I’m delighted to welcome author Dawn Barker to Cosy Books to tell us about the books that influenced her novel, Let Her Go.
Dawn Barker is a psychiatrist and author. She grew up in Scotland, then in 2001 she moved to Australia, completed her psychiatric training and began writing. Her first novel, Fractured, was selected for the 2010 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre manuscript development programme, was one of Australia’s bestselling debut fiction titles for 2013, and was shortlisted for the 2014 WA Premier’s Book Awards. Her second novel is Let Her Go. Dawn lives in Perth with her husband and three young children.
Books that influenced Let Her Go
When I’m writing, I deliberately avoid reading books that are similar in theme to my manuscript and so I didn’t read books specifically to research the issues in let Her Go. I worried that if I did, I’d become anxious about my own writing, at least thinking, ‘oh no, someone’s already done that’, and most likely thinking, ‘they’ve written it so much better than I ever could’!
However, there were a couple of books that influenced me in a way, books I’d read before writing Let Her Go, books that kept popping into my mind as I wrote.
The first was Margaret Atwood’s amazing The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve read this book several times, and as I started to write Let Her Go, I saw that the world she imagined in a speculative fiction novel – where an underclass of women are used for reproductive purposes – is not that far removed from the one we live in now. I love how she uses speculative fiction to make us think about contemporary issues. Once I understood how much I was thinking about this book, I found some amazing images of her characters and book covers and placed them on my desk as I was writing as inspiration.
Another book that was an inspiration was David Vann’s brilliant Caribou Island. David Vann is one of my favourite writers: I love how he’s not afraid of dark themes. While Caribou Island is set in Alaska, a long way from Western Australia (where Let her Go is set) Vann is an expert at using landscape – Caribou Island – to increase the intensity between characters. I loved the idea of an island being an escape from life, but also how it can quickly turn into a prison. This gave me the idea to set some of Let Her Go on Rottnest, a small island just off Perth, which is now a holiday destination but has a dark history.
Finally, Robert Drewe’s The Drowner, a fictionalized account of the life of CY O Connor, whose story appears in the background of Let Her Go, was very useful. CY O Connor was a brilliant Irish engineer who built Fremantle harbor, and then was in charge of developing a pipeline to take water from Perth to the Goldfields of Western Australia, an engineering feat initially thought to be impossible. His story was both brilliant and tragic, and as I looked for settings for Let Her Go, CY O Connor kept appearing (literally, with statues of him in many places I looked!) and the drama of his life influenced the drama in Let Her Go.
It wasn’t only books that influenced me when writing Let Her Go; it had a soundtrack in my mind too. That was Florence and The Machine’s soaring album, Ceremonials. I often listened to it as I edited Let Her Go in my local library, as it seemed to match the mood perfectly.
It’s now been a couple of year since Let Her Go was first published in Australia, and only recently I have a read a couple of books that deal with similar themes: M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between The Oceans, and more recently, Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I am glad that they weren’t around when I wrote Let Her Go as they are both excellent books and would have caused me a lot of anxiety!
Could you share your child with someone else?
Zoe wanted a baby more than anything. But her dreams will come at a price…
After years of struggling to conceive, Zoe and her husband face the prospect of never having a family. When Zoe’s stepsister, Nadia, offers to be a surrogate it presents the perfect solution. A healthy girl, Louise, is born.
But no one imagined just how hard it would be to know someone else was also mother to your child. As the pressure on Zoe and Nadia mounts, they make choices that there is no going back from.
Years later, Louise is in desperate need of her family’s help. Can they put their painful history aside to save the child they love so much?
Don’t miss this explosive and moving drama. Perfect for fans of Amanda Prowse, Kelly
Rimmer and Kerry Fisher
Published May 2017 by Canelo
Let her Go is currently available in ebook at the special price of just 99p for 30 days from the 21st August 2017