Imagining the Past Podcast: Episode 10: Walking Side by Side: Collaboration Between Historical Novelist and Historian

This week’s episode of the Imagining the Past podcast was recorded during the 2019 HNSA conference in Parramatta, which was the second penal settlement established in Australia. When Thomas and Meg Keneally decided to set their Monsarratt detective series in Paramatta, Meg sought the assistance of local historian, Gay Hendrikson, to dig into the township’s history. 

Gillian Polack learns how Meg and Gay formed a working relationship to trace the footsteps of the Keneallys’ characters, locate potential murder sites, and pore over history together, and how their collaboration extended to Meg’s first solo novel Fled and her new release, Wreck.

Our Speakers

Meg Keneally’s latest novel, Fled, is based on the escape of First Fleet convict Mary Bryant. Her second solo novel, The Wreck, has recently been released. Meg is co-author with Tom Keneally of The Soldier’s Curse, The Unmourned, The Power Game and The Ink Stain, the first four books in the Monsarrat series of historical murder mysteries. The fifth in the series, The Valley of the Swells (the first Monsarrat story to involve a serial killer), will be published in Australia in 2021.

Gay Hendrikson is the founding partner of the Rowan Tree Heritage and Cultural Services. As a history curator and writer, Gay has researched and interpreted cultural and social histories for 30 years. Content ranges from Colonial times to the present with an emphasis on women’s stories. Her writing and curatorship has focused on early Colonial Australia. She curated the national award winning Women Transported – Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories. Her latest writing is Conviction – 1827 Fight for rights at the Parramatta Female Factory.Curatorial work has included Elizabeth Farm, Rouse Hill House and Farm, Meroogal, Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, Penrith Regional Gallery and Parramatta Heritage Centre and freelance work. Consultancy highlights are: State Archives of NSW, Bundanon Trust, Wollongong Heritage and Stories Museum Digitisation, Blue Mountains Museum Advisor and Villages of the Heart illustrated and oral histories.

Dr Gillian Polack is a writer, editor, researcher and teacher. Four of her books have been shortlisted for awards. One of her short stories actually won an award and others have been listed as recommended reading on international years’ best lists. She has PhDs in Creative Writing and in Medieval History. Her research includes how writers think of history and how they use it in their fiction, and how other aspects of culture are encoded into novels, and demystifying the medieval era, in The Middle Ages Unlocked: A Guide to Life in Medieval England, 1050-1300.

Greg Johnston has edited and hosts the Imaging the Past podcasts sessions from the HNSA 2019 conference program. It is a treat for those who couldn’t attend our conference at Western Sydney University in October last year to hear some of the panel discussions such as this one. It’s also a chance for HNSA 2019 attendees to catch up on the sessions they missed because they couldn’t be in two rooms at once!

G.S. Johnston is the author of three historical novels – Sweet Bitter Cane (2019), The Cast of a Hand (2015), and The Skin of Water (2012), and a fourth novel set in contemporary Hong Kong, Consumption (2011). The novels are noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels. Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Canberra, Australia.

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