The creative powerhouse, Leah Purcell answers some questions for us.
The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is a thoroughly harrowing and entirely of our times story, exploring race, gender, violence and inheritance. Can you tell us more about the book?
For me the book is about a mother’s unconditional love for her children and her identity. The Aboriginal male character is very loosely based on my great grandfather. I love to use facts in history as a basis, or to influence my characters’ journeys. There are stories from the white males in my family: my father, father-in-law and my maternal great grandfather that have influenced the storyline too.
There have been a number of incarnations of this tale – from theatre to novel and now screen. Is there one that resonates with you most?
It’s hard to say as they were all rewarding in the process of creating them for the different platforms, but I guess the novel was the hardest, the newest experience and very satisfying because I got to put everything into the story, and I could let my imagination run wild.
As an artist, how difficult is it personally to bring to life a piece of this depth and intensity. Not at all, I live for this, these challenges. Difficult is not the word I would use to describe the process. It’s tiring and draining but rewarding and fulfilling!
What is something that has inspired you as a writer?
My Aboriginal grandmother and mother didn’t have a voice in their time because they were Aboriginal, so they inspire me greatly in all that I do. What inspires me to write is the telling of stories that will empowerment my people, or to create an awareness and an understanding of the Indigenous plight through a universal story that everyone can relate to. I write to preserve these stories, forever, how cool is that; I write to satisfy my creativity. Writing a novel is another way to reach another kind of audience. And a way to challenge my creativity is by trying something new. Maybe I was destined to write a novel because I always got in trouble in my early days of script writing for TV; I would always get notes back saying my big print read like a novel, and I needed to cut it back! But even as a young girl I liked writing stories, and while I was not a very good speller or good at punctuation, I loved to tell a yarn!
What is your work day like and what are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished one of my biggest projects yet; I wrote, starred and directed my first feature film that had animals, children and me in the lead role! So right now, I am in the edit for my feature!! Besides catching up on quality time with my daughter, grandchildren and my dog, I’m trying to fit back into normal life. I am about to embark on the first leg of a small book tour – very exciting times! After all of that I’m then back to ‘Wentworth’ for Foxtel Showcase.
As a performer and writer language is important. You are a Goa, Gunggari, Wakka Wakka Murri woman. Do you speak any of these languages? Yes. Although the fluent speakers have all long gone as back in the day mob weren’t allowed to speak their language, so a lot of the language was not passed down. With the few words I know, I try to keep them alive in everyday language with my grandchildren and daughter. And in my work environment, I throw the odd Aboriginal language word around. It’s great. People love it.