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What is the inspiration for your current book?
A few years ago my mother sat down with her mother, my grandmother, to document her life. As part of this my grandmother talked about her memories of living in Melbourne during the second world war. It struck me that she said the only time she remembered being afraid during that time was when the American serial killer, Leonski, was on the loose. When I did some resea
rch into the story, I discovered that Leonski killed three women in the space of 15 days in 1942, and was caught very soon after. It struck me that something that lasted less than a month could have such a huge impact on the city at the time and in my grandmother’s memory decades later.
Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?
The main theme is probably related to the impossibility of possession, and there are related themes of desire, beauty, voice and violence.
Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?
Stories of the home front in Australia or Britain during world war II or its immediate aftermath interest me. However, I read historical fiction set in lots of different time periods – it’s the themes and characters that attract me, rather than the time period.
What resources do you use to research your book?
Trove, and old newspapers on microfiche in the library. History books about the time period, the internet, historical novels set in the period, and novels written in the period as well.
What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?
Whatever serves the story and gives verisimilitude. Often the facts get in the way of the story, or weigh it down, and you have to let your research go. I think you need to be respectful of history and try to get things right – or rather, try not to get them wrong. It is important that the story is plausible, even if it is not true.
Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?
Alice is my favourite. She is my protagonist and has had the most interesting journey. She’s inspired by a real life journalist, and I was planning to have her be quite faithful to this journalist, but somewhere in my first draft she became her own person. And I’ve enjoyed getting to know her in her own right.
Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?
I sketch the major plot points, but allow this to change as I write, so I’d say I’m more of a pantser. With historical fiction about true events, some of the plot points are already there, so you already have something of a plot or a structure to hang your story on. In my novel, I already had a basic timeline, and I pantsed my way through that, adding characters as I went. Now I’m rewriting it and taking most of them out, and adding others!
Which authors have influenced you?
Sarah Waters, Kate Forsyth, Emma Donoghue, Margaret Atwood and Alex Miller, to name just a few.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Read lots, and read critically. Talk about books. Listen to authors talk about their books. Engage in the literary community through social media, author events, blogs. Immerse yourself.
Tell us about your next book or work in progress.
My current book is my work in progress, so I’ll get that out of the way before I start anything else.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Gabrielle. Gabrielle will be chairing a discussion about Australian historical fiction withElla Carey, Greg Pyers and Dorothy Simmons at our first HNSA Meet the Author satellite event in Melbourne on 19 February 2017.