Good Reading : February 2016
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING FEBRUARY 2016 28 Dur ing a live radio interview in 2012, when the announcer suggested to novelist Fiona McCallum that she should write a sequel to Wattle Creek, she was taken aback. She’d hadn’t even considered it. ‘To me, Damien’s story is done,’ she said. ‘Damien has achieved what he needed to achieve and learn in his journey, so that for me that’s the end, although often readers will want to lear n more ... but never say never!’ Wattle Creek follows Jacqueline Havelock, a psychologist who works in an Adelaide prison, as she makes a tree change, moving to the small rural town of Wattle Creek. As the only mental health expert in the area, her work is soon cut out for her when she’s approached by a young far mer, Damien McAllister, at the mercy of a tough year of drought, dwindling finances and depression. Jacqueline uses her professional skills to coax Damien back from the edge of suicide, but for the first time, her professional distance and principle of maintaining strictly platonic relationships with her patients begins to falter as she struggles with an increasing attraction to Damien. Wattle Creek enjoyed similar success to Fiona’s first two novels, Paycheque and Nowhere Else, contributing to her long-held position as the number-two top-selling rural fiction author in Australia. Although other stor ies were already clamour ing in Fiona’s brain to be put onto the page, Jacqueline and Damien never quite faded into the background. ‘At the end of Wattle Creek, I did feel that Damien’s story was told,’ she reiterates to me over the phone from her home in Adelaide. ‘But none of my characters ever seem to go away. They stay and keep chatter ing to me. Whoever nags me the most gets their story told!’ The radio announcer’s suggestion was the seed and the chatter ing of her characters was the fertiliser, but what really triggered this sequel’s ger mination was something else altogether – a scathing review. A psychologist read Wattle Creek and heavily cr itiqued Fiona’s characterisation of Jacqueline and the portrayal of the profession of psychology. Fiona had purposefully left out the more tedious technical details of the day-to-day work of a psychologist, as she didn’t want to her readers to slog through swathes of irrelevant academic and neurological jargon. Despite the reviewer’s der isive assessment, Fiona was inspired. The reviewer had mentioned a stringent rule that psychologists must abide by and which Jacqueline had unintentionally breached. This triggered a professional and personal dilemma that Fiona has used to kick off the drama of Standing Strong, the sequel to Wattle Creek. ‘People are cruel on social media. The psychologist was quite nasty. But I thought, don’t get angry, get even, so I just said “Thanks for the idea, love!”’ COVER STORY COVER STORY NeverSayNeverThelasttimegrcaughtupwithbestselling f armlitauthorF I ONAMcCALLUM,shehadjustpublishedastandalonenovel,WattleC r eek.She’snoww r ittenasequel,Stand i ngStrong,which r evisitsJacqueline,thecitygi r ltu r nedcount r ypsychologist,andtheyoungfa r me r Damienastheycontendwithsmall-towngossip,tumultuouspe r sonallivesandthe r uthlessnessofMothe r Natu r e.ANGUSDALTONtalkstoFionaabouthowthisfo r thcomingsequelcameabout.
December January 2016