About the author:
Judy Nunn’s career has been long, illustrious and multifaceted. After combining her internationally successful acting career with scriptwriting for television and radio, Judy decided in the 90s to turn her hand to prose.
Her first three novels, The Glitter Game, Centre Stage and Araluen, set respectively in the worlds of television, theatre and film, became instant bestsellers, and the rest is history, quite literally in fact. She has since developed a love of writing Australian historically-based fiction and her fame as a novelist has spread rapidly throughout Europe where she is published in English, German, French, Dutch, Czech and Spanish.
Her subsequent bestsellers, Kal, Beneath the Southern Cross, Territory, Pacific, Heritage, Floodtide, Maralinga, Tiger Men, Elianne and Spirits of the Ghan and Sanctuary confirmed Judy’s position as one of Australia’s leading fiction writers.
In 2015 Judy was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her “significant service to the performing arts as a scriptwriter and actor of stage and screen, and to literature as an author”.
Khaki Town is a breathtaking historical novel set in Queensland during World War II. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
KHAKI TOWN IS SET SPECIFICALLY IN TOWNSVILLE, FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND IN 1942 – A TRULY DANGEROUS YEAR FOR AUSTRALIA. THE COUNTRY WAS ON THE BRINK OF INVASION BY THE JAPANESE, AND THE POPULATION OF FNQ LIVED, JUSTIFIABLY, IN A STATE OF TERROR. THE CHARACTERS IN MY BOOK ARE FICTIONAL, BUT THEY LIVE THROUGH THESE FEARFUL TIMES AND UNDERGO ALL THE TUMULTUOUS CHANGES WROUGHT BY THE HUGE INFLUX OF AMERICAN TROOPS WHO, WHILE BECOMING THEIR SAVOURS, ALSO BRING WITH THEM RACIAL CONFLICT AND AGGRESSION.
What inspired this novel?
I WAS INSPIRED BY A PARTICULARLY HORRENDOUS EVENT THAT RESULTED FROM RACIAL TENSION WITHIN THE RANKS OF THE MILITARY. AUSTRALIA WAS STILL VERY MUCH INFLUENCED BY ‘THE WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY’ AND AMERICA REMAINED GOVERNED BY SEGREGATION. THE FREEDOM AFFORDED BLACK US TROOPS BY AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS MET WITH THE STRONGEST DISAPPROVAL FROM WHITE US SOLDIERS. THERE WAS ALREADY JEALOUSY AND AGGRESSION FROM AUSTRALIAN TROOPS TOWARDS THE AMERICANS WHO WERE ‘OVERSEXED, OVERPAID AND OVER HERE.’ IT WAS A RACIAL BOMB WAITING TO EXPLODE, AND EXPLODE IT DID. IN TOWNSVILLE IN MAY, 1942.
Can you tell us about your research process for Khaki Town?
I NATURALLY DID FIELD RESEARCH TRIPS TO TOWNSVILLE, WHICH INCLUDED ARCHIVAL STUDIES AT THE CENTRAL LIBRARY (ALL THANKS TO THE HELPFUL LIBRARIANS). AND I INTERVIEWED LOCALS WITH A GREAT DEAL OF KNOWLEDGE, INCLUDING ONE DELIGHTFUL RESIDENT WHO RECALLED IN GREAT DETAIL BEING A TEN YEAR OLD GIRL EXPERIENCING THOSE WARTIME DAYS AND NIGHTS OF 1942. I ALSO READ COPIOUS PUBLICATIONS AND NEWS ARTICLES OF THE DAY.
Who are some authors that have inspired you?
THIS IS AN IMPOSSIBLE QUESTION TO ANSWER. EVERY BOOK I LOVE INSPIRES ME. I LOSE MYSELF IN THAT WORLD AND ALSO IN THE CHARACTERS I DISCOVER IN THAT WORLD. THIS ISN’T BECAUSE I’M A WRITER, BUT BECAUSE I’M A READER. ALL READERS DISCOVER A WORLD OF THEIR OWN WHEN THEY LOSE THEMSELVES IN A BOOK. I’M NOT SAYING THESE BOOKS I LOVE INSPIRE MY ACTUAL WRITING, RATHER THEY CONTINUE TO INSPIRE MY LOVE OF BOOKS AND THE JOY OF READING. THEY FEED MY PASSION. MY LATEST FAVOURITE BOOK WOULD BE ‘A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW’ BY AMOR TOWLES. I ALSO RECENTLY ENJOYED A DELIGHTFUL FIRST NOVEL BY SHIRLEY BARRETT, ‘RUSH OH’.
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
I HAVE NO WRITING ROUTINE AT THE MOMENT – THIS IS MY TIME OFF, THE TIME WHEN I’M TALKING ABOUT MY LATEST BOOK- MY TOTAL PASSION REMAINS IN ‘KHAKI TOWN’. I’LL BE MEETING PEOPLE ALL OVER THE COUNTRY DURING MY BOOK TOUR AND MY HEAD WILL BE IN WARTIME AUSTRALIA, TOWNSVILLE, 1942. IT’S ACTUALLY QUITE A THRILLING TIME FOR ME. I HAVE THE GERM OF AN IDEA FOR MY NEXT BOOK, BUT I WON’T BE ADDRESSING IT UNTIL THE NEW YEAR. ALSO DURING THIS ‘FALLOW’ PERIOD, I’LL BE READING ALL THOSE NOVELS OF OTHER AUTHORS THAT I’VE BEEN SAVING UP TO RELISH WHILE I’VE BEEN WORKING ON MY OWN FICTION. GOOD WAY TO GO.