Wendy James Interview

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the_mistake.jpg    Wendy James, who I interviewed here on "Matilda" way back in 2006. Now she has just had her fourth novel, The Mistake, published by Penguin. Recently she spoke to Angela Savage:

Out of the Silence mixes characters from real life -- like feminist suffragette Vida Goldstein and working-class country girl Maggie Heffernan -- with fiction, producing a novel that is compelling and informative. How did you come across these characters?

I'd read about Maggie Heffernan in books and articles about 19th century Australian women's history. Her story has been written about fairly frequently; it's almost a case study. I'd read about Goldstein in other contexts as well, because of her work for the suffrage and also as a pacifist, but the unexpected connection between these two very different women was immediately exciting. So many things that interest me about the nineteenth century (and ours, too) -- in particular issues surrounding class and gender -- could be explored using a compelling real life story.

You refer to the Lindy Chamberlain case in The Mistake in exposing the media's role in shaping public opinion. Were there any other real life cases or characters that inspired the novel?

The novel's initial inspiration came from the story of Keli Lane, the water-polo champion who was recently convicted of murdering her infant daughter, Tegan. Tegan hasn't been seen since she was discharged from hospital with her mother in 1996, and despite extensive police searches, authorities have been unable to locate her. Lane herself maintained throughout the period of investigation (though her story changed) that the child had been adopted out unofficially. The case is certainly sensational, but it was the attitude of some media -- including various internet sites -- that really struck me. The focus was all on Lane's perceived "character" -- promiscuous, secretive, ambitious, a liar -- rather than the available, and completely circumstantial, evidence. Like Chamberlain before her, Keli Lane was found guilty in the court of public opinion even before she went to trial.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 2, 2012 1:55 PM.

Australian Bookcovers #304 - Miss Herbert (The Suburban Wife) by Christina Stead was the previous entry in this blog.

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