All of Us Together Blog Tour: A History Test
I am particularly pleased to be part of this blog tour. Bill Condon is an author whose writing makes me feel simultaneously inspired and “green with wishfulness”. He’s also a good friend, who has happily shared his advice with me, over many years.
Added to that, historical fiction is one of my favourite adult and children’s literature reading genres and The Great Depression is a time in history that I know very little about. I’ve focused on older history – studying Ancient History in high school and at University. So it was a double feast to read All of Us Together and then be able to ask questions about the research behind it.
1. This is your first historical novel. Did you intend to write a story about the Depression from the outset?
Yes and no. I always intended to set it in the Depression, but that period is a secondary player in the book. All Of Us Together is essentially a family story. I have written a semi historical novel once before, with events taking place in the 1960s. In that story I mentioned a car that was fitted with a burglar alarm. A disgruntled reader was quick to inform me that cars didn’t have burglar alarms in the 60s. So with that in mind, this time I was careful not to include historical facts and figures that might not be accurate.
2. What was involved in researching the story?
The initial research was done by my parents. They lived through the Depression, and told me of their experiences. At the time I was probably in my teens and I didn’t pay a lot of attention, but their words must have been rolling around in my subconscious all those years. Then, last year, when I was struggling to find a subject that would engage me, I remembered those long ago talks about the Depression. There is a mass of material on the Net about the era, so the research was never a problem, particularly since I knew the emphasis would be on the family, and not the history. As I always do, I used events from my own life, many of them almost forgotten until I started rummaging through my cobwebby brain. The things that I got up to as a kid might well have been done by a boy in the Depression, just as it’s possible that kids of today could do them now.
3. I’m personally fascinated by character’s names and how they evoke time and place. Are there any stories behind the name choices in All of Us Together?
The mum and dad in the story have the same names as my parents, Margaret and John. Other than that, I just looked for names which I thought may have been in vogue in the early 30s. I wanted a strong name for the lead character, and I think I found it with Daniel. Also, I could vary it at times by calling him Dan, just as Adelaide is sometimes known as Addie. For another character I chose the name Bede. There was a boy at my school with that name, and it definitely seemed to fit the era. The town where the family live is Kulgoa, which is based on the name of a street where I lived. Another town, Warrenbridge, is a combination of the names of two relatives, Warren and Brigitte.
4. Is the town based on a real town? Was there really a place like Happy Valley?
No, it wasn’t based on any town in particular. Again, I didn’t want to be too specific in case I got my facts wrong. I just envisioned it as being a country area where there was a lot of native wildlife near to where the family lived. Regarding Happy Valley, that certainly was true. It was near La Perouse, in Sydney. There were unemployment camps similar to Happy Valley all over Australia.
5. Will you write another historical novel?
I didn’t have any idea I’d write this one, so anything’s possible. I think this book is set up for a sequel, which would explain what happens when the family reach Happy Valley. I’ve considered that at great length but I’m not confident I have the skill to write it. In All Of Us Together the family is settled in a reasonably comfortable home, so that allowed me to concentrate on their personal stories, rather than their environment. If I were to attempt a sequel much of it would have to be about them coming to grips with the very poor conditions they faced at Happy Valley.
6. Do you have a favourite historical novel?
No. I always feel a little embarrassed to admit this, but the truth is that I’m not widely read. There were no books in my home as a child. At school the kind of stories we were given were very old-fashioned and boring, so I never developed the reading habit. However, these days I’m always reading something, though it’s an eclectic mix. Currently beside my bed I have SE Hinton’s The Outsiders, and John Boyne’s A History of Loneliness. I’m enjoying both of them.
This is the last leg of the blog tour but if you missed and posts you can find them here:
17 November Di Bates http://www.diannedibates.blogspot.com.au
18 November Clancy Tucker http://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au
19 November Sally Odgers http://promotemeplease.blogspot.com.au
21 November Dee White http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com
22 November Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell
23 November Elaine Ousten http://elaineoustonauthor.com/
24 November Melissa Wray http://www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au
25 November Susan Whelan http://www.kids-bookreview.com
26 November Romi Sharp http://www.justkidslit.com
A final Note: All of Us Together is the first book to be published by About Kids Books, a boutique Australian Publisher of “quality junior fiction for readers aged 7 to 12 years”. Submission guidelines can be found here.