Authors are funny animals. We inhabit storybook worlds; and sometimes reside in our characters’ heads. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of your fictional characters beginning to live. Author of Nim’s Island and many other great stories, Wendy Orr knows what I mean – as does author, Tristan Bancks who’d enticed Wendy to explore more about her famous character, Nim.
That’s why Wendy invited me to take part in A Character Blog Hop. I’ve decided to tell you about my character, Adversity McAlpine. She’s someone you won’t know yet, but one day, you will. She’s the young protagonist in my completed manuscript, SWEET ADVERSITY. (A very well-respected publisher requested my manuscript to read, so, keep your fingers crossed!)
What’s your character’s name and where did she come from?
SWEET ADVERSITY is a 61,000-word historical adventure for young readers (and not so young). Set in NSW during the Great Depression, without a doubt the story belongs to Adversity (fondly known as Addie).
She took over my life around eight years ago after a dream of a young girl running away from an outback orphanage with Macbeth, her Shakespearean-quoting galah. The dream ended before I knew what she was running from – all I knew was she was angrier than a box of bees, and she was scared. That dream girl stayed with me for days … I even remembered how she looked (I dream in colour). The image above fits perfectly.
The only child of travelling Shakespearean actors, 12-year-old Addie McAlpine is feisty and loyal, funny, talented and at times opinionated (not such a good thing when you live in an orphanage under Matron Maddock’s iron rule. She dreams of becoming a great actor one day – if she survives the dangers ahead.
When is the story set?
I set this story during the worst year of the Great Depression. Did you know that in 1930, Australia’s economy was much worse than in any other country in the developed world? Ordinary people suffered; children even more so.
Addie lives in the country where people could at least grow food. But then again, life in an orphanage in those days was bleak – especially one run by the likes of Matron Maddock. And that was all before Addie received the worst news of her life. And, before she fled for her life.
What sets your story apart from others?
There aren’t many children’s novels set in Australia’s Great Depression – this fascinating, life-changing era is ripe and ready for young readers. Those Hard Times were filled with turmoil. Life in the cities was a daily fight over lumps of stale bread; for a homemade remedy to cure illness. Some children fled to live in children’s camps in the bush.
It was a time when unwanted children disappeared and nobody asked questions. Corrupt and unscrupulous people got away with their bad deeds, but there were brave souls who stood up for themselves and for others less able to … rather like our young heroine, Adversity McAlpine.
With Shakespearean actors as parents, what else could Addie hope to become? She adores performing, whether in song or with the drama and language of the Bard’s plays – and even though her parents are gone, she continues to dream of what could be. One day.
Main characters usually have ‘side-kicks’ – Frodo has Sam, Sherlock Holmes has Dr Watson, and Harry Potter has Hermione and Ron. Like in real life, these characters provide our main characters with more than just friendship. Who does Addie have?
Addie has a side-kick or two … one is Jack, her young friend at the orphanage; she also befriends a boy with a price on his head, but can she be sure of his loyalty?
Her third side-kick is Macbeth, a very talented galah. A bird who becomes the catalyst forcing Addie to take up her dangerous quest; and to be there in the end when – in Shakespeare’s immortal words – even the most diminutive of birds will fight to the death if their young is threatened.
Did your story require researching?
You bet your sweet Nellie it did! Oops, slipped in a bit of old-speak there. I was awarded a 2013 International SCBWI Work-of-Outstanding-Promise grant for this story, so I used the prize money to fly down to Canberra’s National Library and Archives to research for my story. Of course, being the first non-American to win a SCBWI W.O.O.P. Grant was extra exciting!
The National Library proved to be the BEST place to search for hidden stories of Australia’s Great Depression … to find out how it affected children. A bit of serendipity: someone ‘s recollection of their pet galah’s antics backed up my belief that these are very clever birds indeed.
Writing SWEET ADVERSITY has been like that famous line from Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It … Sweet are the uses of adversity… (check out the rest of the quote).
So it has been for Addie McAlpine, and for her creator – the the reason for the story’s title.
For Addie, facing adversity leads her into isolation and life-threatening danger, but it is tempered by the sweetness of friendship, loyalty, and just when she least expects it, her heart’s dream.
For me, adversity came with the uncountable drafts, rewrites and rejections for over 8 years – but it was worth trying to make it the best. This story is now all the better for surviving the fires of perseverance.
I’m excited by my vision that a publisher will one day see its possibilities. And, like all stories that endure the blowtorch of a professional editorial team … bring it on and let the TRUE edit begin!
Image of Addie: Check out the amazing work of Russian artist, Alexandra Kirievskaya