As March 1st is publication day for The Last Station., I thought I’d share why I wanted to write it.
When it comes to deciding on the subject matter for a historical novel some of the questions I ask myself include; is it a fascinating period in Australian history and if so are the actual historical events compelling enough to provide an engaging read, one that is strong and authentic, is there a specific angle that will make the work memorable and are the characters forming in my head waiting to be set free uniquely suited to the work. Much of this can’t be answered until I’ve undertaken some preliminary research, only then can I make a decision, a decision that is equally based on a ‘gut’ feel, a feeling of ‘yes’ this is the time and place, this is the story I have to tell.
That’s how it was for The Last Station. I wanted to spotlight a time in Australia’s history when the vagaries of mother nature and the wheels of progress literally conspired to destroy livelihoods and a way of life for some people. There seemed no better place to set the story than at a time that is widely considered by many to be the last years of Australia’s innocence, before the carnage of the Great War, during the dying days of the river boat trade on the Darling River.
Every story needs characters. Some flawed, some strong, others weak. There may be grudges, arguments, unrealised potential and failed expectations, love lost and found and obstacles impossible to bypass. With the Dalhunty’s in The Last Station I was interested in exploring the trajectory of a family that goes from incredible wealth and power to poverty in a span of twenty years, and how that situation affects each member. Adding a stranger into the mix (Ethan Harris) allowed me to highlight both the many fractures within the family, but also the bonds holding them together.
Ethan Harris is based on a real person, and next week I’ll be sharing his story.