Growing up my head and heart were firmly in English history and like, I suspect, many Australians, I considered Australian history a bit ho hum… no castles, kings, civil wars. Just dust and dirt and convicts!
However like Australia itself, I have grown up. I have travelled to the remote and lonely corners of this country in the company of my husband who has a passion for the Australian bush. Together we have stood in ruined homesteads and wondered about the life led by the people who settled a country that had no softness to spare for the weak. I have also explored my own family history - convicts, sailors and entrepreneurs.
What tipped my passions was reading a very badly researched historical romance set in my own home town of Melbourne. The story was so inaccurate, it was funny, but what upset me were the comments of reviewers on Amazon thanking the author for introducing them to this hitherto unknown history of Australia.
We decided that a small town with a set cast of characters offered the greatest scope for a series of historical stories, but where?
On our way home from that camping trip we stopped, as we often do, in Walhalla - a tiny town deep in the valleys of the Great Dividing Range. A pretty, peaceful place with a permanent population of only twenty people. Following the discovery of gold in Stringers Creek in the 1860s, Walhalla became a gold mining town and at the time of Federation one of its mines was the highest yielding gold mine in Australia (and was honoured with being shown on one of the first stamps of the new Commonwealth). It ticked all the boxes for my fictional town.
And why a fictional town? Quite simply I didn’t want to be constrained by the geography and history of a real town, but there are strong elements of Walhalla in my fictional Maiden’s Creek that anyone knowing the town may recognise and I have had fun researching some incidents in the early history of the town that fitted uncannily into my own narrative (more on those in future posts).
So I had my town, the next step was to build the world of Maiden’s Creek. Who were the people who inhabited the town? What did the geography of the town look like?
What I loved about creating this world is the mix of nationalities (English, Welsh, Scottish, Cornish, Americans, Italians, Germans, Russians…) and personalities that were drawn to the gold fields. Shopkeepers, brothel owners, bakers, general stores, undertakers, livery stables and of course the gold miners all coming together against incredible physical odds to scrape a living from the earth.
So take yourself back to 1871...when the Sale coach leaves Melbourne and stops at a genuine stop on the old coach road called Shady Creek, the Maiden’s Creek coach driven by Amos Burrell arrives, ready to whisk you over the hills, across the Thompson River and down the steep, treacherous roads that will take you to Maiden’s Creek…
THE POSTMISTRESS is on sale now in all good booksellers and retailers...