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The Ardour of Alpacas

Paula Xiberras
14.06.14 6:52 am

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Alpacas have association in their mythology with the earth mother. The story goes that alpacas were loaned to humans as long as they were treated with respect. This story about alpacas could be a metaphor for the ideal of love in ‘A Place of Her Own’  and is perhaps why Alpacas have such a presence in the novel.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to chat with Deborah O’Brien the author of ‘A Place of Her Own’ who tells me she had her honeymoon in Tasmania, exploring Cradle mountain and the Labyrinth. Since that time Deborah has visited Tasmania many times. and once could say in it she has found a place of her own. Deborah says that the title itself has several meanings and that her protagonist Angie is ‘all over the place’ and ‘is looking for her ‘place’ hence the title. In the novel Angie becomes the proprietor of the old manse B & B and is involved in saving aspects of the town’s heritage.  Demonstrating Angie’s respect for the past but desire to build into the future.

The novel is the final in a trilogy that began with ‘Mr Chen’s Emporium’ and ‘The Jade Widow’. The trilogy set in a country town was written at a time when Deborah wanted to express her own joy about country town life.

Deborah tells me that this novel actually has the happiest conclusion of any of her novels as she usually likes to leave her books with a level of ambivalence. Her belief is that a book is successful as long as it has a satisfying resolution. Its often the case that she herself doesn’t know the complete ending as her books have a way of writing themselves. Deborah doesn’t often plan her books out but has an initial premise that ‘liberates her characters to tell their own story’.

Something that has surprised Deborah is how readers have ‘fancied’  her hero Richard, who has even garnered his own fan club. Deborah is surprised because some of her other books have characters like the dashing ‘Liam O’Brien’.  Richard wasn’t deliberately cut in that mould to be a heartthrob but that is exactly what has happened with one reader even saying she ‘‘would give up her mortgage for him’. The adulation of Richard fits into one of Deborah‘s big themes that things are not always what they seem and this will be demonstrated to readers of ‘A Place of Her Own’ as the novel has many surprises, twists and turns before finally coming to its more than satisfying conclusion.

Deborah is happy if people come to the book with their own emotional agenda and also within it’s pages find a place of their own.

Deborah says if her book were to made into a movie she would have envisaged   Richard and Angie being played by Jack Thompson and the late Wendy Hughes.
The beauty of the cover art on Deborah’s book is another factor drawing us in to the world of Angie. The house depicted on the cover is Deborah‘s own dream house.

Other similarities between Deborah and Angie are that Angie, like Deborah, is a visual artist and like Deborah had a tree change but perhaps the most glaring similarity is Angie true to her name is angelically sweet (look for further name symbolism in the book) just like the delightful Deborah herself who made our interview like a chat between friends over a cup of Lapsang Souchong at the the old manse B&B.

‘A Place of Her Own’ is out now published by Random House.

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