Inspired by the Eureka Rebellion and her ancestral family who mined for gold in early Australia, Mary-Anne O'Connor brings us a sweeping novel celebrating our Australian history, the cost of freedom and the value of love in our far-flung corner of the world…
1851: After the death of her father, young Eve Richards is destitute. Her struggle to survive sees her deported in chains to the colony of New South Wales, penniless and alone. But here in this strange new world fortune smiles on the spirted, clever Eve in the shape of a respectable job offer that will lead to a quiet, secure life. Then the fiery and charismatic Irishman Kieran Clancy crosses her path...
For Kieran Clancy and his brother Liam, the promise of free passage and land in this brave new world is a chance to leave the grief and starvation of County Clare behind. But while Liam works to farm their land, Kieran has the fire of gold-fever upon him and is drawn to the goldfields of Ballarat.
As tensions grow on the goldfields, and with the blood of an Irish rebel still beating through his heart, Kieran finds himself caught up in the cataclysmic events at the Eureka Stockade and faces the decision of a lifetime: whether or not, when it comes to love, blood will remain thicker than water...
Mary-Anne O'Connor delved into her ancestral past to research for this novel and was greatly influenced by her family history as well as the history of our great nation. From the soft green hills of Ireland, to the wild Shipwreck Coast of southern Victoria, the rich farm lands of New South Wales to the sudden battlefields of Ballarat - In A Great Southern Land is a moving Australian saga that beautifully captures the adventures and hardships of early Australian life.
Mary-Anne O'Connor has a combined arts education degree with specialities in environment, music and literature. She works in marketing and co-wrote/edited A Brush with Light and Secrets of the Brush with Kevin Best. Mary-Anne lives in a house overlooking her beloved bushland in northern Sydney with her husband Anthony and their two sons Jimmy and Jack. In A Great Southern Land is her fourth novel.
In A Great Southern Land
Author: Mary-Anne O'Connor
Question: What inspired In A Great Southern Land?
Mary-Anne O'Connor: This novel was inspired by the story of my ancestors who emigrated to Australia from Ireland in the 1840's. I've always wondered what would drive a family to move to the other side of the world, especially considering the perilous conditions and poor quality of shipping at the time. The Eureka Stockade has always fascinated me too and I think the desperation, danger, adventure and excitement of the era was always brewing inside me in embryonic story form - just waiting to be written.
Question: Can you talk us through the research you conducted for this book?
Mary-Anne O'Connor: Whenever I write about history I try very hard to get it right - accuracy really matters, especially when you are dealing with events that people hold sacred. I read books, articles, went online and researched the era extensively, read firsthand accounts and watched reenactments. I also read quite a bit of Henry Lawsons poetry which is very stirring and indicative of the period.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Mary-Anne O'Connor: The characters are inspired by people rather than based on people. They are very much unique individuals to me and try to give them actual personalities which is rather like dreaming them to life, so to speak. I have a white board in front of me and a much-loved plotting book where I write phrases or words they might use, idiosyncratic habits, flaws, strengths, challenges and and patterns they follow. Real people I know tend to blend into them but they really are fictional people in my mind that strangely do exist, in my head anyway.
Question: What do you hope readers learn whilst reading In A Great Southern Land?
Mary-Anne O'Connor: That freedom should never be taken for granted. Brave men and women had to fight for it in this country and indeed all over the world. Blood was shed, lives were put on the line and choices were made in the name of freedom and equality and the right to have a voice. We should never forget that and be grateful that we can vote and speak and out and have power. It's a wonderful thing.
Question: What's next, for you?
Mary-Anne O'Connor: There's a real western coming your way - bushrangers in the High Country that are still fighting for survival twenty years after the Stockade. I really loved writing it because the Australian Alps are very close to my heart. It's in editing and right now so I'm working on book number six which is all about feminism and the suffragette movement - the great moment in history when women fought to have freedom and the right to vote too. It's incredibly inspiring research and I'm very much enjoying painting my characters and finding them on paper. We have so much to be thankful for.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
In A Great Southern Land
Author: Mary-Anne O'Connor