Delving into writing process

By Meg Saultry

Benalla Library will host Australian author Suzanne Daniel in conversation on Wednesday evening, where she will discuss her debut novel, Allegra in Three Parts.

Speaking to The Ensign ahead of her appearance, Suzanne said she was excited about the prospect of visiting Benalla for the first time.

Asked why she included the regional town as one stop on her book tour, Suzanne said it was through attending boarding school that she met a number of country kids, and would often ‘‘go to their homes in the country in school holidays’’.

‘‘I’m really aware of the richness and culture of country towns, and the importance of book clubs and libraries,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s of great importance to me to support that.’’

Suzanne’s debut novel Allegra in Three Parts is set in 1970’s Bondi and is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Allegra.

Split in the middle of two wildly different grandmothers, the first, Matilde, a Hungarian refugee and holocaust survivor, shows her love through hard work and discipline.

Next door is Joy, a free spirit who embraces feminism.

Her version of love is ‘‘reaching your potential’’.

And then there is Rick, Allegra’s father, a carpenter, surfer, and all-round ‘‘good bloke’’.

‘‘All three cherish Allegra, but don’t speak to each other, with Allegra moving between them, keeping the peace,’’ Suzanne said.

While the complex tale explores family, friendship, grief and feminism, at its heart it is ultimately a coming-of-age story.

‘‘It looks at how a child’s sense of identity grows,’’ Suzanne said.

‘‘In a family with different personalities, you can feel like you have bits of everyone, but still feel different.

‘‘Allegra feels split between them.’’

But it is what is going on in the background that adds another element to the read.

Suzanne leans heavily into second-wave feminism and women’s liberation, and the need for women’s refuge shelters.

‘‘It was an interesting time in history for women. A lot of change was occurring,’’ Suzanne said.

‘‘Women were becoming more likely to speak out.

‘‘I spoke to a number of brave early feminists, like Diana Beaton and Bessie Guthrie for the book.

‘‘I wanted to capture the spirit of the time, the camaraderie and growing consciousness.’’

Ultimately the novel was an eight-year passion project for Suzanne, who is also a journalist and communication consultant.

With life inadvertently getting in the way in recent years, Suzanne said she would have to pick up and put down the novel at times.

‘‘I’m glad it took time though, because it has a lot more layers now,’’ she said.

And while the book is ultimately a work of fiction, Suzanne drew heavily on her journalistic skills when interviewing and researching background material for the novel.

‘‘It was a big thrill to be able to combine both,’’ she said.

After managing to get her book published, which included a mini auction between rival publishers, Suzanne ultimately signed with Pan Macmillan on a two-book deal.

In a further accomplishment, she also signed in the US and Canada and signed a film and television deal.

‘‘It’s all been the most unexpected outcome for me,’’ she said.

The event at the Benalla Library will see Suzanne ‘‘In Conversation’’ with Michelle Delle Vergin of Booktique Wangaratta.

The pair will not only talk about the book, but will delve into the writing process and the road to getting published.

‘‘I’m really encouraging of all writing,’’ Suzanne said.

‘‘Everyone says they’ve got a book in them — and I say you’re the only one who can write that.

‘‘You’ve got to make yourself do it.

‘‘I’m excited to come and talk to the community and hear their stories.’’

●Suzanne Daniel In Conversation will be held at Benalla Library, 2 Fawckner Dve, on Wednesday, June 26, at 6pm.