On Saturday the 10th of August The Cosy Reading Book Club once again met to discuss their book of the month. The book for August was Shepherd by Catherine Jinks.
This was an exciting month for book club as we welcomed a whole bunch of new attendees and opened up a second session for book club, it is now held at both 3.00pm and 5.00pm.
It was also exciting as this month book club fell on Love Your Bookshop Day which included a whole range of activities in store, and honestly what a perfect way to celebrate Love Your Bookshop Day by meeting and discussing books with fellow book lovers!
This month’s book had mixed reviews. Some people loved it and some people weren’t as enamored by it but we definitely had a lot to talk about!
Those who loved it thought it was sad and harsh but also tender at times and overall a good read which they would recommend to others. However there were some who thought it wasn’t as polished as it could be.
But honestly I think some of our best book clubs are when we don’t all love the book and can debate the things we did and didn’t like and see who would be the ideal audience for the story.
Thanks to the amazing people over at Text Publishing we were able to interview the author, Catherine Jinks, and ask her some questions about the book and her inspiration behind it.
with Catherine Jinks
What was your inspiration for Shepherd? Was it based on any real events or real people?
It’s not based on real events, but it’s historically accurate. I once wrote about a serial killer convict called John Lynch who murdered a whole bunch of people down in the southern highlands, where there were a lot of early ‘bushrangers’ wandering around who were basically escaped convicts stealing from homesteads. They didn’t have horses or even guns, for the most part. I based Dan Carver on them.
Our book club group were trying to work out exactly where in New South Wales the book was set. Did you base the location on any one specific place?
I didn’t, no. I didn’t think it mattered. It was all a big wilderness for Tom – he felt completely at sea there – so I thought it best that the reader did too. Obviously it’s a heavily wooded area – possibly down around the Shoalhaven, which was wild and woolly in those days.
There is a lot of knowledge about the Australian outback and how things were done back then included in this book. How much research did you have to do for this novel?
I’ve written a few other books set in colonial Australia (The Dark Mountain, The Gentleman’s Garden, Charlatan) so I already had a foundation of knowledge to build on. But I did do a fair bit of research – mostly on Trove, where there are all kinds of nineteenth century articles on convict shepherds and aboriginal tracking and other topics. I also found a wonderful nineteenth century book online that was all about the English countryside and its inhabitants – including poachers. (It’s amazing what you can find on the internet these days.) I even discovered that one part of Tom’s gaol still exists: the Governor’s house is now a private residence.
What made you want to write about Australia’s colonial frontier? Was this a story you have had in your head waiting to be told for a while?
After being hired to write a screenplay of one of my children’s books, I decided to try my hand at an original screenplay. I thought a thriller might be easier to do in terms of structure, and thrillers require that the protagonists are stuck where they can’t get help – either in an isolated house or a locked room or out in the middle of nowhere. Then I realized that the biggest ‘middle of nowhere’ I could write about was colonial Australia, and I remembered reading about the convict shepherds, and how alone they were. So I devised a screenplay based around that situation.
Then, when no one wanted the screenplay, I turned it into a book
When choosing to write about this time period did you always plan to write a thriller?
See above. It actually started as a thriller; the historical aspect sprang from that.
How long did it take you to write Shepherd?
It was written in two chunks. The screenplay, which served as a synopsis, took about two months. The book took about four, I think – though my memory’s a bit fuzzy.
How hard was it to write about the animals in this novel? There were definitely some tears shed from us!
The funny thing is that I’m much more cold-hearted about my own characters than I am about other people’s. I get really stressed when I’m reading someone else’s book and something bad happens, but I’ve got no problem killing off my own people or animals. I don’t know why. Because the story arc is all-important? Because I know they’re not real? I’m not sure.
What made you want to be a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I always wanted to be a writer because I always liked to read. It’s as simple as that.
What is your writing process? Do you need to stick to a strict schedule, or do you write when inspiration strikes?
My process is that I get an idea, I create a synopsis of the plot and characters (which can take weeks or even months), then I sit down and write until I reach the end. I’m generally satisfied with my fourth draft and send that off.
I used to be able to write for eight hours a day but now I do my best work in the morning. (I guess I’ve lost a few brain cells, over the years.) So I tend to sit down at about eight thirty or nine and then write until lunchtime, every day of the week, unless there are other things I have to do. After lunch, my brain tends to get muzzy. But sometimes it sharpens up again in the early evening.
Do you prefer writing adult fiction or children’s? Is your writing process different depending on which you are writing?
I write for both children and adults because I like the variety. I get bored if I have to focus on one thing for too long. But children’s books are definitely more fun.
The process is identical for each.
What are your top five favourite books you’ve read this year?
Oh dear. That’s a hard one. I’m always reading – it’s like breathing, to me. I’m always gulping down easy reads like Michael Connelly and Liane Moriarty and Joanne Trollope and I love all of them. I suppose my surprise pleasures this year were Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’, Lionel Shriver’s ‘Big Brother’ and Tara Westover’s ‘Educated’. Oh, and of course Helen Garner’s ‘Everywhere I look’.
I’m a lazy reader. I hate a book that makes me work too hard.
Do you have any future projects in the works that you can tell us about?
Well, I’ve just written another adult thriller but it hasn’t been sent to a publisher yet. We have to see how this one goes.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you so very much for reading my book! I really, really appreciate it.
BOOKS WE ARE LOVING
Each month at book club we talk about and share with the group what books we have read in the last month and loved!
Here are the books the Cosy Reading Book Club attendees have been enjoying:
- Fled by Meg Keneally
- Educated by Tara Westover
- Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
- The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
- My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
- Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith
- Dark Age by Pierce Brown
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
- One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton
- Gun Love by Jennifer Clement
- Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
Keep tuned for next month when we discuss To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers!