Today I have the very great pleasure to welcome Historical Fiction author; Joy Rhoades to Chicks, Rogues and Scandals for an exclusive chat and to share my review of her beautiful debut novel; the Woolgrowers Companion.
I grew up in a small town in the bush in Queensland, Australia. I spent my time with my head in a book, or outdoors – climbing trees, playing in dry creek beds, or fishing for yabbies in the railway dam under the big sky. Some of my favourite memories were visiting my grandmother’s sheep farm in rural New South Wales where my father had grown up. She was a fifth generation grazier, a lover of history, and a great and gentle teller of stories. My childhood gave me two passions: a love of the Australian landscape and a fascination with words and stories.
I left the bush at 13 when I went to boarding school in Brisbane. I stayed on there to study law and literature at the University of Queensland. After, my work as a lawyer took me first to Sydney and then all over the world, to London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and New York. But I always carried in my head a strong sense of my childhood: the people, the history, the light and the landscape. Those images have never left me and they would eventually become The Woolgrower’s Companion. It’s a story I’ve felt I had to tell.
I currently live in London with my husband and our two young children. But I miss the Australian sky.
Frankie Hi Joy, Welcome to Chicks, Rogues and Scandals! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today.
Firstly what five word’s would you use to describe yourself?
Joy I guess I’m curious and tenacious. And kind, I hope. I try to be.
Frankie If you could take a holiday in any era and place, When and where would it be? And Why?
Joy If I could time travel, I’d like to go with aviation pioneer from the ‘30s, Amelia Earhart. To meet her and find out what happened to her. I have always wanted to learn to fly, and she was such a woman of firsts. Inspiring and tragic. I’m fascinated like many, as to what really happened to her in the end.
Joy The Woolgrower’s Companion is historical fiction, set in Australia in 1945 on a remote sheep station. It’s the story of a young woman’s fight to save her father’s farm, when he becomes ill. Kate Dowd, the hero, is somewhat newly married but her remote husband is away fighting in the war. When Kate’s father accepts two Italian prisoners of war to work, unguarded, on their sheep property, Kate must fight to protect herself and Daisy, her 14-year-old domestic, a product of the Aboriginal Domestic Training Home. Kate’s is a story of struggle but essentially a story of hope and of love.
Frankie Love it!! Who was your childhood hero?
Joy I really admired Amelia Earhart. I have always wanted to learn to fly so she had it all. A pioneer, an explorer, a woman. Unfortunate end, of course, but it seemed worth it.
Frankie If you could have one of your books made into a film, which book would it be and who would play your lead character’s?
Joy It’s funny but a lot of readers have told me how cinematic they find The Woolgrower’s Companion. A mate suggested Margot Robbie for Kate, perhaps? She’s from a small town not far from where I was born, so she’ll understand landscape. Luca? I asked my followers on social media and from the nominations, one name stood one: Aldo Mignone. And he looks just perfect for it.
Frankie Oooh, very nice! 😊 Out of all your work, who is your favourite character and why?
Joy I like Kate, the main character in The Woolgrower’s Companion. She grows a lot through the books, makes mistakes, learns sometimes, not always. But she ‘banks’ her learning so se feels stronger over time. I hope she’s inspiring.
Frankie Where doe’s your inspiration for your books come from?
Joy The Woolgrower’s Companion is based very loosely on family stories, especially from my grandmother Gladys Wyndham Mueller-Chateau. She lived almost all of her 102 years on a sheep place in northern New South Wales. She was very like so many bush women: resilient, funny and very proper 😊
Frankie Wow, that is incredible! What three tips would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Joy See writing as an end, a craft that you work at all your life, whether to be at the top of the NYT best seller list (I wish 😉) or just for yourself. But keep at it, working to hone your skills and take pride in that work. There’ll be such reward that comes within from just writing well. Anything else that a writer manages? Like getting a short story published or even getting a publishing deal? Clover.
Frankie Those are brilliant, Thank you! If you were hosting a dinner party what three people would you invite? (They can be real/fictional, from any era)
Joy Wow. Where to start. The Australian poet and activist Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker). And another Australian poet Judith Wright (she’s a distant relative of mine, which fact I love, hoping a drop, just one drop, of her outsize talent might have Australian-crawled its way through the gene pool to me :/) Tim Winton would have to be there, of course. We’d all talk writing and landscape, words and land.
Frankie Thank you, Joy for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today, I have just one more cheeky question, just for fun . . . What is your all-time favourite naughty but nice food?
Joy I love ice-cream. I’m torn between pistachio ice-crema and salted caramel. It’s close, but I think salted caramel wins 😊
Oh, yummy! 😉
Thank you Joy!
About the Book
Kate Dowd’s mother raised her to be a lady but she must put away her white gloves and pearls to help save her family’s sheep farm in New South Wales.
It is 1945, the war drags bitterly on and it feels like the rains will never come again. All the local, able-bodied young men, including the husband Kate barely knows, have enlisted and Kate’s father is struggling with his debts and his wounds from the Great War. He borrows recklessly from the bank and enlists two Italian prisoners of war to live and work on the station.
With their own scars and their defiance, the POWs Luca and Vittorio offer an apparent threat to Kate and Daisy, the family’s young Aboriginal maid. But danger comes from surprising corners and Kate finds herself more drawn to Luca than afraid of him.
Scorned bank managers, snobbish neighbours and distant husbands expect Kate to fail and give up her home but over the course of a dry, desperate year she finds within herself reserves of strength and rebellion that she could never have expected.
The Woolgrower’s Companion is the gripping story of one woman’s fight to save her home and a passionate tribute to Australia’s landscape and its people.
Joy’s debut book The Woolgrowers Companion is to be released on 28th June and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.
Well, what can I say about this book, other than; It is incredibly moving and astoundingly good. Really, this book is really too good for words! The Woolgrowers Companion is Ms Rhoades debut and, my goodness what an introduction, this highly talented author is going to go very far in the world of historical fiction. I love the fact that ‘The Woolgrowers Companion’ is based on the real-life story of one of the author’s ancestors, and at the start of each chapter is a little quote from The Wool Growers Companion which fits in beautifully with the way the story and chapter is going. This is an astonishing, emotionally raw and beautifully written book which handles some very difficult subjects, but Ms Rhoades has covered them with the upmost care.
Set during 1945 in North South Wales, Australia where a young woman, Kate Dowd who has always been brought up to be a proper lady by her later mother has had to cast aside her lady-like gloves and behavior to help on her family farm; Amiens along with her increasing worrisome father; who built up the farm from scratch at the end of WW1. With the war nearing an end, the area is dry with drought and lack of able-bodied men, all gone due to the war which including her husband of six months; Jack. Amiens is the recipient of two Italian POW’s; Luca and Vittorio her father is very grateful for the help and so is Kate that is until she is given one of them to help her in the kitchen garden.
She becomes increasingly drawn to handsome and gentlemanly Luca, he isn’t at all what she expected when they had agreed to take on two POW’s. He is polite, hardworking and kind she knows she shouldn’t take an interest in Luca and he knows that fraternizing with the local girls is punishable with imprisonment and, yet there is a spark between them. To add to Kate’s worries her father has been borrowing money that they can’t possibly pay back, and the horrible bank manager is on the war path to take Amiens from them.
I love the fact that this is predominantly written through Kate’s point of view, she is a very real young woman, that you can relate to instantly. She goes through so many emotions that you share with her as the story goes along; from confusion over her startling feelings for Luca, surprise and anger at what her father has done and sadness that her husband Jack is so far away and that they are on the verge of losing everything her family have worked so hard for.
I will admit that even though I have read a lot of post war novels, this is the first time I have read one set in this setting. In my ignorance, I hadn’t known how the war affected those from Australia or even that Italian POW’s were sent to work on Australian farm’s. The ‘Woolgrowers Companion’ is an eye-opening and thought-provoking story that captures the reader’s imagination and invokes a thirst to learn more.
This book is simply stunning! Ms Rhoades has a rare gift for story-telling, she entices and enthrall’s with her articulate writing and rich, atmospheric detail that transports you from your armchair to 1945 Australia. Her attention to detail is min-blowing, the plot and characters are perfect, the story moves forward in a very natural and at times surprising way, each scene is full of historic details and mood of the times and characters. Rhoades has created a beautiful story that I can guarantee will stay with you long after you close the last page.
There are some very harsh and brutal moments such as racism, bigotry, PTSD and early stages Dementia which, Rhoades deals with it all in a respectful and honest and in a way that leaves a real sense of what these characters are going through. The authors genuine love of the story and her extensive research is evident on every page.
This really is something special, it is a fascinating and moving portrayal of the time from a new author whose career I am looking forward to reading more from.
Magical and beautiful.
This was an ARC copy via the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Woolgrowers Companion is to be released 28th June and can be purchased from Amazon.