Thursday, March 16, 2017

Interview with Lynette McDermott

We would like to welcome Lynette McDermott to the HNSA blog today. Lynette has been a writer her whole life.  As a lawyer, she has written the stories of people's lives in statements for over 20 years.  She has written poetry and short stories and embarked on the writing of the Garth Trilogy some years ago as a consequence of research into her family history.  She currently lives in Sydney Australia and travels extensively retracing the footsteps of her ancestors.  If you are interested in ancestral history and the reality that truth is often stranger than fiction, then you will be interested in Lynette's Garth books.  You can connect with Lynette via Twitter, Facebook or her website.

What is the inspiration for your current book?

My ancestors (The Garths and the Belletts – Edward Garth, Susannah Gough, Jacob Bellett and Ann Harper); Three of whom were on the First Fleet to Australia and then Norfolk Island and one of whom was on the Second Fleet; the stories of their lives, their tragedies and their triumphs.  I was asked to do a guest blog for M K Tod – A Writer of History, as to why I was writing the Garth Trilogy, here is the link to what I wrote which gives more depth in answering this question:  I think it’s worth a read J
Book 1 – Of Angels and Eagles was particularly inspired by the main protagonist Susannah, who was a prostitute in her previous life and who becomes the ‘heroine’ in her new life.
Book 2 – Perseverance, is nearly ready for publication and deals with their lives in Van Diemen’s Land between 1808 and 1864.
Book 3 – Lil, will be published later this year, deals with the period between 1864 and 1921 and those descendants who sailed to the mainland.

Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book? 

British convicts who were transported to Australia, who became pioneers and ultimately free settlers. The contrast between the lives of the convicts who were settled at Norfolk Island (where there were no indigenous peoples) and those who were settled on the mainland and Van Diemen’s Land.  The plight of the aborigines in Tasmania was something I wanted to include and the more research I did the more my eyes were opened.  I have featured in the book the struggle of the indigenous people and the conflict between them and the white settlers.  Within that context I have included the personal experience and friendship of one of my ancestors with an aboriginal to bring to life this aspect of the story; his guilt and internal dilemma in being ‘just like all the others’ in wanting to have his own land and industry but at the same time wishing there was some way to live in harmony with the aboriginals.

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?

I am particularly interested in Australian history since white settlement and continuing up until recent history.  My inspiration is mostly the story of my ancestors since the First Fleet however, I am also interested in the lives of those like my ancestors when they lived in Britain before and during the industrial revolution.  One of my ancestor’s grandparents were French Hugenots who fled France during the persecution of Hugenots in the late 1600s.  I am interested in this period also and am hoping this will be the basis for my next book series.

What resources do you use to research your book?

So many! …Books, Trove, Births Deaths and Marriage records, Baptism records, Court records; Coronial Inquest reports, maps, official documents (eg Transactions of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island) Ancestry and heritage website information, direct personal accounts; retracing the footsteps in person ie. Going to those places I am writing about and making notes myself about the look and feel of those places.

What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?

To me it is more important to have the historical authenticity but it must be based upon as much accurate information as one can obtain.  The vast majority of events in my books are true and I believe you can glean so much of the personality of the characters by the actual records of what they did, what they said and where they lived and so, based upon the true records the meld of fact and fiction is weaved.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

 In Book 1, Of Angels and Eagles, Susannah is my favourite character because of her positive spirit and feisty personality.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

I am a plotter, definitely! After doing all my research the next thing I do is a timeline for the story, with significant dates, events and character interaction in those dates and events.  The actual writing of Of Angels and Eagles took about 12 months, the writing of my second book has taken about 8 months and I have a few weeks of editing left to do.

Which authors have influenced you?

Shirley Walker (author of Roundabout at Bangalow and Ghost at the Wedding) winner of the State Library Award ‘The Kibble’ for best book of the year in 2010 and she was also shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Award for non fiction.  She wrote her first book at 67 and the second at 82 years. Ernest Hemmingway; Tim Winton; Margaret Mitchell; J. D Salinger; Geraldine Brooks; Hannah Kent – there are too many and not one person in particular but I did love Eleanor Dark’s, The Timeless Land J

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

To read, read, read and write, write, write – get a first draft done! 

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

The works in progress are as referred to above, Books 2 and 3 of the Garth Trilogy.  Book 2 Perseverance is nearly finished and Book 3 Lil, will be before the end of the year.

In the early years of the industrial revolution London was expanding rapidly, poverty was increasing and merely existing was a challenge for the lower classes who too often fell foul of the ruthless criminal laws of the time.
The city was full of unemployable wretches living in deplorable conditions and they were looked upon as disrupting the lives of the upper classes. Some of the lower classes were more fortunate than others, they had jobs but even they could fall victim to greedy opportunists.
This is the setting into which these four souls were cast, Edward the farm-boy, Susannah the prostitute, Jacob the silk weaver and Ann the urchin.
Convicted of their alleged crimes, they suffered in London’s notorious prisons until their transportation across the oceans to the bottom of the world, to the Great South Land.
When circumstance conspired to bring them all together, to an improbable location, as distant from their imaginations as the likelihood of inhabiting the moon or the stars, it was Susannah’s strength of character and optimism that inspired them as they made their lives on Norfolk Island, the place of Angels and Eagles. 

Of Angels and Eagles is available on Amazon or via Lynette's website.

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Conference in Melbourne is being held on 8-10 September 2017.

Lauren will be appearing in our free Sydney HNSA Meet the Author event on 29 March 7-9 pm at Mosman Library with Felicity Pulman, Elisabeth Storrs, Belinda Murrell and Lynette McDermott. Bookings essentialMore details can be found on the HNSA website.

Early bird registration is open for the HNSA 2017 Conference. You will receive 15% off the full price for our weekend programme.  The same discount also applies for tickets to our opening reception

This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing our theme, inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! For those interested in transforming  family history into compelling fiction  like Lynette McDermott, there is a super session to be run by Eleanor Limprecht on Saturday.

Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Kylie Mason and Irina Dunn. And there are two calls for papers in our free extended academic programme.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!

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