Joanita Wibowo


5 minutes with author Darry Fraser

5 minutes with author Darry Fraser

In 5 minutes with authorOver60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Darry Fraser, a historical drama novelist based on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Her first book with publisher HarperCollins, Daughter of the Murray, was published in 2016 and followed by other Australian historical titles such as Where The Murray River Runs, The Widow of Ballarat and The Good Woman of Renmark. Her new novel, Elsa Goody, Bushranger is out now.

Over60 talked with Fraser about ignoring naysayers, the Paddle Steamer Gem, and how she coped with the recent events on her home island and around the world.

Over60: What is your best writing tip? On the other hand, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

Darry Fraser: Never give up writing – but if it’s stories you want to write, learn how to do it. It’s a craft that takes learning, very few can write seamlessly. Language changes, grammar and punctuation changes – it’s all part of learning your craft.

The worst is probably not advice as much as, “Who do you think you are, you reckon you can write?” So I kept writing anyway, kept learning. Took some years to work out that what I wanted to do was okay to do!

What was the last book that made you laugh?

There are a few books I’m sure – off the top of my head I can’t say, but I love Amy Andrew’s style. Her characters make me laugh.

What first attracted you to Australian historical fiction?

Believe it or not, it was US westerns way back in the day on the telly that sparked my interest in history. Then as I got to my teens, I figured that we’d have had our own heroes and pioneering stories. When I lived in Swan Hill the Paddle Steamer Gem offered a portal into another time, and I’ve never looked back. Er, forward.

What does your writing routine look like?

Right now with deadlines looming for story submissions and edits, I’m at the desk at 5am, walk the dog (or the other way around) from 7am, back for brekky and chores, then at the desk again by 9am-ish. It’s not all solid words, it’s edits and research but the time zips away and by 4.30pm, I’m winding up, eyes are blurring – time to join the real world.

Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I never thought I had it, or ever experienced it, but there was a time between books when “OMG – no inspiration”. I didn’t know why nothing was coming in… it just wasn’t. I had no idea what to do with myself. I write two big books a year and to lose a month to this ‘nothing’ in my head was very angsty – and that makes it worse. That was one type of ‘block’.

I sat down and trawled through the Trove digitised newspapers focusing on the latter part of the 19th century and there was the opening chapter of my December 2020 book The Last Trueheart.

The other ‘block’ was being emotionally wrecked by the terrible bushfires that struck my island home over the summer season this year. The impact on everything and everyone – of course especially those who lost it all – meant creativity evaporated.

I find refuge in writing, and at that time all the news was awful – and every state was burning all at once – so I retreated to my writing room, found escape was there, and thankfully I could still put down words. It worked the same when we were first faced with the threat of COVID-19.

Print, e-book or audiobook?

I use each and love them equally. I’m not travelling long journeys by car much at the moment, which is where I use audiobooks, so I tend to read print or e-book at home.

Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?

Harlan Coben would be fun – his Myron Bolitar series made me laugh out loud.