Happy Friday! Today I am delighted to welcome Lily Woodhouse to Sam Still Reading to answer a Q&A about her new novel, Jarulan by the River. (I’m reading this at the moment and it’s caused a couple of late nights, it’s that good). I won’t describe it you, but let Lilly do the talking…
Can you tell us briefly about the story behind your new book, Jarulan by the River?
It is a family saga set mostly on a farm in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales. Jarulan is the name of the estate, which has been in the same family for three generations. The story takes place between 1917 and the present day, as the farm slips into the hands of outsiders who have married in to the Fenchurch family. A young German woman marries Matthew Fenchurch, who is many years her senior. After he dies she makes a trip to New Zealand to find the black sheep, Eddie Fenchurch, the only surviving son, who has married a Maori lady in the Bay of Plenty. However it is not Eddie who returns to Australia to take over the farm, but his son Irving. To tell you any more than that would be to give the story away!
How did you choose the Lily Woodhouse pseudonym? Was it based on something personal, or perhaps something relating to the book?
Woodhouse is my married name, and I have always loved the name Lily.
What did you enjoy most about writing Jarulan by the River? And was there anything you didn’t enjoy in the writing process?
I had an odd sense throughout the writing of the book that it was somehow writing itself. It was risky, throw-all-caution-to-the-wind feeling, which I very much enjoyed. In the writing of any book there are always times, hopefully brief, where it feels like hard work. Jarulan by the River only made me feel like that once or twice.
How do you prepare yourself to write as Lily?
Story is all, is my mantra for Lily. I want readers to be carried on by the narrative and not struggle to keep up, or feel as though they should be taking notes.
Can you tell us about the space you write in and why you have chosen this place to write?
I am fortunate enough to have a room of my own, a small sunny study on the north eastern corner of our house. It is peaceful, warm and full of books. I also love to write in bed in the early hours of the morning.
You have had a somewhat complex relationship with Australia over the years. Is Lily Australian, or does she have strong ties to Australia?
Like many Antipodeans these days, I have family and friends on both sides of the Tasman. I feel at home in both countries. My husband is Australian, my Australian-born son is a musician in Melbourne and other close family members live in Sydney.
Why was it important to you to include a variety of perspectives from different characters in Jarulan by the River – and in particular why did you choose to include Rufina’s story?
The experience of Germans in Australia during the world wars is very interesting. During the Great War German men were put in camps, while the women were left to try to get on with their own lives. Rufina has come to Australia as a lady companion to a wealthy German woman just before the war. After the war breaks out she finds employment as a lady’s maid to one of Matthew Fenchurch’s daughters in Sydney. She doesn’t particularly enjoy it, and neither is she in love with Matthew at the time of their marriage. However, she grows to love him and to treasure her life on the farm. It was wonderful to imagine how magical and strange Australia must have seemed to a young German woman at that time, particularly the native animals.
Are you working on any new books, and if so are you able to tell us anything about them?
I am writing another Lily novel, as yet untitled. It’s set at the foot of the Blue Mountains in 1950.
Jarulan by the River is published by HarperCollins and is now available at all good bookstores and online.
Many thanks Lily! I’m loving the prose in this book and I can’t wait to finish it (hopefully tonight!) Do check out Jarulan by the River if you’re after a well written, emotive historical story.