Writing colonial Australia, and talking about Indigenous characters.

There’s one thing you can’t do once your editor has sent your final, edited manuscript back to your publisher: change anything.

I’ve been agonising over a few things in my upcoming book for a while now. There will always be things some people hate that others love, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

However, what’s concerning me is how to write colonial New South Wales/Australia when there were so many ugly parts to it.

My first book mentions Indigenous Australians a number of times, but they aren’t featured characters until the next in the series. Even so, I’ve been stressing about language choices. Do you have your characters speak the way people did then, or do you modernise their speech so it sounds more like we approach discussions of ethnic groups today? (Obviously, certain words should never be used in a book written in the twenty-first century.)

Do you find a middle ground so that you’re not whitewashing and romanticising your colonial characters?

In this first book I’ve mentioned specific peoples and regions (Ngambri, Ngunnawal etc.), and will explore this more in the next instalment. However, I’m concerned about language used, and hope I’ve not managed to cause offence!

The parts I’m worrying about are all of a few sentences in an entire book, but I’m completely stressed!

Australia Day

Increasingly controversial as it is, tomorrow is Australia Day, marking 231 years since the British First Fleet arrived in New South Wales.

Here’s a publication from 1901, announcing the “new” Australian flag.

Source

The edition of the Review of Reviews; front cover signed by Egbert Nuttall, after the winning designers of the 1901 Federal Flag design competition were announced. Australian flag 1901

And things aren’t going to be very comfortable for the official, mostly outdoor events here in Canberra (the capital city), that run over the 25th-26th!

The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

1854, Ballarat, Victoria. When Nell Ambrton’s husband is shot dead by a bushranger, there are few who grieve his passing, and Nell least of all. How could she miss the monster who had abused her from the day they wed – the man who had already killed his innocent first wife? But his death triggers a chain of events that seem to revolve around the handsome bushranger who murdered him – a man to whom Nell, against her better judgement, is drawn. But Nell has far more than a mysterious stranger to worry about. With a mess of complications around her late husband’s will, a vicious scoundrel of a father trying to sell her off in matrimony, and angry relatives pursuing her for her husband’s gold, she is more concerned with trying to ensure her safety and that of her friend, goldfields laundry woman Flora, than dealing with the kind of feelings that led her astray so catastrophically before. After the violence on the goldfields, Nell’s fate also hangs in the balance. It seems that, after all, she might need to do the one thing she has avoided at all costs … ask for the help of a man.

The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

Anybody who has been to school in Australia has learnt about the Eureka Stockade (a rebellion on the gold fields). However, Darry Fraser’s take on one of the most (in)famous events in Australian history is so richly researched I was astonished by the detail.

There’s a common misconception Australian history has nothing to offer, but – in reality – we had all the dangers, the drama, the outlaws (bushrangers) you could possibly want.

Marketed to me as historical romance, but published under the MIRA line, The Widow of Ballarat is as much historical *fiction* as romance.

The early chapters were gripping in their originality. Each time I thought something would happen a certain way, it changed. I was really impressed with those scenes.

My only criticism is that occasionally all the characters’ internal debating went on for a bit…

However, it was great to read a book with these themes.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Out Now: The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

I’m really excited to see more historical romance set in Australia being published. The Widow of Ballarat (Ballarat is a famous gold rush town) is out now.

The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

1854, Ballarat, Victoria. When Nell Ambrton’s husband is shot dead by a bushranger, there are few who grieve his passing, and Nell least of all. How could she miss the monster who had abused her from the day they wed – the man who had already killed his innocent first wife? But his death triggers a chain of events that seem to revolve around the handsome bushranger who murdered him – a man to whom Nell, against her better judgement, is drawn. But Nell has far more than a mysterious stranger to worry about. With a mess of complications around her late husband’s will, a vicious scoundrel of a father trying to sell her off in matrimony, and angry relatives pursuing her for her husband’s gold, she is more concerned with trying to ensure her safety and that of her friend, goldfields laundry woman Flora, than dealing with the kind of feelings that led her astray so catastrophically before. After the violence on the goldfields, Nell’s fate also hangs in the balance. It seems that, after all, she might need to do the one thing she has avoided at all costs … ask for the help of a man.

Poppies for Remembrance Day – 100 Years

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Thousands of Poppies First world War One Sonya Heaney 11th November 2018 Australian War Memorial Canberra.

Thousands and thousands of handmade poppies at the Australian War Memorial for Remembrance Day, and a hundred years since the end of the First World War. Australia committed to the war before Britain even declared it, and Canberra turned on a sunny, hot, blue-skied, beautiful day for the occasion.

Because I live in Canberra, love history, and have a military father, I visit the War Memorial quite often. However, today was special, and because I’ve been overseas for much of the past few months, and today was the last day to see all the poppies before they go, (there are poppies at Parliament House, too, but they’re there for another week), I had to visit.

Long Tan Cross

Because I live in Canberra and have a former military father (and love history!), I spend quite a lot of time at the Australian War Memorial.

I went with my father today, half because of the occasion (one hundred years since the First World War ended) – to see the thousands and thousands of handmade poppies in the garden out the front (today was the last day for the exhibition), and half because I’m currently working on the memoirs of a Military Cross-winning Vietnam veteran (my father’s commander in the war), and he was heavily involved in the Long Tan dedication ceremony.

Long Tan is by far the most famous (infamous?) battle in Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, and my father knows people in the iconic photograph.

The cross arrived at the War Memorial not all that long ago, and this is the first time I’ve seen it in its special new room. Unfortunately that room – as they tried to make it a quiet place for reflection – is practically hidden, and I think most visitors will miss it…

mde

The Week: 13th – 19th August

What a week. I am very busy at the moment.

In the world? We’ve had about 120 bushfires in the region in the past few days. To people who deny climate change: it’s WINTER here. Canberra’s kangaroo plague is getting worse (also due to climate change!). Then there was another terror attack in London, and that horrendous bridge collapse in Genoa…

Then there was the shock death of Soviet gymnastics star Yelena Shushunova. She was the 1988 Olympic Champion and a five-time World Champion. I still have video tapes of her. She died so young that one of the gymnasts she trained with still competes.

Happy Birthday to the National Library!

Enlighten Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 11th March 2017 National Library of Australia Canberra Women's History Reflection Night

Out Now: Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears by John McNamee

Pie Comic by John McNamee Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears

On this day: the Australian Women’s Army Service was formed

Awas_in_wa_1943Northam, West Australia. 1943-04-20. The Minister for the Australian Army, the Honourable F.M. Forde, inspecting personnel of the Australian Women's Army Service at the We

Vietnam Veterans Day

Binh Ba 1 - Copy

One Year Ago

IMG_20170906_153119_287

On this day: the Australian Women’s Army Service was formed

AWASwithOwengunsAWAS with Owen guns. Members of the Australian Women’s Army Service being instructed in the use of the Owen gun at Belmont in Queensland.

Instructions in the use of the Owen gun. Belmont, Queensland. X

The Australian Women’s Army Service, created to release more men into forward positions in the military during the Second World War, was formed on the 13th of August, 1941.

AWAS_-_poster Australian Women's Army Service Recruitment poster

Recruitment Poster

Lae, New Guinea, 25 December 1945. The Right Honourable J.B. Chifley talking to Sergeant Pritchard, AWAS, the only woman interpreter of Japanese in the Australian Army.

Sergeant Pritchard (right), the only Japanese translator in the Australian Army. X

The AWAS was preceded by the Women’s Australian National Service in 1940, where women proved they were capable of performing traditionally male roles.

Awas_in_wa_1943Northam, West Australia. 1943-04-20. The Minister for the Australian Army, the Honourable F.M. Forde, inspecting personnel of the Australian Women's Army Service at the We

The Minister for the Australian Army, the Honourable F.M. Forde, with AWAS members in Western Australia in 1943.

24 026 women were enlisted over the course of the war, and several hundred served in New Guinea.

The AWAS was disbanded in 1947.

On this day: the Battle of Amiens

In Times Gone By...

The iconic Battle of Amiens, later to be known as the opening chapter of the Hundred Days Offensive that ended the First World War, took place from the 8th to the 12th of August, 1918.

This painting, by Australian official war artist Will Longstaff, is titled 8th August, 1918. It shows a column of German prisoners of war heading in one direction, while horse-drawn artillery heads in the other.

The painting can be found in the collection of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

8th August, 1918 (oil-on-linen, 107 cm x 274 cm, 1918-1919) by Will Longstaff, Australian official war artist. Depicts a scene during the Battle of Amiens. The view is towards the west,

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