When I last caught up for a chat with Di Morrissey, one of, if not Australia’s favourite novelist about her latest novel ‘A distant journey’ she is warm and welcoming and anything but distant. Di revealed to me she is thinking about writing a novel set in Tasmania and hopes to accomplish it this coming year, perhaps by November or December. Di sees Tasmania as a magical place, ‘a hidden gem’, where, of course, one of her greatest literary friends Robert Dessaix lives.
For Di writing a book is a big commitment as every book is extensively researched, a time during which she totally immerses herself by living in the place the book is set for a month to help her form the plot and actions. Di likes to be familiar with the history of the landscape to get a visual background for her main characters.
Strangely enough Di is often surprised at the wide appeal of her books and cites one book in particular ‘Monsoon’ a novel about the Vietnam war that a lot of soldiers wives read to get an understanding of what their husbands had been through and to understand the ghosts still haunting them.
Staying with the husband theme Di says her books appeal to men as much as woman. You won’t see, says Di, a picture of a pretty girl on the cover of her books, not that there is anything wrong with that but just that Di prefer choosing instead a strong image that represents the story being told in the novel. For example, in this latest book that cover image is a tree that both symbolises the strength of her female characters and also the poignancy of a moment of loss that the tree represents to the main protagonist.
This book follows two generations of woman in the move from America to Australia and shows how their ability to be creative, in this case, the ability to create in fabric and symbolically, how these talented women sew together the broken fabric of one of their number’s life.
The old homestead in the novel where much of the action takes place, holds the answer to the mystery of a missing wife, who is the protagonist’s mother-in –law. This mystery and the old house are in the tradition of the gothic novel with the mystery not solved until the final pages, in a cataclysmic way the reader can’t see coming.
‘A Distant Journey” is out now published by Pan Macmillan.