Thursday, February 26, 2015

Posie Graeme-Evans: Walking the Ground

We are delighted that Posie Graeme-Evans will be appearing at the 2015 Conference. Together with Toni Jordan, she will be interviewed by Kelly Gardiner on 22nd March in the second of our Personal Histories sessions. She has also kindly agreed to chair the Historical Fiction Sub-genres: Intrigue, Mystery, Fantasies and Time-slip panel on the same day. In this post, she shares her insights into researching an historical novel, and the importance to her of 'Walking the Ground.'

Six novels in and Posie now thinks of herself as a writer. It wasn’t always so. 30 obsessional years in TV as a director, series creator and producer (and sometime Executive, having been Director of Drama for the Nine Network in its glory days) meant she lived a very different life and loved it. In 2002, Variety Magazine named her as one of “Twenty Significant Women in Worldwide Film and Television” in its annual survey.  In that same year her first book, “The Innocent” was published by NY based Simon and Schuster and her first album of songs came out with Sony Music. That came after she was awarded the inaugural Screen Producers of Australia “Independent Producer of the Year” for her body of work and her series, “McLeods Daughters” topped the ratings and swept the pool at the Logies. It was all a bit of a blur. Now, living between Cygnet and Sydney, she writes her books in a rebuilt Pickers Hut and loves that too. Quieter. But less crazy. Or that’s what she likes to think.

Posie is a former board member of a number of organisations and associations, most recently The Australian Film, Television and Radio  School. She currently serves on the Board of Screen Tasmania & is the Chair of The Tasmanian Writers Centre Board. 

Walking the Ground
Someone said to me once, “You write about winter and war.”

Now that’s one of those statements that hits you like a stick. War? Winter? I’d thought I wrote alternate versions of history: the lives and fates of the people who walked out of the back of my head. The setting was important – of course! – but I’d never really noticed the the weather. Then I started to think about it. It’s true. And I started to wonder, why? That’s brought me to here, trying to put that ‘why’ into more words. And, trying to talk about why I travel so much in winter, and not just for research

I was born in England but came to Australia – Tasmania - when I was 14. My mother and I lobbed into this small island – to which I’ve returned - from a war zone. A minor conflagration, as these things go; Cyprus, the Greek/Turkish conflict that led to the partition.

It was a shock coming from machine guns to cows. They grazed in the paddock next to my Tasmanian school (my 13th, as it turns out. There was one more to go, in Adelaide.) I used to walk through that field, the sopping grass, in gumboots on my way to class. That first autumn, I’d arrive wet above the knees. Sometimes that was funny.

My father, a pilot, was Tasmanian. Like so many young men of his generation, he’d run away to join a band of brothers to save the West. And they did. So there was always a warrior in my family, because that’s what he continued to be. Quiet, difficult to know, but a professional man of war. I think versions of him, of what I imagined he must have been like as a young man, have found their way into so much of what I write.

Being a “Service” family, we moved around a lot so I was often the outsider. War was always in the background; two other regional conflicts, Suez & Aden, are half-remembered shadows of my childhood. However, living in (and, frequently, out of) England before we came to Australia sank deep. I suppose what you experience as your eyes are first opened to the world – landscape, light, sound, smell, the built world – is the basic architecture of anyone’s understanding. It certainly became mine. Even now, so long living in another country, England feels like home when I return. And I do that as much as I can. Any excuse

And, it was England that moved me. Not that abstract concept, The United Kingdom (a misnomer for a start); the England of the Shires, and, above all, of the countryside. Away, I yearned for that green world. I still do.

Years and years later when I had become a Sydney-based television producer, that yearning led me into creating “McLeods Daughters”. South Australia is not Oxfordshire, or Wales, Yorkshire, or Scotland but it was, and it is, glorious (though golden for most of the year.) But winter is different. Then the paddocks around “Drovers Run” turn Irish green.

That series, which we shot between 2000 & 2008, meant I could run away from time to time, and on a hill in the Barossa Valley (the location of “Drovers” was down the road.) That long view re-wove my own personal fabric because I’d gone beyond frayed after years in TV. Network infighting, fourteen hour days, the challenge of steering something so big and so terrifying – all of that was exhilarating, but it wasn’t always good.

I think the sounds, the light, and the shape of the land in that country North of Adelaide was what tipped me, finally, into writing books. There’s something about magic hour there. What is that line, “the long light shakes across the lakes…” ? That’s it, right there, that’s what moves me.

Wild light falling across hills and water is so much at the heart of what I see and what I write about. And it’s why I go back to the Shires, to Scotland, most recently to Wales and Cornwall, so that I can walk unfamiliar ground and find the place that’s right; the stage, the box of jewels, that will display my characters as they declare themselves and play out their stories. Because I take the real, like every writer, and I re-create it; stitch bits together, pluck and stick and make a world.

“Wild Wood”, my new book, is set in my imagined England, as all the others are too. But the imaginings are always based on fact. Need a castle? Stay in one! Just now, in January this year, we slept in a tower of Caernafon Castle with a view of the Eagle Tower (thank you, Landmark Trust!) My bedroom had serious crenellations outside because it was the top of the watchtower. Date? Oh, C12th, C13th. What a thrill. Medieval houses? No worries. Monkton Old Hall, in Pembroke is the oldest inhabited house in Pembrokeshire, possibly in the whole
of Wales. It was once, and this can be tracked, a Priory Guest House in the C11th, but no-one knows how old it really is. And it’s haunted. I know that for a fact.

It was only Andrew and me staying there, and I had a shocking cold; that night, I’d put myself in one of the other bedrooms so he could actually sleep. I’d just turned out the light when someone knocked. Two sharp raps. I thought it must be him, but no-one answered when I said hello, so I got up and opened the door. It wasn’t Andrew. He was deep asleep. That was this last January also.

I wasn’t scared, by the way, I was grateful though I didn’t say “come in”. Did something stick from long ago? Never invite a spirit through the door. Maybe I knew…

And, winter? That’s easier. I live and work in Australia and the glare and the heat are not native to me. Scotland. Come on down. So, who likes the cold, the sleet and the rain? I do. (It’s the light, it’s the light!) And, who likes empty landscapes, because all the tourists have gone? Me, pick me!

Nothing more to be said. I do write about winter and war. One day I’ll set a book in Australia – I think I know what it is, too – but I haven’t finished with England. The next book, the one I’m writing this year, is called, I think “The Outer Sea” (though that may change.)

That’s why, this time, we went location hunting to Wales and Cornwall in winter, when the Atlantic is at war with land. It will all be so very useful to me.

Winter and war. There they are again.

You can contact Posie on her Facebook and Website.

Featured book:

For fans of Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series comes a gripping and passionate new historical novel. Intrigue, ancient secrets, fairy tales, and the glorious scenery of the Scottish borders drive the story of a woman who must find out who she really is.

Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motor bike. In a London hospital, unable to speak, she must use her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never been, people from another time—a castle, a man in armor. And a woman’s face.

Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.

So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, a chase that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a Scottish stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord. What’s more, Jesse Marley holds the key to the castle’s secret and its sacred history. And Hundredfield, with its grim Keep, will help Jesse find her true lineage. But what does the legend of the Lady of the Forest have to do with her? That’s the question at the heart of Wild Wood. There are no accidents. There is only fate. 

And here is Posie's wonderful book trailer for Wild Wood. Worth a look!

Posie Graeme-Evans will be appearing in the following panels at the 2015 HNSA Conference:

22 March 9.00-9.45 am   Session One
Personal Histories: In Conversation with Toni Jordan and Posie Graeme-Evans
What attracted Toni Jordan to historical fiction after writing acclaimed contemporary novels? And why did Posie Graeme-Evans change careers from being an enormously successful television director, producer and executive to an historical novelist immersed in distant times? Join Kelly Gardiner in learning these story tellers’ own histories.

22 March 11.15 am-12.15 pm   Session Three
Historical Fiction Sub-genres: Intrigue, Mystery, Fantasies and Time-slip
Blending different genres within historical fiction is an increasing trend. What challenges do authors face when intertwining mystery or fantasy with history? And why are readers drawn to tales of characters who travel across time? Posie Graeme-Evans joins Kate Forsyth, Sulari Gentill, Belinda Murrell and Felicity Pulman to enlighten us.

For more information on all our panels, please visit our site for program details. And you can buy your tickets here.

You can also sign up to the mailing list to be the first to keep up to date with breaking news on the HNSA conference in 2015. 

Please consider visiting us on Twitter and Facebook to help us spread the word! 

Here’s a tweet you might like to use:
Walking the Ground - post by Posie Graeme-Evans on #HNSA2015 blog @histnovsoc

Register now for the #HNSA2015 conference! Let’s make a noise about #historicalfiction

And please take a look at our FREE BOOK OFFERS!

The first 30 ticketholders to purchase a ‘Standard’ Whole Conference Ticket will receive a free copy of either The Lace Balcony by Johanna Nicholls, The King’s Shadow by Barbara Gaskell Denvil or The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans. 

All ticket holders will receive a Momentum ebook bundle in celebration of Felicity Pulman’s launch of Unholy Murder.

The first 50 fully paid ticket holders will receive a copy of Sherryl Clark’s new book Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War in celebration of her launch. 

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