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Finding the Australian Outback

0 Oodnadatta track HawkeBy Rosanne Hawke, Author of Finding Kerra

The seed idea behind Finding Kerra sprang from my childhood, growing up in the semi-outback of central Queensland. My father was a grazier and we lived about ten kilometres from a hot, little town called Banana, where I attended a one-teacher school. I rode to school on a converted cattle truck and it took an hour to pick up all the kids from the neighbouring properties. I was the first one on in the morning, and fortunately, the first one off in the afternoon.

Some of the events in Finding Kerra happened in my childhood: drawing on a windmill platform (I never told my mum, of course), riding horses (didn’t tell Mum that I fell off), a haystack fire in winter, helping with a muster, nearly drowning in a dam. But the setting for Finding Kerra came from my love for the Australian Outback that has increased ever since I rode the Ghan (and a bus) through the desert to Darwin when I was fifteen.0 camel cup2 Hawke

Some years ago, my husband and I took a road trip up past Port Augusta, Beltana, Farina and Marree. We even went to the Camel Cup at Maree to watch camels race and stayed at a station for a few nights. Since then we have travelled up that way again and further north up the Oodnadatta and Strzelecki tracks, Coober Pedy, Uluru and the Alice. More northern treks are planned. Maybe more stories will appear too.

One of my favourite memories of the outback as an author is speaking on School of the Air. I was talking about Mustara and Ernest Giles’ trek to Perth. Students replied interactively that0 Dog Fence Hawkethey had ridden camels and one boy had seen Ernest Giles’ tree where he left a saddle. I was moved that these kids who couldn’t play with each other still had a school community online.

I love the space and atmosphere of the outback. I like to be able to see the horizon and the further away the better. What some call ‘empty spaces’ I think are places full of the magnificence of creation; at Uluru I felt the awe of sitting in a natural cathedral. When I lived in Pakistan, it was this space and huge sky that I missed. Now I live in rural SA. People here still drive utes and lift a finger in greeting as they pass, and the outback is only a day away. Finding Kerra is my attempt at catching a small part of the Australian outback for those who can’t make the trek and for those who will be inspired to go.

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Danger and Dancing - Chats with Rosanne Hawke

LianasDanceES1. Tell us a little bit about Liana’s Dance. What can readers expect?

Liana’s Dance is a sweeping adventure so if you liked The War Within, you’ll like this novel too. Liana’s Dance also has a touch of mystery due to a family secret. Sixteen-year-old Liana tries to come to terms with living in a dangerous time, especially when her school is attacked by terrorists, but also fights peril from within herself.

2. Like Liana, did you experience danger when you lived in Pakistan?

It’s strange but we never felt we were in constant danger. Sometimes we were in danger due to the environment, like being trapped by snow in the Chitral Valley or getting lost and turning up in a strange village of only men, all carrying guns (we got out of there pretty fast and fortunately weren’t followed). My husband was detained by police twice, once for looking too much like an Afghan freedom fighter and second for letting off firecrackers for the girls’ school where I worked.

During the Gulf War the police said we were in danger since we looked like Americans and had to remain at home. Fortunately the people in Abbottabad, where we lived, knew us and gave us no trouble. The kindness of the people outweighed the dangers. For example, a poor Christian family brought us food while we were house-detained.

3. Liana’s Dance is inspired by your Beyond Borders series. Why did you think it was important to tell Liana’s story now?0 Rosanne

Some readers have been concerned about what happened at the end of The War Within and wanted to know more about Liana. I thought it was good to see what Liana was like when she was Jaime’s age. She has an incredible story of depression and hope; fear and strength; maturity and love. I also believe telling Liana’s story is good for Jaime in helping her navigate her lonely landscape of grief.

4. How do you think Australian teenagers would relate to Liana’s story?

When I wrote the first draft of Liana’s story I thought a terrorist attack on a Western school would never happen, but imagine my shock when some years later, it did. I kept working on the story because some young people do have to walk through frightening situations, even in Western countries. They can emerge fearful or more mature. Also, the situation in which Liana finds herself while travelling with her young music teacher is a dilemma that’s not often spoken about, but can easily become a problem in high school.

5. All right, last question. Liana loves to dance. Are you known to give a little boogie or jig every now and then?

Ha, not likely. I grew up in semi outback QLD and loved country dances and balls. My brother would take me when I was older as the boys at school didn’t know how to dance. Maybe I was a geek.

While in Pakistan some Afghan ladies taught my girls and me some dance steps. Sometimes when I was first writing stories set in Pakistan I dressed in the outfit those ladies made for me, put the Caravans soundtrack on and secretly danced their steps. It helped me think of what to write next.

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Friday Chats with Rosanne Hawke

0 RosanneWhat made you become an author?

What finally gave me the push to write seriously was my daughter, Lenore asking me to write a book for her based on a story I told her. She made me become a writer.

What was your first published book?

A book called Re-entry which has been rewritten and is now in its 3rd edition called Dear Pakistan.

What inspired you to write the Beyond Borders series?

I had changed states when I was a teenager, and as an adult I lived overseas in voluntary work with a mission. My children became third culture kids, and watching their culture shock (and mine) as we returned to Australia inspired the series.

 Have you travelled to Pakistan since? Was it still a culture shock?

Yes, the first time I arrived in Pakistan I had culture shock and, as a woman, it took me a year to adjust. In coming back to Australia we also had culture shock. Possibly that is worse because you don’t expect the culture shock to be so bad in your own country, but it was. When I visited Pakistan in 2006 on an Asialink Fellowship to research more books, it was only for two months and the culture shock was less.

Why do you think Jaime is an inspirational heroine in the story?

Jaime is going through a difficult time of her life that people around her do not understand. She has to learn to adapt to different cultures and yet discovers the joy of doing that even though it is difficult each time she moves. During this process she picks up some wisdom and realises her experiences have helped make her who she is, a teen with unlimited potential. 

Who is your favourite character in the series?

Tricky question. Besides Jaime, possibly Jasper in The War Within.

Can you give readers a hint at what they can expect in the next installment of the Beyond Borders series?

In 2002 terrorists attacked an international Christian school in the Himalayas, Pakistan. It was the school that my kids had attended and is the school which inspired Jaime’s school which she visits in The War Within. In Liana’s Dance Jaime writes the story of what happens to Liana when her school was attacked by terrorists a few years earlier.

Do you have any hints for aspiring authors out there?

Read a lot and learn to read like a writer: decide what you like about a writer’s story or technique and takes notes. Write down golden lines, but always put the author’s name underneath so you don’t mistakenly plagiarize. Always find out as much as you can about your characters because your characters will make or break your story. Most importantly work out what they want the most in the whole wide world; something important enough that would motivate them long enough for you to write a story about it. When you’re finished the first draft get your secateurs out and start cutting out the dead wood. Learn to enjoy editing and re-writing.

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