Best selling Australian author Nicole Alexander is set to visit Dubbo library on Tuesday, March 24, for a free event where she will be speaking about her newest book, The Cedar Tree.
Nicole grew up in Moree, NSW, near the Queensland border and shares her love for the lifestyle through her many novels that are set in outback Australia. Upon her visit to Dubbo, Nicole sat down with the Daily Liberal to answer some of our questions.
Q: How do you feel about visiting Dubbo?
A: One of the best things about touring is the opportunity to travel through so many rural and regional areas while talking about my first love, Australia's wonderful pastoral history. As a teenager I accompanied my parents to the Dubbo Ram Sales - I was in training from an early age. Numerous trips to Dubbo followed, whether visiting friends or one of the many fine merino studs in the greater district, invariably a night in Dubbo followed. What country girl doesn't like visiting a major commercial centre. I enjoy coming to Dubbo. I get to chat about the bush and writing, catch up with old friends, and hopefully make some new ones.
Q: How did you get started with writing novels and what inspired you to take that first step?
A: I started writing in my 20s - short stories, poetry, travel articles, but my interest in the craft started long before that. In my early teens I read, The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I loved the book and subsequently read a biography about Hemingway's life. I became intrigued by the man, this big game hunting, martini drinking, bull fighting aficionado who wrote half the day and partied at night and yet created these wonderful stories. But it was The Old Man and The Sea, that really captured me. What I didn't realise until a few years later was that the story of this old man in small boat trying to land a huge fish resonated with my own family story and the struggles of farming life. I'd become intrigued with one of the great themes in literature, man versus nature, a subject that still motivates my work. It was that novella that inspired me to write, and a natural beginning for me was to write about Australia's pastoral history, albeit in fiction.
Q: What inspired The Cedar Tree in specific?
A: The Cedar Tree spans two centuries, the 1860s and the 1940s and two very distinct locations, the NSW Richmond Valley and the Strzelecki Desert. It is a story of faith, love and betrayal that follows two generations of the Irish O'Riain family in rural Australia, from the heady days of the cedar-cutters in the 1860s through to the sugar cane industry and ultimately a sheep property in the desert. When I began crafting The Cedar Tree, I wanted to explore the idea of what it means to be free; individually, as a community, a society and ultimately, as a country. How far an individual/s is willing to go to obtain their liberty, is matched only by the cost associated with gaining that freedom. And then there is the very real question of what happens afterwards. Can a person ever truly begin their life again?
Q: Are there any standout messages in The Cedar Tree that you hope to pass on to its readers?
A: That in order to move into the future we have to learn from our mistakes and forgive those who may have had a negative impact on our lives.
Q: How long of a process was writing The Ceder Tree and did you struggle?
A: The Cedar Tree took eight months to write. On top of that I spent five months researching topics such as Irish emigration to Australia, the 1861 Robertson's Land Act, the attitudes of Australians towards Irish and Italian cultures and the opening up of the Far West of NSW. I also spent a week researching in the Richmond Valley, in northern NSW and a week roaming the dunes of the Strzelecki desert while based on a remote station on the NSW South Australian border. The Cedar Tree has a dual timeline and ensuring each chapter flows seamlessly always takes extra time.
Q: What character or storyline from your books do you most relate to?
A: Some of my friends may see similarities, particularly with my first novel, The Bark Cutters, however although I use snippets of history from my own family archives the works are all fiction.
Q: Can you give us a brief synopsis of The Cedar Tree?
Italian Stella baulks at the idea of an arranged marriage. Eventually she marries for love but is constrained by both her husband's attitude and the location of their sheep property on the fringes of the Strzelecki Desert. The remoteness of her environment impacts heavily on Stella's character.
Q: Do you have any advice?
A: Writing is about redrafting, refining and polishing, until your manuscript gleams like a pearl.
The session will run from 6pm to 7.30pm at the Macquarie Regional Library in Dubbo. Bookings are required by calling 6801 4510.