To celebrate the release of The Year of the Farmer, author Rosalie Ham’s new novel published by Pan Macmillan, I have a Q & A with Rosalie I would love to share with you all. It is true pleasure to welcome Rosalie to Mrs B’s Book Reviews for a Q & A session. This Q & A will follow a review of The Year of the Farmer.
About the author…
Rosalie Ham was born and raised in Jerilderie, a small country town in New South Wales. Returning to Australia after seeing the world, Rosalie ‘rushed to university because Gough Whitlam made it possible’, enrolling in Drama and Literature. But it was the story that ignited her flame and, having moved on to creative writing, Rosalie ‘skewed a few accumulated secrets’ and wrote her first novel, The Dressmaker (published in 2000). Summer at Mount Hope (2005), There Should be More Dancing (2011) and The Year of the Farmer (2018) followed, and her novels have now sold over 150,000 copies in Australia and internationally.
Described as a ‘gifted storyteller’ with ideas that are ‘fresh, unusual and entertaining,’ Rosalie’s stories are new, but recognisable beyond Australia. Using the stereotype to subvert the cliché, and always seeking to surprise the reader, she sheds new light on universal verities.
The Dressmaker has since been brought to life on screen, in the award winning film produced and directed by Sue Maslin and Jocelyn Moorhouse. It stars Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving along with a many other fine Australian performers including Sarah Snook, Sacha Horler and Rebecca Gibney.
Rosalie lives in Melbourne and, when she is not writing, teaches literature. She holds a BA in Education and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing.
Hello Rosalie. It is my pleasure to welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions.
Hello Mrs B and thank you for the opportunity to write for your blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews.
Q. To begin, The Year of the Farmer, your latest novel for Pan Macmillan is released today. Can you give us an outline of what we can expect?
A. The Year of the Farmer is about survival, love and justice in a small rural community in the Riverina of NSW. Problems surrounding the issue of irrigation water fuel small fires between the characters over love, corruption, vermin and secrets. Employing satire and irony, The Year of the Farmer, focuses one primary producer, Mitchell Bishop, an irrigation farmer who is compromised on every front. He’s married to Mandy, who he doesn’t love, besieged by pests and wild dogs, the banks want money, he’s supporting debt on ancient, worn machinery and his crop has suffered because of dry seasons. To ease his dilemmas, Mitch can sell some of his water allocation but that will ruin his financial plan, but if he doesn’t sell, his financial crisis will ruin him anyway. Then the corrupt and Machiavellian irrigation authority announce they will seize water from the entire catchment area and this divides the community, pits the townies, farmers and river dwellers (the riparians) against each other. Into all of this comes Mitchell’s long lost love, Neralie, who returns to the town and buys the local pub. Neralie brings rain, and more ruin, but in the end, the town unites and a kind of justice is achieved.
Q. What came first in the creation of this novel – the title, the plot, the characters or the setting when you first set out to write The Year of the Farmer?
A. This novel is straight from the heart. I was born and raised in a small farming community in the southern Riverina. Irrigation and the issues to do with water are important to the people I grew up with, and so I’ve employed humour to convey some of the dilemmas facing farmers and to highlight the role of primary production. In The Year of the Farmer, the story dictates the setting and the characters dictate the story, but it’s the scarcity of water dictates how the locals behave.
Q. Let’s talk setting. What made you decide to base your new novel in country New South Wales?
A. As above, and the subject is dictated by a particular landscape. Writing about the irrigation plains gave me an opportunity to show that they’re beautiful, and the space and distance to the horizon provides a place for Mitch’s thought to reach for, to wonder and ponder. The Dethridge wheels, the sound of birds and wind and water flooding into an irrigation bay are sounds that evoke empathy. It’s a joy to write about a setting that features nature, and the characters are not diluted by a cluttered landscape and so are vivid. By putting Mitch and his friends and enemies in that landscape I was also able to convey that the rural landscape is a place of innovation and progress, experiment and achievement, and hugely productive. The people the small community in The Year of the Farmer are varied, resilient, cultured, tolerant and progressive in many ways. As in real life, there are all sorts of people running businesses and achieving and contributing to a community that depend on each other, all the while, conserving the landscape they farm while adapting to its vagaries.
Q. Where did the inspiration for the characters featured in The Year of the Farmer come from?
A. The characters are symbolic of what I wanted to say about loyalty and love, community and corruption, water and farming. And I try to create characters that are amusing and likeable vehicles to carry themes. They are all flawed, a little frustrating and larger than life, that is, dramatized to compliment a story that must convey certain agricultural facts.
Q. Is there a particular scene in The Year of the Farmer that you are proud of?
A. I quite…