. I’m in the middle of designing an online mentor business for people looking to join the Australian Defence Force. It’s called WarriorU and I wanted to make sure that I understood the most contemporary way to reach the people that matter, my tribe, so to speak. I highly recommend it. I have also just finished Chris Allen’s Defender. I don’t read other authors fiction while I am writing, so that I can be sure there is no crossover of thought or ideas. I’ve been waiting to read this for so long and I wasn’t disappointed. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Chris writes a James Bond in the future, he’s that good.

What can readers expect next in your writing endeavours?

I am currently writing a non-fiction book. We haven’t gone firm on a title yet; however, the premise of the book is a lifestyle engineering manual based on the principles of Special Forces. Each chapter starts with a military story from my career and is then broken down to its component parts, so that the reader can gain some insight and perhaps adopt the techniques, skills or attitudes that are conveyed. The chapters range from time management, mental resilience, nutrition, physical training and life planning. I’m writing the parenting chapter at the moment, and while I‘m not a parenting expert it has been interesting researching the principles behind what I do naturally, based on special forces training.

 

About Off Reservation by Bram Connolly

Australian Special Forces commander Matt Rix in another action packed adventure.

Ultra-tough and ultra-lethal, Australian Commando Captain Matt Rix is one of Special Forces’ most lethal operators. But when a training exercise goes horribly wrong, he is given an ultimatum that brings his world crashing down. There is only one choice left to him and that’s to go ‘off reservation’.

What follows is the frantic pursuit of escaped Taliban commander Faisal Khan. Chasing Khan across Turkey would be easy; stopping a nuclear weapon he has received from falling into the hands of the world’s most feared terrorist organisation, that’s going to be the hard part.

Rix might be disgraced and discarded, but he should never be underestimated. Nothing is ever as it seems…

Purchase Links

Allen & Unwin  *  Google Play  *  Amazon Australia  *  Booktopia

 

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Q&A With Author Kerry McGinnis!

Today’s feature Q&A post is with author Kerry McGinnis! Secrets Of The Springs by Ms McGinnis releases in paperback format on July 17, and is also available on Ebook. Secrets Of The Springs is published by Penguin Random House, RRP $32.99.

What was the hardest scene to write?

I think the accident where Mark is trapped in the vehicle. I had trouble visualizing the inside of the cab and in the end got a box to represent the vehicle and tipped it on its side, then lay on the floor looking at it figuring out where everything was and what Orla would be able to see and reach. Sounds crazy but I’m not good with spatial stuff.

Can you tell us a scene that didn’t make the finished story for Secrets Of The Springs?

I can’t think of a particular scene that was cut. There were lots of adjustments and rewrites and unnecessary bits deleted but they weren’t scenes. It is hard to remember after so many rereads and rewrites, but basically the story is pretty much as it came to me when I sat down to work it out.

What is the first book you read that made you cry?

A novel called There Is No Armour. Howard Springs wrote it, the title comes from a line of poetry: There is no armour against Fate. It’s about the futility and cost of war, not to nations or economies but to ordinary people, the ones who are never asked before their lives are given over to it. It was poignant and beautiful and unbearably sad (and I was about sixteen!) He wrote a lot of books, old Howard but that was the one I liked most and read least because of its powerful effect on me.

How many hours a day do you write?

It varies. I go by output rather than time. If the writing is difficult I stay at my desk until I’ve produced two pages. Otherwise I just write until the rest of life – household or garden matters, or social stuff, overtakes me. I greatly enjoy the creative process and feel no pressure to finish anything quickly. The enjoyment is in the creation of my fictional world, and I feel quite lost when I finish a work.

What can readers expect next from you writing?

My next book which, like Wildhorse Creek and Tracking North is set in the Gulf Country and revolves around the lives of the family that own the pub in a tiny railhead ghost town, where twenty odd years before the drovers brought their mobs to truck to the coastal meat-works. I have just finished it and am now casting around for another story to keep me writing.

About Secrets Of The Springs by Kerry McGinnis

When Orla Macrae receives a letter asking her to return to the family cattle property where she grew up, she does so grudgingly. Her estranged uncle Palmer may be dying, but he is the last person she wants to see, not when she’s made a new life far away from where she lost so much. But on his deathbed he utters a few enigmatic words about a secret locked away and a clue as to its whereabouts.

Intrigued, Orla decides to stay, reconnecting with old friends and taking a chance on a long-time dream of opening the homestead to tourists. Continuing the search for her uncle’s elusive secret, she discovers far more than she bargained for – a shocking truth about her parents’ marriage, and the confession of a chilling murder.

Set in the stunning countryside north of the Barrier Ranges near Broken Hill, this is an authentic tale of life on the land and a gripping mystery about old family secrets and finding love in the harsh Australian bush.

Purchase Links

Penguin Random House  *  Amazon Australia  *  iBooks Australia  *  Booktopia

 

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Q&A With Author Nicole Alexander!

Today’s feature Q&A post is with author Nicole Alexander. Ms Alexander’s newest novel An Uncommon Woman is available now and is published by Penguin Random House, RRP $32.99.

On average, how long does it take for you to write a novel?

For the last eight years I’ve been contracted to write a book a year. Fitting in my rural responsibilities  as well, means I actually only have about seven to eight months to write a book. I have weeks where I may only write for two days and others where I can do a lot more. A rule of thumb for me is to try and attempt at least 5,000 words a week. Some of that will undoubtedly be deleted, but consistency helps the narrative to flow.

Can you tell us a scene that did not make it into the final print for your latest novel An Uncommon Woman?

With An Uncommon Woman I actually added a chapter during the editing process to ensure clarity and to show a particular characters reaction to a major historical event. In the case of An Uncommon Woman, this was the October 1929 stock market crash in New York that impacted the western world at the time and eventually led to Australia’s Great Depression.

Have you read anything that has changed the way you view fiction novels?

D’Arcy Francis Niland was an Australian author who wrote prolifically during his lifetime. He is well-known for his classic novel The Shiralee, a best-selling book which has never been out of print since its first publication in 1955. The Shiralee captivates me. I’ve read it a number of times. A shiralee is a swag, a burden, and in D’Arcy Niland’s novel, the lead character, Macauley’s is Buster, his four year old daughter. The narrative illuminates the bush in all its beauty and roughness. The bush that I know through my own family’s tenure on the land. The simple arc of the narrative combines with a sense of time and place which you rarely see in works of rural literature today. The Shiralee is simply a wonderful bush yarn.

My second would be Gone With The Wind. This is a feisty woman, determined, opinionated and living life on her own terms. Her greatest love is the family plantation, Tara. History and strong female characters. What a combination. Unfortunately for Rhett, for most of the time Scarlett didn’t give a damn either.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

To be patient. Writing is all about redrafting, redrafting, redrafting, ensuring the finished manuscript is the best it possibly can be.

What research do you do when you are brainstorming a story?

As all my works include Australia’s pastoral history, research is a major component of my work. Once I’ve decided on a time period and location I then read widely on the subject. Once I start writing I utilize archives from state libraries and where possible my own families records. It’s easy to become caught up in research so once I’ve begun the narrative I only look research particular things when the narrative calls for it.

What can readers expect next in your writing?

Something big and bold. Thank you for having me to visit. N x

 

About An Uncommon Woman by Nicole Alexander

A new world is waiting for her …

It’s 1929, and the world is changing. Cars are no longer the privilege of the rich. Hemlines are rising. Movies are talking. And more and more women are entering the workforce.

For Edwina Baker, however, life on her family’s farm in Western Queensland offers little opportunity to be anything other than daughter, sister and, perhaps soon, wife.

But Edwina wants more. She wants to see the world, meet new people, achieve things. For while she has more business sense than her younger brother, it will be Aiden who one day inherits the farm.

Then the circus comes to town. Banned from attending by her father, Hamilton, Edwina defiantly rides to the showground dressed as a boy. There she encounters two men who will both inadvertently alter the course of her life: pastoralist Mason with his modern city friends; and Will, a labourer who also dreams of escape.

And when the night ends in near-disaster, this one act of rebellion strikes at the heart of the Baker family. Yet it also offers Edwina the rare chance to prove herself in a man’s world. The question is, how far is she prepared to go, and how much is she prepared to risk?

 

Purchase Links

Penguin Random House  *  iBooks  *  Booktopia  *  Amazon Australia

 

 

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