On Writing The Orchardist’s Daughter
By Karen Viggers
What defines Australia and sets us apart? Is it our culture? Our history? Our connection with this land? Or is it the things we share, and the mistakes we have made? The people we’ve loved and others we’ve oppressed?
My latest novel, The Orchardist’s Daughter, explores some of these questions. It’s a very human story about three outsiders struggling to belong in a close-knit Tasmanian timber town: a parks ranger, a young woman being controlled by her brother, and a ten-year-old boy being bullied at school. The story explores several themes. Belonging. Friendship. Oppression and freedom. Connection with the bush. The things we can learn through books. The strengths and weaknesses of small communities. Ways in which we can be caring and powerful.
The idea for the novel had its genesis in my passion for southern Tasmania. I’m at my happiest and most peaceful when I’m out in the bush – hiking in the mountains, walking in forests – and I wanted to share these places with my readers. The inspiration for my three main protagonists came from my own journey of shepherding teenagers through to adulthood. It’s not easy, trying to understand their struggles of self-determination, and seeing the ways in which family can both help and hinder them on this path. I’ve brought my own experiences to this narrative. We all share the hopes and challenges of watching young people make their way into the world.
The Orchardist’s Daughter is the second novel I’ve set in southern Tasmania. The first – The Lightkeeper’s Wife – was popular in Australia but has become a sensation in France, where more than 800,000 copies of my books have been sold. I’ve often asked myself why the French connect with my novels. Having visited France last year on a book tour, several things became clear to me. The French love their rural landscapes and communities, and they revere their farmers and small towns, the rural way of life. They also respect and value stories about real life and the nuances of human relationships. All of these factors are central to my work, so perhaps this is why my books resonate with the French. Also, Southern Tasmania is far removed from France and Europe, and this probably makes it intriguing and exotic for French readers.
In Australia, we are fortunate to have so many remote places, relatively undamaged by humanity. This is one of our great privileges, and it’s another reason why I write. To remind Australians of how lucky we are, and to prod people to get out there and enjoy it, under our enormous skies, away from technology.
The Orchardist’s Daughter, in common with my other novels, will take you into wild regions of Australia where you can smell the bush and feel the wind on your face. This landscape is part of who we are.
The Orchardist’s Daughteris will be published by Allen & Unwin on the 4th of February 2019 and is available to order now from Booktopia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Viggers was born in Melbourne, Australia, and grew up in the Dandenong Ranges riding horses and writing stories. She studied veterinary science at Melbourne University, and then worked in mixed animal practice for the next five years before completing a PhD at the Australian National University, Canberra, in wildlife health.
Since then she has worked on a wide range of Australian native animals in many different natural environments.
She lives in Canberra with her husband and two children. She works part-time in veterinary practice, provides veterinary support for biologists studying native animals, and writes in her spare time.
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The Orchardist's Daughter
Sixteen-year-old Mikaela has grown up isolated and homeschooled on an apple orchard in southeastern Tasmania, until an unexpected event shatters her family. Eighteen months later, she and her older brother Kurt are running a small business in a timber town. Miki longs to make connections and spend more time in her beloved forest, but she is kept a virtual prisoner by Kurt, who leads a secret life of his own.
When Miki meets Leon, another outsider, things slowly begin to change. But the power to stand up for yourself must come from within. And Miki has to fight to uncover the truth of her past and discover her strength and spirit.
Set in the old-growth eucalypt forests and vast rugged mountains of southern Tasmania, The Orchardist's Daughter is an uplifting story about friendship, resilience and finding the courage to break free.