A Novel’s Inspiration



Just over three years ago this scene, in the middle of a paddock, in the middle of the bush, miles from anywhere, triggered an image that has developed a novel-length story.

Tentatively entitled ‘On Demon’s Shores’, my first view of the story was a woman, crying over a grave very similar to this. She’d been a convict, but had served her seven year sentence and was married and living out in the bush, away from the prying eyes of the government.

My husband and I had been bushwalking and were on our way out when we passed this, still with a good couple of hours walk ahead of us. To this day I don’t know if it is actually a grave, or simply a memorial, nor whether it’s for human or animal, but as we walked out of the bush that day more and more of a story came to me:

The woman was Scottish. She’d learnt folk magic from her grandmother, and had worked with the fairies of her home to cast her magic. But she could not communicate with the spirits in her new home, halfway across the world in the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land.

What to do? The solution came easily. My Scottish character had to learn the ways of this land, and what better way to do it than to learn from an Aboriginal woman – what food to eat, where to find water, how to find/build shelter. Once she was attuned to living off this land, then she might better be able to connect with the spirits. Perhaps then she could work her magic again.

In the three years since then, ‘On Demon’s Shores’ has evolved and grown, and I’ve been busy researching and writing and reading and rewriting, pouring over old newspapers and rewriting some more.  I have learnt so much about the history of my home state, and most particularly the Indigenous inhabitants.


I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I live and write, the Pallittorre people.  I would like to show my respects to the elders past and present. 

Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, there are no descendants of the Pallittorre people alive today, and therefore no present elders (Perhaps someone can correct me on that?). The Tasmanian Aborigines were almost completely wiped out in less than 30 years of settlement, between 1803 to 1830. My heart breaks at the terrible crimes that were committed against the Aboriginal people, and all the knowledge that has been lost, all that we could have learnt from those who’d lived this land for generations before we ever set foot on it.


#aww2016 Book Review – The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ashala Wolf


This is my first book review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016.

I recently discovered The Tribe series by Ambelin Kwaymullina, starting with The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf.

What a brilliant story!

It reminded me of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn (another favourite of mine). Set in a post-apocalyptic world a young girl with special powers has to face a machine which threatens to reveal the secrets that keep her loved ones safe.

In this instance, however, the main character, Ashala Wolf, is a young aboriginal girl  – though in this world notions of race no longer have any real meaning:

“…there were different peoples, different “races”. Ember had told me about it, once – how things like my skin not being the same colour as hers, or the way Pen’s eyes were almond shaped, used to mean something. After the end of the old world,when there were so few humans left, everyone stopped worrying about things like that.”

Ashala Wolf leads a tribe of ‘Illegals’, children with special powers: Rumblers, who can create earthquakes; Skychangers who can cause lightning strikes, Firestarters who can – yep – start fires. It’s Ashala’s aim to not only protect her tribe, but also to shut down a detention centre where Illegals are being kept and interrogated.

There was so much to love about this story:

I loved the animistic world-view – everything has a spirit in this story, and a memory – from the Tuarts – great gums that remember the time before ‘the Reckoning’, to the machine itself – a device that carries the spirit of a playful puppy, though it has been collared and chained as Ashala has, and put to less playful purposes.

I loved the presence of the Rainbow Serpent – “I stood trembling as the massive snake slid upwards, it’s pale blue scales shimmering with rainbows in the light” – who tells Ashala: “I am your many times grandfather, one of the creators of your people” and who travelled the land after the Reckoning, collecting all the bits of life and remaking them.

‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ is well written, and had me hooked from the first line. I’m really looking forward to getting onto the next books in this series: ‘The Disappearance of Ember Crow’, and ‘The Foretelling of Georgie Spider’. Highly recommended!



#aww2016 Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016


I’m signing up for this again. (I first attempted the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2014)  My aim is to read and review 6 books by Australian women writers, with at least half of those books by Australian Indigenous women.

My first book, which I’ll post the review for in a week or so, is Ambelin Kwaymullina’s ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’, book 1 in her Tribe series. I really enjoyed it, and I’ll share why next post. I’ve also got books 2 and 3 of this series to read, but I’ll aim for reviews of at least 3 different Indigenous female authors, rather than three books by the same author. 🙂

If you are keen to join (and you don’t have to have your own blog, or even write reviews), click here to find out more about it and sign up.