Written by Tasmanian author Karen Harrland
Writing the ‘Daughter of the Plateau’ and ‘Spinifex Baby’
I sat on the timber steps outside the old weatherboard cottage with a steaming coffee. Towering Eucalypts caught the wind that blew off the mist shrouded mountains behind me, and I felt my thoughts deepen as I looked out over the silver waters and black swans of Lake Sorell. My last book, a memoir called Spinifex Baby, had been published only a month or two earlier and I was still trying to catch my breath.
My memoir was set in the Simpson Desert, where my husband and I had our first child while managing a million-acre conservation property. We learned to be parents alone in the dune-fields amidst dust storms and camels. I won a national Finch Memoir Prize for that memoir, and the publishers flew me to the Sydney Writers Festival to be presented the award, speak on a panel to hundreds of readers and be interviewed on Radio National and for the newspaper. I live on the side of a mountain in Tasmania and feel at peace in the bush, with no one around, the silence broken only by bird calls. As you may imagine, I spent the entire time in Sydney in equal parts awe and terror.
I looked for space to think through what I’d write next and escaped with my husband and three children to a nature reserve in the Highlands of Tasmania where the fictional characters who lived in the old house began to emerge from the walls and forest, telling me their story.
Mana, named for the regal white gums and yellow-tailed cockatoos of the Central Highlands of Tasmania, was a wild, strong, fiercely independent child.
But Mana’s life was torn apart, first by her mother’s abandonment, then by her father’s coldness. Craving connection, yet wounded by her past. Manna pushes away the last of the people she cares about.
Wild places can heal but are they enough? A whale stranding and an encounter with a silver-haired woman force Manna to reckon with the elemental forces within and around her.
Grieving and alone, she must tear open old wounds and confront the people she once loved the most, if she is to reclaim her identity as a daughter of the Plateau.
This story, Daughter of the Plateau, has recently been published by Forty South, a kind and skillful Tasmanian-owned publishing house.
As much as the writing process fills me with peace and expresses that part of me that’s otherwise hidden away, the best part of writing this book was the responses I received from my readers. I was awed and inspired to know that I had touched people, made them think hard, helped them to understand their own journey or the Tasmanian wilderness better.
I hope I have done this incredible part of the world justice, as its beauty and power is humbling. I also hope I have told a young woman’s story with dignity and shown her courage. The courage and hope that lies in all our young people who are making their way in this world.
My day job – and yes, of course I have one, is as a ‘storytelling teacher’ at a local primary school, but more about that in my next blog post for #TasmanianLitMonth!
Buy Karen’s Books