Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Small moments in big pictures by Dianne Wolfer

I love stories about small moments that are also part of bigger historical pictures.

Lighthouse Girl is based on the true story of Fay Catherine Howe. She was the daughter of an Albany lighthouse keeper and lived on Breaksea Island in 1914. World War One was declared on Fay’s birthday and so that seemed a good place to begin the book…

In October 1914, troopships from across Australia and New Zealand gathered in King George Sound. Fay signalled to some of the soldiers on the ships. Then, after they reached Egypt, the soldiers sent back postcards addressed to ‘the little girl on Breaksea Island’.

This November will be 100 years since Fay waved to the troops as the 1st convoy sailed. There will be a lot of things happening in Albany to mark the centenary. Here’s a link to some information:

While I was writing Lighthouse Girl, I went to Gallipoli and Canberra. I researched old photographs and became really interested in the animal mascots that the soldiers took to war. 

Click to enlarge

I was also really interested in the horses, especially when I learnt that of the 136,000 Australian horses that sailed off to war, only one horse, Sandy, came home. I needed to find out more…

After three years of research and writing, Light Horse Boy was published last year.

The story is about Jim, a young farrier who pretends he’s 18 so that he can join the Australian Light Horse regiment with his best mate Charlie (one of the soldiers who sent postcards in Lighthouse Girl). And Jim’s story soon links to Sandy.

It was wonderful to work with Brian Simmonds on both books. Brian uses a stick of charcoal and an eraser to make these amazing old-fashioned scenes. His illustrations are perfect for a book about WW1.

These linked stories also include old photos and newspaper clippings. They helped me bring the past to life. I’ve just found out that Light Horse Boy has been shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year awards. I’m feeling very honoured.

Historical fiction is my favourite kind of writing, but I also write about other things; surfing grannies, pet snails and a lady who kept a possum in her bra.

About the Author

Dianne lives on the south coast of Western Australia with her husband and Harry the rescue dog. 

She gets her best ideas when she is walking; in the bush or along the beach. Granny Grommet and Me, (about surfing grannies) and Lighthouse Girl were both inspired by Middleton Beach. Dianne also loves animal stories and she’s studying anthropomorphism at UWA. You can find out more about Dianne’s books on her website www.diannewolfer.com

"Books I loved when I was young include Anne of Green Gables, Bottersnikes and Gumbles, the Little Women books (especially Jo’s Boys) and anything by Ivan Southall. His books made a huge impact on me, particularly a lesser known one called Finns Folly. It was so raw and powerful. 

I hope you will visit my website to find out more about what I'm doing now."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Dianne for your very interesting post. I'm still sad about the horses - only one of out 136,000 came home. I'm going to have to find out more about Sandy and plan to read Light Horse Boy soon.

    Now about that lady who kept a possum in her bra....sounds a little uncomfortable!