The Jigsaw Puzzle of (Clara’s) Life

Elaine Forrestal speaking about the writing process.

I guess the jigsaw puzzle is not so much to do with the major events of Clara’s life as with the essential bits that come in between. There are other well known historical figures, like Moondyne Joe, Paddy Hannan and the bush poets, Dryblower Murphy, Carroty Joe and P.J.Burke, who were directly involved with Clara. I need to ‘fill in the gaps’ between the essential action and give readers a complete picture of the world in which she lived.

At present I am working my way through my research notes, trying to make sense of the words on scraps of paper, pages from notebooks, shopping dockets and whatever came to hand when a scene or an idea grabbed me. Scattered things that I know must fit – eventually – into the story. When you first tip a jigsaw out of its box some pieces are the right way up and you can see immediately where they fit into the overall picture. Other pieces are upside down, their colours concealed, their shapes at odd angles that don’t seem to belong to this puzzle at all. At least with a jigsaw you can be sure that all the pieces you tipped out of the box do belong. Unfortunately writing historical fiction is not quite like that. I already know that there will be some pieces of this puzzle that will never fit. They are the ones that are part of Clara’s later life. This story covers her time in Coolgardie between 1892 and 1894. When she left her family in Southern Cross in 1892 and went to work in the gold rush town, aged fourteen, she was one of only two females amongst two thousand hungry, and thirsty, men. How she survived, and even prospered, is part of her exciting, scary, sad and funny story.

Come along for the ride.

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