#TasmanianLitMonth – Featured Writer: Danielle Wood

Author Danielle Wood
Photo credit: Karen Brown

Danielle Wood is the author of The Alphabet of Light and DarkRosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for GirlsHousewife Superstar: The Very Best of Marjorie Bligh and Mothers Grimm. 

As Minnie Darke, she is the author of Star-crossed, The Lost Love Song, With Love from Wish & Co  and the forthcoming Audible Original, Wild Apples.

With Heather Rose she is ‘Angelica Banks’, author of the Tuesday McGillycuddy books for children.

She has edited two anthologies of Tasmanian literature, teaches writing at UTAS and lives in Hobart, with her family, in a house with a magnificent view of kunanyi.

What makes Tasmania special to you? 

I’ve lived in Tasmania all my life and I love it very much. That doesn’t mean the feelings aren’t complicated. My first book The Alphabet of Light and Dark is about that complexity. How does a person of Scottish and English heritage, the descendent of convicts and lighthouse keepers and tea moguls who ended up in Tasmania via India, resolve their sense of belonging and their sense of not-belonging, given this island’s history of dispossession?

How has the Tasmanian wilderness inspired you as a creator?

Perhaps the most relevant way to answer that right now is to say that there’s a particular wild place in Tasmania that I’m quite obsessed with, even though I never had the chance to go there. Lake Pedder, a glacial lake in the heart of the south-west wilderness, was flooded as part of a hydro-electric scheme in 1972, the year I was born. The lake survives in images created by artists and photographers, and also in the testimony of writers. It also continues to exist, down there underneath the waters of the Huon-Serpentine Impoundment, which some people call ‘Lake Pedder’. The loss of Lake Pedder is one of Tasmania’s foundational stories. It ought to be a cautionary tale – about power and greed and lies and deceit and the fragility of democracy – but somehow we Tasmanians fail to learn our lessons; we keep repeating the same old mistakes.

To understand more about some of the issues surrounding the flooding of Lake Pedder, you can read a very short summary here

What makes Tasmanian literature unique? 

There’s debate on the topic of ’Tasmanian exceptionalism’. Read Christopher Koch (especially the essay ’A Tasmanian Tone’ in the collection Crossing the Gap) and he’ll persuade you of the following: 

“Geography is the great hidden shaper of history and character. The essence in landscape and climate will always impose itself on the human spirit, and especially the writer’s spirit, more finally and insidiously than anything else, in the end.”

But, read ex-pat Tasmanian Dennis Altman, and he’ll have you believe that we Tasmanians – and our literature – are not really so very different; he argues we have a lot in common with other small, insular communities. What do I think? Perhaps something that makes us a bit different is the way we grow up with access to a shared set of powerful, foundational stories which have an almost mythical gravity to them. I suspect Tasmanian writers are unusually in touch with these deep layers of narrative and our contemporary work is both connected to them, and fed by them.

What structures and systems are in place in Tasmania for you to succeed as a creator? In what ways do you think Tasmanian creator culture differs from other areas of Australia or the world? 

I’ve been known to say Tasmania is the best place in the world to be a writer because we have so many great bookshops and so many great readers. Island magazine is also an important part of our literary ecology, because it has given so many emerging writers the opportunity to publish for the first time, and I’d also like to give a big shout-out to Libraries Tasmania, an organisation that has nurtured me at every stage of my reading and writing life.

But it’s the bookshops and readers who really make what we do possible. This returns us to the question of Tasmanian exceptionalism, above. Perhaps one of the things that’s different about Tasmanians is our sense of ourselves as Tasmanians, and our commitment to reading the work of our own writers, and our constant interrogation and reconfiguration our sense of ourselves … through story.

What is a misconception about Tasmania that you’d like to rectify? 

I’m not sure if this is a misconception, exactly – who am I to deny anyone their experience? – but I’m bewildered when I hear newcomers to Tasmania say they find Tasmanians unwelcoming and the social world hard to ‘crack’. The Tasmanians I know are almost ridiculously hospitable! 

Literature offers us mirrors, windows, and sliding door moments. Which of these are the most present in your work and why? 

Image and quote from Danielle’s website

I’m fond of all three of those; I’m not sure I can choose! But I did recently start an essay – about Lake Pedder – with windows. I wrote: There are paintings one looks at, or perhaps into, and then there are paintings that one looks through, more like a window, or portal. On my dining room wall there hangs such an artwork, a watercolour that was painted en plein air at Lake Pedder’s beach in the year before I was born. It takes me there, to the place in the dunes where Max Angus sat at his easel and mixed on his palette the dusky mauves and pinks of that legendary sand, and prepared the tiny quantity of smoky blue needed to depict the band of lake water on the horizon. It takes me also to that time, 1971, when Max Angus was painting in the hope that capturing the beauty before him might somehow contribute to its salvation. It didn’t. Or, at least, it hasn’t yet.

Danielle’s essay ‘Beyond Reason’ is included in “Water [shed]” an ‘exquisite art book which showcases the work of fifty artists from lutruwita (Tasmania) and across the world, who contributed to the water[shed] exhibition of August 2022. In 1972, Lake Pedder was drowned as part of a hydro-electric power scheme. Now that fifty years have passed, and we have embarked upon the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-30), we hope to see the political tide turn at last, and for the recovery of Lake Pedder begin.’

What other Tasmanian creators inspire and/or entertain you? 

I’d have to say: the cartoonist Jon Kudelka. Typically, for Tasmania, he and I went to school together, though we didn’t know each other especially well. Like any good cartoonist, he has a knack for reframing the issues of the day in a way that makes you think. But his work has a particular quality to it that I really respond to; funny, and somehow calm.

Danielle’s Books

The Alphabet of Light and Dark

Melding personal, family and colonial history, Wood’s evocative and lyrical prose explores the past and place, searching and belonging, love, loss and grief. The Alphabet of Light and Dark is more than an historical novel; it’s a novel about history. Winner of the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award 2002.

Housewife Superstar: the very best of Marjorie Bligh

The true story of Tasmania’s most famous domestic goddess, and the woman rumoured to have been the inspiration behind Dame Edna Everage. Shortlisted for the 2012 Waverley Library Nib Award for excellence in research.

Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls

A charming and thoroughly modern-day Scheherazade, Rosie shares with us her piquant and engaging views on life and love, marriage and mating, desire and destiny as she tackles the sometimes thorny business of making her way through life.

Mothers Grimm

A sly, cheeky and blackly comic quartet of long stories with fairytale motifs stitched into their seams. This catalogue of mothering, heartache, heartbreak, desire, love and death brings the mothers of the Brothers Grimm into the here and now.

Writing as Minnie Dark


In this sparkling romantic comedy, a young journalist tampers with her magazine’s horoscopes to win her friend’s heart – and sets in motion an unpredictable and often hilarious ripple effect. Marian Keyes meets Love Actually in this fresh, funny and gloriously romantic Australian novel that has sold all around the world.

The Lost Love Song

A tale of love, loss and the power of music to bring people together. The narrative traverses the globe, following the fortunes of one irresistible song and the love stories it inspires.

With Love from Wish & Co

Marnie Fairchild is the brains and talent behind Wish & Co, a boutique store that offers a bespoke gift-buying service to wealthy clients with complicated lives. Brian Charlesworth is Marnie’s most prized customer, and today she’s wrapping the perfect anniversary gift for his wife, Suzanne … and a birthday present for his mistress, Leona. What could possibly go wrong?

Writing with Heather Rose as Angelina Banks

From the pair’s website:

Angelica Banks is not one writer but two. Danielle Wood and Heather Rose are both award-winning authors and they have been friends for years. When they decided to write a book together they chose a pen name to make things easy.

That first book – Finding Serendipity – was the first in what has become the acclaimed Tuesday McGillycuddy  series for primary age readers aged 7 – 12. The sequel to Finding Serendipity is A Week Without TuesdayBook 3 is Blueberry Pancakes Forever. They star a girl called Tuesday McGillycuddy, a heroine called Vivienne Small, and a dog called Baxterr and they take readers on vivid adventures into the magical world of imagination and writing.

The Tuesday McGillycuddy series is published in Australia by Allen & Unwin, in Germany by Magellan and in the USA by Henry Holt (Macmillan). A Week Without Tuesday and Blueberry Pancakes Forever we both shortlisted for the Australian Aurealis Awards for Best Children’s Novel in 2015 and 2016.

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