We are honoured to welcome Pamela Hart to the blog today. Pamela is an award-winning author of historical novels. Her most recent novel is A Letter from Italy, set in 1917, which tells the story of a pioneering woman war correspondent. Her first novel, The Soldier’s Wife, was based on her grandfather’s experience of being wounded at Gallipoli and his life after he returned to Australia.
Writing as Pamela Freeman, she is well-known as a children’s writer; and won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for The Black Dress: Mary MacKillop’s Early Years. Pamela also writes epic fantasy for adults, and her fantasy series, The Castings Trilogy, is published worldwide by Hachette.
Pamela’s awards include two Aurealis Awards, the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award, and the ASO Librarian’s Choice award for her most recent children’s book, Desert Lake. She has been shortlisted for Book of the Year, the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and the Koala Awards. Pamela has a Doctor of Creative Arts degree from UTS, and is the director of creative writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
You can connect with Pamela through Facebook, Twitter and her website. And you can subscribe to her newsletter here.
What is the inspiration for your current book?
Louise Mack was the first woman war correspondent who went to the front lines – and she was an Australian! She became the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald Women’s Pages, and I discovered her astonishingly feminist editorials when I was researching The Soldier’s Wife. She inspired my character Rebecca Quinn, in A Letter from Italy, a journalist who is trying to get off the Women’s Pages and report ‘real’ news.
Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?
I guess it’s about surmounting the obstacles that the world puts in your way – both my main characters have to overcome prejudices and barriers to achieving their professional aims (and a big barrier to achieving the wishes of their hearts, as well).
Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?
I’m fascinated by all history, but I’m writing mostly about 1910 to 1930 – I started by writing a book based on family history, but every time I research one book I find so many more stories I want to write, so I guess I’ll be writing about this period for a while! It was a time when huge world events catastrophically intervened in ordinary people’s lives. WWI was an unprecedented event – the first truly world event – and its effects were felt for decades after.
What resources do you use to research your book?
My main resource is Trove, the National Library’s online digitised newspapers in particular. I also subscribe to overseas newspaper archives, as reading the newspapers of the day is the best way to get into the heads of those living at the time (also, the ads tell you how much everything cost!). Of course, I also use books, maps and, very importantly, historical photographs.
What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?
I’m not sure I see a conflict between the two. Surely if you’re accurate you’re also authentic? If you mean, ‘are the facts more important than the feel of the story?’, then I would come down on the side of the facts when changing those facts would mislead your readers. This is particularly important when dealing with crucial events. I’d never change the date of a battle, for example. But I might shift what month a book was published in so that my character could read it at a particular point in her life.
Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?
Nonna Rosa – because I had so much fun writing her! She is my main male character’s grandmother, and is not at all like the grandmother he would like to have. It’s always fun writing an older person with a bit of a past…
Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?
I’m a book-a-year author for Hachette, so the actual writing takes me a year, but I am often thinking about books several years in advance. Last week I got the idea for the book after the book after next! I find that having that lead time to ‘cook’ the idea makes for a much better book. As for plotting or pantsing – it changes with each book. Generally, though, by the time I’m 1/3 into it, I know roughly where I’m going.
Which authors have influenced you?
Oh, so many! In historical fiction, Georgette Heyer, Mary Renault, Mary Stewart, Kate Forsyth. In other genres… Dorothy L Sayers, Tolkien, Zenna Henderson… too many to count!
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
The difference between a professional writer and an amateur is the number of draft you’re prepared to do, and how ruthless you are prepared to be with your work. In other words, draft and redraft, and listen to criticism. Always be prepared to throw away the work you’ve done if it’s no good, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it.
Tell us about your next book or work in progress.
My next book is Lanterns on the Nile, a book which takes my main character, Evelyn Northey, all the way through WWI, from the declaration of war to Armistice Day – and most of that time is spent in Cairo, as a nurse looking after, first, the wounded from Gallipoli and, later, those from the Sinai and Palestine campaigns.
Rebecca Quinn comes to Italy in 1917 with her husband Jack, both foreign correspondents reporting on the Royal Australian Navy's fight against German U-boats in the Adriatic Sea. Rebecca wants to use this opportunity to break out of the Women's Pages and prove that women can equal male journalists in resolve and ability.
While Jack pursues a story behind enemy lines, Rebecca works with Italian-American photographer Alessandro Panucci, fighting against prejudice in a man's world of naval warfare and cutthroat journalism. But Jack, it turns out, isn't as supportive of her career as she had thought, and Sandro is far too attractive for her peace of mind...
From Brindisi to Venice, Rebecca struggles with her own heart as well as with the chauvinism of her time, while Sandro tries hard to remember that marriage is a sacred vow which must be respected...
You can buy Pamela’s books from various outlets via her website.
Thanks for sharing your journey, Pamela. We look forward to Lanterns on the Nile.
HNSA 2017 Conference
The HNSA 2017 Conference in Melbourne is being held on 8-10 September 2017. Pamela Hart will be appearing in the following panel in Session Four on Sunday 10 September at 12.30-1.30 pm.
Authenticity or Truth? Does the history in an historical novel need to be accurate?
History forms the basis of an historical novel but is the book less valid if the author ‘bends’ history to fit the plot? Should facts be strictly followed or merely form the backbone of a novel? Is accuracy rather than authenticity the standard to which historical novelists must be held? Ngahuia te Awekotuku teases out the answers to these questions and ponders whether history is ever truthful with Greg Johnston, Kathryn Gauci, Tim Griffiths and Pamela Hart.
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. HURRY – we have released 10 more early bird weekend tickets so there now are only 12 early bird tickets available. Registration will end once these are sold. There are only 3 early bird reception tickets available.
This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing 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! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.
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!
Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!