Belinda Murrell, author of The River Charm
One of my new books is The River Charm, which is a very special book to me, because it is based on the true life adventures of my great-great-great grandmother, Charlotte Atkinson. Set in Australia, during the 1840s, it is the story of a family who lost everything but fought against almost insurmountable odds to regain their independence and their right to be together as a family. Charlotte was born into a wealthy family at Oldbury, a grand estate in the bush. But after her father dies, her mother is left to raise four young children on her own. A young widow was a tempting target – from murderous convicts, violent bushrangers and worst of all, a cruel new stepfather. Fearing for their lives, the family flees on horseback to a remote hut in the wilderness. The Atkinson family must fight to save everything they hold dear.
I live at Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
I wanted to be a vet, just like my dad, which was one of the reasons I was inspired to write my new Lulu Bell series, about a girl growing up in a vet hospital, having lots of adventures with friends, family and animals.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
I am very excited about my new book The River Charm. This book was inspired by the lives of my ancestors, the Atkinsons of Oldbury and I spent months researching it. The book has received some fantastic reviews which have likened it to the classic Australian tale – Seven Little Australians.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
I have a beautiful office, overlooking the garden, with a fireplace and hundreds of books. My dog Asha sleeps in front of the fire keeping me company. It is usually orderly but as I get closer and closer to deadline, it does, just like my life, get messier!
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I read lots of things! The books I have recently read include Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth and The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I loved its enticing mixture of fantasy and adventure, and the idea that you could step through a hidden door into another magical world.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
I would love to be Eliza Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
Mustering cattle on my brother’s farm, riding my Australian stockhorse.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
Can’t write a book without my morning coffee, and for late night energy – chocolate! Although for real food I do love Vietnamese salads and Thai red chicken curry.
Who is your hero? Why?:
My heroine at the moment is Charlotte Atkinson, my great-great-great-great grandmother, who fought against almost insurmountable odds for what she believed in, wrote the first children’s book published in Australian in 1841 and happens to be one of the star characters in my new book, The River Charm!
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
Making sure that authors and publishers can afford to keep producing good quality, gorgeous books.
Website URL: www.belindamurrell.com.au