Sunday 10 August 2014

About Writing

© Goldie Alexander

History is the narrative of mankind. It provides answers as to how people lived in the past as well as provides for us the roots of certain ideas concerning laws, customs, and political ideas.  That old adage, “you can’t know where you are going unless you know where you have been” is relevant. History does tend to repeat itself, if in different ways. This repetition has importance in all societies. It teaches the value of certain social changes and governmental policies. A good example is the Aborigines of Australia who managed to hang onto their history for 40,000 years by word of mouth. A knowledge of history clearly demonstrates that once a civilization was able to maintain a steady food supply, that their creative ideas flowed whether it appeared on rock walls, papyrus, or cedar bark.   

When I was young history was taught as a dry accumulation of facts.  Thus my personal challenge as an author is to transport young readers into the past by creating convincing settings, characters and dialogue that is totally different to their own experience and make them totally relevant.

 I write in all genres but am mostly known for my account of the First Fleet: “My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove” now in its 10 or 11th edition. Some of my other historical fictions for young readers have included “ Mavis Road Medley” (Melbourne in 1933 towards the end of the Depression) “Body and Soul: Lilbet’s Romance”  (Melbourne in 1938 just before the outbreak of WW2) “Gallipoli Medals” ( a short junior novel set in Gallipoli and the present)  And “The Youngest Cameleer” (William Gosse’s discovery of Uluru in 1873). This last mentioned is a favourite of mine because if we don’t have Aboriginal ancestors, we are all migrants. Our great migrant waves have occurred at various times: during the gold-rush, straight after World War Two, and in the seventies when the ‘boat people’ arrived. Given the current political climate, it is good to recall that Afghans have been responsible for opening up this vast continent and that without their camels the task would have been harder than it already was. 

Presently I am organising a launch for “That Stranger Next Door” in early June. I refer to that novel as ‘Romeo and Juliet set against the 1954 Petrov Affair” but I really hope it will be read more seriously. If anyone knows anything about the McCarthy era in the US, and how PM Menzies wanted to implement this law over here, and used this incident to remain in power, they might guess as to what I’m on about. Ruth Adele Cohen who comes from a traditional Jewish family, and Patrick Sean O’Sullivan from a conservative Catholic family, fall in love. However, who is the mysterious woman in the adjacent apartment? Can she really be the infamous Eva Petrov? And if so, is this why she is happy to support this forbidden love affair in return for keeping her presence also a secret?

I began my career writing for Dolly Fiction and I learnt a lot from their guidelines. Four novels later started me off as predominantly a children’s author... though since then I have written adult crime: “The Grevillea Murder Mystery Trilogy” and two how-to-writes:  “The Business of Writing for Young People” plus the more recent “Mentoring Your Memoir”. I use that text to run classes for anyone thinking of writing a memoir or a local history.  In the 80 books, short stories and articles I have penned since then, I have tackled almost every genre apart from high fantasy, TV & Film scripts and graphic novels.  Can’t draw for nuts.

My latest novel for adults that uses history oddly enough is a romance. In ‘Penelope’s Ghost’  Lisa Harbinger seeks refuge in a posh summer retreat on Australia’s lush South Coast. There she finds work as a nanny for two wilful children on one prestigious estate. But behind Rangoon’s ivy and red brick walls lies a mystery: What really happened to the family’s beloved Penelope? Part of this novel explores early white settlement in the Mornington Peninsula.

 There’s lots about my books and more on I use my blog to feature others authors, books and writing, and never talk about what I am cooking for lunch. 






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