I have been a fan of Karen Viggers‘ writing since I read ‘The Stranding’ a few years back. That books was followed by “The Light Keeper’s Wife’ and now. ‘The Grass Castle’.
Karen is such a versatile writer and never disappoints.
Here she is talking about ‘The Grass Castle’.
Hi Fleur. Thanks so much for inviting me to blog with you. I’ve just had my third novel published – The Grass Castle – and it’s always an exciting time for a writer … amazing to see three years of work sitting up there on the bookshop shelves (that’s how long it seems to take me for each book that I write).
Each book is a journey – both for me as a writer, and hopefully also for you lovely readers out there. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to emerge from the weird and sometimes lonely sphere of writing to re-engage with the world. I love this time of getting out and about and talking to readers about books and hearing their stories. Everyone has fabulous tales to tell – it’s sad that not all of them make it onto paper or into books. I often think it’s a pity we can’t put all those fabulous experiences and wisdom into bottles and give them to our children so we can dose them up on how to deal with life!
So now we’ll talk about my book. The Grass Castle is a story about a friendship between two lovely women. Daphne, in her eighties, grew up in the Brindabella Ranges at the northern end of the Snowy Mountains, where her family ran cattle and captured brumbies in the high country. She raised her own family there until the government forced them off their land. Eventually she and her husband had to leave the mountains. This had tragic consequences from which she is still trying to recover. It is in her beloved mountain valley, many years later, that she meets Abby, a young woman in her early twenties who has moved away from home to study kangaroos. Both women have experienced sadness and loss, and through this they find an unexpected connection. The story weaves the present with the past, stretching from indigenous habitation of the mountains and the history of white settlement, to the space race in the 1960s and the development of a new national park.
The idea for the book came from my time exploring the mountains as a bushwalker and also from my work with kangaroos as part of my university studies. I moved to Canberra in the early 1990s to do a PhD, and I found it a difficult place to settle in to. I was lonely at first – having shifted from being the local vet in a small town, to living in a big city where I knew nobody. It was the mountains that saved me. On weekends, I would escape the city and get out into the bush where I felt much more at home. In a way, the Brindabella mountains were my first local friends!
Often my bushwalks would take me to old slab huts, steeped in history. I would have my lunch sitting on the veranda looking out over grassy valleys to scabby mountain tops. The huts fascinated me. I would think about the people who lived there in times past, the hardships they must have suffered: snow, lack of running water, child-birth far from help, accidents, snakebite. This is where my ideas for Daphne came from.
In contrast, Abby came from my own experiences. Over three years, I spent many hours alone in the mountains watching mobs of kangaroos. I had some lovely moments out there in those wild landscapes where I worked day and night. I wanted to write about my feelings for the bush and the mountains, and the ways in which people connect with the land. I was also fascinated by the local indigenous history of moth-hunting in the mountains – the way Aboriginal people had captured and cooked moths for tucker, the cultural importance of their gatherings. These are things that I have woven into the story. I was also drawn to the annual controversy surrounding kangaroo culling in Canberra. This is also explored in the book. I hope you enjoy reading it!
Thanks for dropping by, Karen.
More information on Karen can be found via her website (link is at the top of the post) and on Facebook.