Imagining the Past Podcast: Episode 9: Survival of the Fittest: Challenging Interior and Exterior Landscapes

A stark Australian landscape is both menacing and beautiful in Rachel Leary’s Bridget Crack with a protagonist who must overcome physical and psychological threats. David Whish-Wilson’s  The Coves explores the brutality of Australian renegades in the unlawful streets of 19th century San Francisco while Stephanie Parkyn’s Into the World forces her heroine to face ocean hazards while striving to protect a dangerous personal secret.

In this week’s Imagining the Past podcast episode, Lisa Chaplin explores these authors’ sources of inspiration, and what it takes to create characters who battle internal fears in a fight for survival against nature and man in the HNSA 2019 panel – Survival of the Fittest: challenging interior and exterior landscapes.

Our Speakers

Rachel Leary is a writer and performer with a strong interest in landscape and the non-human world.  Her debut novel Bridget Crack, set in 1820s Van Diemen’s Land, was published by A&U in 2017.  She has also published and won awards for short fiction. From 2012-2015 her one-woman show Everything Must Go (written and performed) toured over 100 regional Australian venues. She holds a BSc with honours in Cultural Geography, a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT, and is currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing. 

David Whish-Wilson was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, but grew up in Singapore, Victoria and Western Australia. David left Australia aged eighteen to live for a decade in Europe, Africa and Asia, where he worked as a barman, actor, street seller, petty criminal, labourer, exterminator, factory worker, gardener, clerk, travel agent, teacher and drug-trial guinea pig. He now lives in Fremantle and coordinates the creative writing program at Curtin University.

Stephanie Parkyn’s debut novel Into the World, published by Allen & Unwin, was based on a true story discovered while living in Tasmania and began her love of historical fiction. Her second novel, Josephine’s Garden grew from following fascinating rabbit holes in her research and will be published in December 2019. Originally from New Zealand, she had a former career as a freshwater ecologist. Her short stories have been published in the 40 South Anthologies and shortlisted for the Scarlet Stiletto competition and RSNZ Manhire Award for Creative Science Writing. She now lives in a bush-clad valley in New Zealand.

A born and bred Sydneysider with Indigenous heritage, Lisa Chaplin spent four years in beautiful Zurich, Switzerland, gathering ideas for novels around Europe before returning to her native soil. Writing under the pseudonym, Melissa James, she tackles stories about the Stolen Generation, PTSD, and families with challenges. Her latest Melissa James’ novel is Beneath The Skin, a women’s fiction crime novel, with Aboriginal major and minor characters was released in the US by MIRA HarperCollins in January 2020. After writing 20 books, novellas and online reads for giant Harlequin that sold over 1.65 million books worldwide, she quit to concentrate on historical fiction. Her first historical fiction, The Tide Watchers, was based on a true story. In 2014 the book sold to William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins New York, and to six countries around the world. She’s currently working on the sequel, Blind Fall, as well as a YA sci-fi time-travel (from 2069 San Francisco to Lyon, France, during the Terror), and a historical post-WWI fiction for MIRA Australia.

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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