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Small Town Mystery: Q&A with Jackie French on writing The Last Dingo Summer

November 22, 2018

About the author:

Jackie French’s writing career spans 15 years, 39 wombats, 120 books, 15 languages, and 28 shredded doormats (she blames the wombats). She is the author of Hitler’s Daughter, which won the 2000 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award, and Diary of a Wombat, a 2003 Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book. She lives in Australia.

Purchase a copy of The Last Dingo Summer here 

Read our full review of The Last Dingo Summer here 

The Last Dingo Summer is the latest installment in your bestselling Matilda saga. Can you tell us a bit about the story?

Ignatius Mervyn, the man who abused Jed Kelly as a 15-year-old, has died in a burning church. But when his body is discovered in the ruins, older skeletons are found below him.

Who would leave a man to die in a church? The police suspect those who want to protect Jed Kelly, as well as her husband, Sam. But newcomer Fish Johnstone understands that while people may kill to save those they love, none of her extended family would commit a crime like this. Love knits her family, and its community, together.

Who did kill Merv? What other secrets may be deadly when uncovered?

This story takes place in Gibber’s Creek, an Australian country town. What drew you to a rural setting for the novel?

Gibber’s Creek and the land around it is my heart’s country, where I live – and know many of its secrets (some of which are joyous ones, not all secrets must be bad).

I wrote about this time in Gibber’s Creek because I lived it. I built a shed; made candles from the wax from our beehives as we had no electric light; grew most of our food and made walls of stringybark. I listened to the stories too, 20,000 years of stories of country, of desperate pioneers 200 years ago, of scandals last century.

Country towns have the best stories – of scandals, of heroism and love. And their people are very good indeed at telling them, over a cup of tea and a ginger sponge.

The Matilda novels tell Australia’s story through the eyes of many different young women. Why was it important for you to write these books from female perspectives?

Women have been written out of so much of our history, from the valiant women of the Temperance and Suffrage movements; the women who- unofficially- ran most of the hospitals and much of the transport in World War One, and quite probably, won the war, to the female resistance workers and code breakers whose achievements were ascribed to men.

The Matilda Saga is the story of our nation: the women’s story. But it is also many love stories intertwined, because those stories of love have also been lost in the version of history handed down by men.

You’ve written picture books, fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction. Is there a genre you enjoy writing the most?

Just lots. And then some more. But each time I sit down to write the Miss Lily series and the Matilda saga my heart sings a little more.

What are you reading at the moment?

Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks, a biography of his years in cryptography with a team of women, but it will be a few years before the world of Miss Lily reaches World War 2.


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