2020 ARA Historical Novel Prize Longlist: Shepherd by Catherine Jinks

HNSA, in partnerships with ARA Group, recently announced the eight talented authors, and their outstanding novels, selected in the 2020 longlist for the inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize. Shepherd by Catherine Jinks was one of the novels featured in the longlist. We chat with Catherine below about why she entered the prize and what historical fiction means to her. You can also enjoy Catherine reading an excerpt from her book via the HNSA Youtube channel. Subscribe to hear more book readings from the longlist authors in the coming weeks.

“Shepherd is a powerful evocation of brutality in rural NSW during the 1840s. Told in the unsentimental voice of a young poacher transported for life, Jinks has crafted a taut and compelling work of historical fiction.”
~ Kirsty Murray

What does being longlisted mean to you?

“I am stoked! I have to say, I’m trying not to get too excited because the book was shortlisted for another prize and wasn’t successful!”

Why did you enter the inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize?

“The ARA Historical Fiction Prize is one of the first awards in which I was keen to enter the book, because I am such a history nut. It is so great that there is finally a historical novel prize. After 30 odd years of writing historical novels, finally there is a prize that recognises the genre and, not only that, it is a serious prize.”

Why do you think awards like this are important?

“At this particular point in time, awards like the ARA Historical Novel Prize are staggeringly important—they give recently published books much-needed publicity. I have had books come out, and it’s honestly just like throwing them off a cliff; no one pays attention. Every single book of mine that has ever really been successful has received some sort of shortlisting or prize.” 

What is the value of historical fiction?

“If you don’t understand history, then you’re condemned to repeat it. People are so historically unaware—it’s staggering really—and historical fiction is a soft way of getting people interested in learning more about the past. These days, people think we’re different from what we used to be generations ago. In some ways we are, but in a lot of ways we’re not. Historical appreciation is essential. We have to value what used to be because it informs what is happening now. Historical fiction is an easy way to foster this appreciation. It’s a fun way of sliding into history without feeling like you have to learn. It’s a gateway drug.”

About Catherine Jinks

Catherine Jinks was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1963. She grew up in Papua New Guinea and later studied medieval history at the University of Sydney. After working for several years in a bank, she married Peter Dockrill, a Canadian journalist, and lived for a short time in Nova Scotia, Canada. She is now a full-time writer, residing in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales with Peter and their daughter Hannah. 

Catherine is a four-time winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year award, and has also won a Victorian Premier’s Literature Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Literature, the Ena Noel Award for Children’s Literature and an Aurealis Award for Science Fiction. In 2001, she was presented with a Centenary Medal for her contribution to Australian Children’s Literature.

To learn more, visit Catherine Jink’s website

About Shepherd

Tom Clay was a poacher back in Suffolk. He was twelve when he was caught, tried and transported to New South Wales. 

Now, assigned to a shepherd’s hut out west, he is a boy among violent men. He keeps his counsel and watches over the sheep; he steers clear of blowhards like the new man, Rowdy Cavanagh. He is alert to danger, knowing he is a foreigner here – that the land resists his understanding. 

The question is: how fast can he learn? Because a vicious killer named Dan Carver is coming for Tom and Rowdy. And if Tom can’t outwit Carver in the bush – and convince Rowdy to keep his stupid mouth shut – their deaths will be swift and cruel.

Buy your copy of Shepherd.

The ARA Historical Novel Prize shortlist will be announced on Wednesday, 28 October, with the prize winner to be announced by both video broadcast and live stream in Sydney on the evening of Tuesday, 10 November 2020.

HNSA Newsletter Updates

Subscribe to our newsletter for interviews, reviews, news and more!