Goldie Alexander is a versatile Australian author of books for kids and teens. She has written both fiction and non-fiction, chapter books and novels, and everything from science fiction to historical fiction. Her latest book is a YA historical novel, The Youngest Cameleer, and she joins us today to provide a little insight into the writing of fictionalised history.
Creating characters from history
By Goldie Alexander
Until very recently history had fallen out of favour and it’s a pleasure to see it once again become important. The challenge is to make history less dull. One way is to use fiction as a means of transporting the reader back into the past. For an author this means creating convincing settings, characters and dialogue that are totally different to one’s own experience.
In Mavis Road Medley a ‘time warp’ novel for young readers, my two contemporary youngsters find themselves in the Princes Hill of 1933 at the end of the Great Depression. In My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove I invented a thirteen year old girl convict in the Sydney of 1790, when terrible hardships prevailed and the First Fleet felt cut off from the rest of the world. In Body and Soul: Lilbet’s Romance I took on the voice of a disabled eighteen year old living in Melbourne just before the outbreak of World War Two.
My most recent fiction The Youngest Cameleer has been one of my greatest challenges as I took on the personae of a 14-year-old Moslem. A lesser known exploration into the interior was led by William Gosse in 1873. The various members of this exploration (both European and Afghan) did exist and my story is based on Gosse’s own journal and often using his own words. This expedition was the first non-indigenous group to stumble across Uluru. Without the use of the Afghan cameleers they might never have survived the harsh conditions they encountered. Some cameleers even lent their name to well know landmarks: Kamran’s Well. Alannah Hill.
My intention was to bring this expedition to life. In late 1872 Ahmed sails into the prosperous city of Adelaide to help look after four camels. But he has other things on his mind. What if his uncle Kamran isn’t as innocent of his brother’s death as he seems? As the expedition treks into the interior, Ahmed must cope with Jemma Khan’s enmity, his own homesickness, and the difficulties of exploring unknown territory.
If we don’t have Aboriginal ancestors, we are all migrants. My parents came from Poland in the late twenties. Our great migrant waves have occurred at various times: during the gold-rush, straight after World War Two, and in the seventies when the ‘boat people’ arrived. Given the current political climate, it is good to recall that Afghans have been responsible for opening up this vast continent and that without their camels the task would have been harder than it already was.
My thanks to Goldie for sharing her insights into writing characters for historical fiction. For more info about her and her writing, check out her website.
And tune in next time to fine out how JE Fison went from being a television news reporter to a children’s author.
Catch ya later, George
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