PODCAST SHOW NOTES
Episode 54 is here and it's a big one! Join hosts Veronica and Darren for industry and book news, discussions about the intracacies of shared identity, why 54 was a fantastic year for a certain prime minister, the lessons life can teach us when we ditch the safety of the easy path and a super magnificent, globe trotting interview with astronomically awesome author Tanya Heaslip who shares the wonders that she has experienced on her journey from cattle farm to Europe and beyond...
What Country do you write on?
I write on Arrente country, Central Australia.
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Magic Faraway Tree. It had everything a child could want – adventure, magic, fairytales, children going into unknown lands and “beating the baddies”, delicious food, a wonderful old tree full of characters, and edge of the seat chapter endings!
What inspired you to write/this book/these books?
I grew up in the outback of Australia - hundreds of miles from anywhere in isolated, red, mythical landscapes - and was captivated by books about other places and countries, especially Europe. Finally I got to Europe in 1989, just as the Berlin Wall fell, and after seeing it with my own eyes and flying back to Australia with my own piece of Wall, I was desperate to see what was over the other side once communism fell. Four years later got into the Czech Republic to teach English to judges of the High Court and the Minister of Justice in Prague. That adventure had all the elements of my childhood fairytale books, and I was so inspired that when I return to Australia I wanted to write about it, and let everyone know about the magic of Prague.
Once I’d written “Alice to Prague”, people said to me “you think that Central Europe is so exotic, but for most Australians, Central Australia is equally exotic. Why don’t you write about that next?”
So I wrote about my childhood in the outback and that became “An Alice Girl.” The story ends when I am aged 12 and had to go thousand miles south from my home to boarding school.
Once people had read “An Alice Girl”, they said “but now we want to know what happens next! ” and so I wrote my coming-of-age experiences locked away behind the high stone walls of a Victorian style ‘prison-type’ boarding school. That became “Beyond Alice”.
Writing these three memoirs has been an adventure in itself!
Is there anything specifically Australian about your book/books?
All three of my books interweave stories of the Australian outback, particularly during the 1960s and 70s, and the characters who lived out here, the drovers and the stockman, the hours we kids spent on horseback, our School of the Air education and the love we hold for this land.
Are there any secrets hidden in your writing?
Perhaps the importance of resilience in life. How and why it is essential “never to give up”. How people on the land, who have had to learn resilience and never giving up in order to survive in such a harsh place can perhaps inspire others.
Why do you think listeners should read your book/s?
Not many Australians really know what the true outback is like. Even fewer know what it was like back in the 1960s and 70s. I feel it’s so important for people to understand what the inland is like, the people who lived here, the stories that have evolved over time. All three of my books tell those stories and widen understanding perspective of life on the land, the growing of food, hardship and resilience. I hope by developing that understanding it creates a greater connection between city and bush people.
My first book also shares some of the history of Prague in the Czech Republic – not just its beauty, but also the horrors of occupation over the centuries, and the bravery and resilience of its people. Along with the beauty of its architecture, music and landscape, it is a story that not so many people know, and I hope that I can provide wonderful armchair travel for readers who would like to know.
Is there a message in your book/books/writing? / What’s the main message you’d like readers to take away after reading your book/books?
Come and visit Central Australia. See the beauty of the inland for yourself. Walk through the craggy MacDonnell Ranges, explore gullies and ancient waterholes, learn about Aboriginal culture, and learn stories from the heart of Australia.
And once you’ve done that, visit Prague!
What’s the best response you’ve ever had to your writing?
People who have cried reading my stories. I know that sounds strange, but people have cried because they say I have told “their story.”
“Finally,” they say, “someone has told our story – the silent, untold stories of the unsung heroes of the outback, the stories of life on the land, the hardships and the love of the bush. Thank you.”
From a Czech perspective, they say “Thank you, you have told the world of the beauty of our country and also the horrors we have been through and we are so grateful.”
It is a humbling and rewarding and joyous experience to receive those kinds of messages. It actually makes me cry to receive them!
What genre/s do you mostly read?
Memoir is my favourite – reading stories about people who have struggled and overcome adversity. But right alongside that is my love for mysteries and thrillers, inspired by all those page turning chapters of Enid Blyton’s adventure stories for children. I especially love Australian thrillers, of which there are so many, and even more so when they are set in the bush.
As a writer, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?
Somewhere in between. I try and plot upfront and have a big overview, but I get impatient and start writing because the story wants to pour out and tell itself, so I’m forever going backwards and forwards, changing the plan and plot, or the story itself, to ensure they are consistent! One day I really hope to get it right, one way or another. Mostly I drive myself crazy!
What’s the most useful writing advice you’ve been given?
“Write each scene like there is a knife at your throat.”
What’s your writing goal for the next twelve months?
I’ve started my own fiction story set in the outback, a “murder mystery”, that intertwines my background as a lawyer, my upbringing in the bush, and the many characters who have lived here. It is very challenging going from memoir, where the story is already there in my mind (because I’ve lived it,) to creating something new, but I’m loving the challenge!