MEET THE AUTHOR
Elaine Forrestal is a Western Australian author who grew up in Australian country towns and now travels all over the world. Her award-winning books have been published internationally and translated into other languages.
Elaine’s latest book is Goldfields Girl, set during the Gold Rush in Coolgardie, Western Australia.
From the publisher:
It’s 1892. Amid a fevered gold rush, 14-year-old Clara Saunders is in search of adventure in the new outback town of Coolgardie.
A friendship with cheeky young water carter Jack is a promising start, but the goldfields are a harsh place, where water is scarce, disease is common and where many men will never find the fortune they’ve come to seek.
With unforeseen tragedies on the horizon, Clara’s time in the dusty town will truly test the limits of her fierceness and determination.
How did you first hear of Clara Saunders and decide to write a story based on her life? Was Clara a relative?
We were almost at the end of the editing stage of the book before I knew that my sister-in-law’s husband is Clara Saunder’s grandson! So that’s obviously not why I chose to write about her. I was researching ‘children on the goldfields’ because I wanted to write a goldfields story, but felt that so many stories had already been written about it that I needed a new angle. Clara was the only child I found. Because of the harsh conditions —like lack of water and food, only tents to live in, heat, dust and flies — the women and children mostly stayed at home.
How did you go about your research for Goldfields Girl?
I tried Google first. Then I went to the Battye Library (on the 3rd floor of the State Library of WA). I felt like a detective because she wasn’t easy to find. And when I found the transcript of her ‘Memories’ I was so excited I virtually danced around the Library Reading Room. The librarian was a bit shocked.
How long did it take you to write the book?
It took about two years to write the book, then another two years to find the right publisher and go through all the usual editing and rewriting stages.
Did you have to leave anything out of the book?
I have only told the story of Clara’s life from 1892 to 1894, so I have left a lot out. but I didn’t change any of the facts — just added some dialogue to make the story more interesting to read.
How do you come up with the titles for your books?
I am hopeless with titles. I’ve lost count of how many Goldfields Girl had. I usually change them myself a couple of times, then the marketing team doesn’t like the one I have come up with so we work on it together. They know a whole lot more about what works for readers and bookshops, so I’m usually happy to go with what they suggest in the end.
Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to write stories based on real-life events?
You do need to do a lot of careful research when you base your story on real events. But I love doing the research. It’s fascinating to read about how people lived back then. I usually find out a lot more than I need to know, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get to use some of it in another book down the track.
Click here to read a sample chapter (thanks to Fremantle Press)
Click here for Teachers’ Notes
Click here for a Goldfield’s Girl crossword activity
Click here to see two 1894 photos of Clara Saunders (in a blog post by Elaine Forrestal)
Visit Elaine Forrestal’s website to find out more about her and her books: www.elaineforrestal.com.au/
Goldfields Girl is out now in bookstores and libraries!