It is a pleasure to warmly welcome back Darry Fraser to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea break with Mrs B, a short form author interview series. Darry’s new book was released last month and to help celebrate the release of Elsa Goody, Bushranger, we sat down for a chat. Thanks Darry!
Hello, Mrs B – great to be with you again.
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
Well, as it’s only seven degrees here on a crisp winter’s day, I’ve opted for a hot toddy using our own Kangaroo Island made Whisky Barrel gin. Of course—the sun is over the yard arm here.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
Before being taken up by Harlequin Mira and subsequently HarperCollins, my writing success was very hit-and-miss, a short story published here and there as I tackled whatever life was aiming at me. Since Daughter of the Murray, my breakout book in December 2016, it’s been an exhilarating last four years. Elsa Goody, Bushranger is the fifth novel since then, and in that time I also wrote a novella for an anthology, all contracted with HarperCollins.
Can you tell us what inspired the creation of your new book, Elsa Goody, Bushranger?
Once the brain starts whirring along the lines of a new book, all sorts of things start happening. I had this picture in my head of a young woman reading a letter by candlelight. I knew whatever was in that letter was not good news. So I started the scene, the opening chapter, and it grew from there. I drew on family legend with the gold coins, and I wanted adventure, so there had to be a quest, something meaningful for which my characters had to reach. The fun begins when all the characters start to pop in, waiting to be fleshed out.
What was the research process like this time around for Elsa Goody, Bushranger and what sources did you use?
I rely heavily on Trove for newspaper articles and advertisements back in the day, and in the district, I visit the local library, or meet long term residents and I also travel to the region and get a real feel for the physical terrain. I’ve collected a fair bit of historical information, so there’s a bank to draw on now. But each region is different. I had to dig a little deeper for one piece of information and went to the State Library of South Australia, where we unearthed more questions. Can’t tell what it was … It’s all in the story.
Why did you decide to set Elsa Goody, Bushranger in late 1800s South Australia?
I enjoy researching that particular period. Women were beginning to make their presence felt publicly: in law, soon in government. But what is most fascinating is that there were strong women throughout the century, and when you start looking, realise we just didn’t hear from them, or about them. We have tended to think that because we didn’t hear their voices, that they weren’t strong. We’re better at looking for and uncovering their stories now. I like to think that I give a (fictional) voice to those resilient and resourceful women. Not all were beaten down by their lives.
Did you have an affinity with a particular character in Elsa Goody, Bushranger and why?
No … I enjoy all the characters. There are bits and pieces in all of them (maybe not Pete or the imposter) I enjoy or recognise. Strengths and weaknesses make up all of us.
What is one thing that you really hope readers will take away from the experience of reading Elsa Goody, Bushranger?
That resilience and determination gets the job done.
Have you developed any quirks or habits while writing your books?
Oh dear, most likely. For one, I’m even more of a hermit than I was before. As deadline looms, early morning starts at the manuscript just happen at 4.45am. I walk the dog at 6.30am (bit later in winter), home for brekky and chores and by 8.30am I’m back at the desk. Not sure about quirks so much … I write sequentially, edit as I go (as best I can) and I don’t make rigid goals as in word count, or chapters per day. I’ve tried to plot – fail; I’ll remain a pantster. I do ask a lot of what-if questions of my dog. Not helpful, he usually just goes to the snacks box.
How has your writing process been affected by COVID-19?
At first, it was a sense of ‘what to do?’ and ‘what do we do now?’ I lost momentum. We’d been battered here too over the summer season with terrible bushfires so everyone was in shock, and fires and viruses were all that was spoken about. The only thing I could do to keep myself on track and functioning was to return to the desk. And—deadlines don’t wait.
What book or books do you recommend that I add to my reading pile?
Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens. I loved it. Recently I’ve read Still Alice and Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova, a skilled writing. Our own Tea Cooper, The Girl in the Painting. It would be a massive list, Mrs B.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
I’ve just finished a manuscript due into my publishers in July 2020 for release next year if it’s accepted, so I’ll be poring over that for the next few weeks polishing it up and tearing my hair out with worry. Untitled: ‘A young woman returns home to Melbourne in 1900 from university in Scotland, believing she might land a job in the emerging field of forensics only to find murder as a cause of death is closer to home than she thought it would be.’
Edits for the book due out in December this year have just landed on my desk, due back on 19th of this month so, I’m still tearing my hair out. The Last Truehart: ‘A dark American ship docks in Melbourne 1865 and carries secrets far out to sea. Thirty years later those secrets taunt a young woman whose life is inexplicably tied to the shadow of the CSS Shenandoah.’
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Darry. Congratulations on the release of your new book, Elsa Goody, Bushranger.
Thanks once again, Mrs B. (That toddy went down a treat – could I interest you in one?)
Elsa Goody is a woman on a quest for buried treasure – and her own freedom. A thrilling historical romance adventure from a bestselling Australian author.
1896 Robe, South Australia
When Elsa Goody’s father and brother George die in quick succession she and her sister Rosie are in trouble. Pursued by an unpleasant suitor with dubious motivation, Elsa leaves for Victoria on the hunt for a fortune in gold coins that her brother has hidden. If Elsa can find it she will be able to save Rosie and herself from married slavery.
Their quest leads them on a cross-country journey to find the last man who saw her brother alive, Ezekiel Jones. But Elsa is not the only one looking for buried treasure. She and Rosie are beset by bushrangers and in the confusion Elsa is accused of being an accomplice. Luckily not everyone believes that Elsa is a criminal. When she finally catches up with Ezekiel, it’s clear that for him she can do no wrong.
But with everyone chasing her and bloody violence on the horizon, life is becoming increasingly complicated. Will she and Rosie ever manage to solve the mystery, find the gold and free themselves from a dark future?
Elsa Goody, Bushranger by Darry Fraser was published on 18th May 2020 by Mira -AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
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