GUEST POST: AN ABORIGINAL PSYCHIC HEROINE?

portrait thumbnail LCI’d like to thank Lizzy Chandler for contributing this guest post the Aboriginal connection in her just-released romance, Snowy River Man. Lizzy Chandler is the pen-name of Elizabeth Lhuede, a writer, book blogger and creative writing tutor who founded the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Lizzy has written a number of novels in a variety of genres, including romance, romantic suspense, fantasy and psychological suspense. Her unpublished manuscripts have earned recognition in a number of competitions, including New Zealand’s Clendon Award and Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (now “Emerald”). Her novel, Snowy River Man, has just been published by Escape Publishing. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her website for more information.

To set the context for this post, here’s the blurb for Snowy River Man:

The last time Katrina Delaney saw Jack Fairley was the morning after a one-night stand, when she discovered he was engaged to be married. Seven years later, she dreams of a missing boy – Jack’s son. Katrina has worked with police to find missing children before, and she knows she must help. But seeing Jack again comes with its own set of dangers, and Katrina fears the risks she is taking with her heart.

Jack Fairley’s standing in the community can’t keep his son from wandering off during a country rodeo. Frantic with worry, Jack is willing to do anything to find him, even put aside his scepticism and accept the help of a woman who sees his son in a dream. But when that woman turns out to be Katrina Delaney, he’s immediately suspicious. Neither Katrina nor Jack have any reason to trust each other, or the attraction that flares between them again. But trust they will have to, if they want any chance at love.

It’s not stated overtly in the novel, but there are hints that the heroine, Katrina, is part-Aboriginal – as well as psychic. How did this come about?

I’ve written elsewhere that the inspiration for Katrina being psychic comes from my own family, but I haven’t discussed her part Aboriginality – or the weird coincidences that happened after I’d first drafted the story.

I wrote Snowy River Man years ago, after staying with my partner in a fishing shack on the shores of Lake Eucumbene. I was fairly confident about the setting – all except for the hero Jack’s house, a nineteenth-century two storey mansion. Was such a place realistic for that area? We decided to scout round Snowy River Shire looking looking for something like it.

We drove and drove, covering hundreds of kilometres without result. Nothing as grand as Jack’s house appeared. Most of the places we saw were single-storey weatherboard homesteads and falling down huts, or modern buildings. After we’d driven in a big loop, we came back towards Adaminaby, and out near the tiny airport saw a two-storey mansion, just as I’d imagined. It was surrounded by tall trees and not far from the river, like in my story. At my partner’s prompting, we drove up the long driveway and knocked on the door. A caretaker and his wife answered and, once they knew I was writing a book, invited us in. To my surprise I discovered Patrick White had stayed there in his youth, and the house was now owned by a Greek tycoon. I was thrilled to learn that, like my story, it had a ballroom.

On a hunch, I asked, “There isn’t another, newer house across the valley, is there?” I was thinking of the home my hero Jack had built for his mother-in-law.

“Oh, you must mean the Farleys,” the caretaker said. “They’re our neighbours.”

I nearly choked. In the early draft of the novel, I called my hero “Jack Farley”. (After this, I changed it to “Fairley”.)

Still stunned by the coincidence, we extended our drive and drove up to the Yarrangobilly Caves. There we came across a plaque commemorating a nineteenth-century indigenous man who could well have been the ancestor for my character Murray Tom. The man’s name? “Murray Jack.”

It seemed, somehow, I had some deep connection to the land and this story.

When I came back from our holiday, I spoke to a friend who was often mistaken for Koori, even though he grew up in a “white” family. He told me he used to have dreams in which a tribal elder appeared and spoke to him. An idea started to form. I’d given Katrina the surname “Delaney” to suggest a Celtic heritage (like mine), one which might help to explain her psychic gift. I looked up the name and found it’s also a surname among indigenous Australians. I wondered whether it might be okay to imply Katrina had indigenous heritage. I talked it over with an Aboriginal friend here in the Blue Mountains – the one who encouraged me to establish the Australian Women Writers challenge. I mentioned my desire to create a subtext for the story, a way of questioning the settlers’ legitimacy in occupying and possessing the land. (An ambitious aim for a category romance!) She thought it was a great idea. She also told me I’d get the story published, and she was right. She’s also a bit psychic.