Di Morrissey – Rain Music – Podcast

Di Morrissey speaks to the Co-op in a compelling interview about Rain Music.

Di Morrissey writes about the Australia she knows, she loves, she’s explored. Rain Music is inspired by her adventures in far north Queensland – its characters, its forgotten history, its modern dilemmas. A brother and sister, Ned and Bella Chisholm, are struggling with a family tragedy that has set them on opposite paths. After Ned takes off to pursue his musical dreams in far north Queensland, he disappears. When Bella goes in search of her brother, she ends up in remote Cooktown and both their lives are dramatically changed in the isolated, little-known far north of Australia.One story through two sets of eyes. http://www.coop.com.au/rain-music/9781743533307


Speaker 1:
You’re listening to the [Co-op 00:00:02] Book Podcast.

 

Rob:
We’d like to welcome Diane Morrissey to the [Co-op 00:00:15] chat. Hello Di.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Hi.

 

Rob:
Now, if there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of Diane Morrissey, you’re going to have to do a bit of your refresher course, because Di is a best-selling author, and this is book 23 we’re talking about, is that right?

 

Diane Morrissey:
That’s right.

 

Rob:
23 books, Di!

 

Diane Morrissey:
23 novels. I’ve also done 3 children’s books.

 

Rob:
Look, that concept [along 00:00:39] those numbers freak me out. We’re here to talk about your latest book Rain Music. Rain Music is set in Cooktown in far north Queensland. What prompted you or motivated you to write in that environment?

 

Diane Morrissey:
You’ve never been there, I can tell.

 

Rob:
I’ve been … I haven’t been to Cooktown, but I’ve been to far north Queensland.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yes, well Cooktown makes a big impression, there’s not much there, but I went there years ago and always wanted to go back and set a novel there because it’s really the cradle of so much Australian history. You know, the Cook [cast ashore 00:01:17] and Cooktown when he founded on the reef, then there was Palmer River gold rush and the Kanakas that came to you know, really out of Australian slave trade that was shanghaied out of places like now called [inaudible 00:01:30] to work in the sugar cane fields. It was a very sort of rich tapestry that doesn’t often get explored, and what I do in popular fiction is to take a contemporary story and then it’s a place that always is, you know, the catalyst for where the story is going to be set, and then I tell it through the eyes of protagonists who were there in the place, I. E. me. You know, I go and live in the place that I write about. I contrast the contemporary story often, most times, not always but I then weave in the essence of the place which includes its history of course, the people, and the colors and you can’t describe a place, or I can’t if I haven’t been there. Cooktown is rich pickings for a novelist. I’m here to tell you.

 

Rob:
It’s not Cairns, it’s not Port Douglas, it’s not Townsville, so it’s a bit more rural in it’s [center 00:02:28]?

 

Diane Morrissey:
It’s just that it’s so remote. It’s the last town before you drop off the tip of Australia other than [Bamako 00:02:34], but [Bamako 00:02:35] is pretty small, and it was, you know, it was the setting of such a … I mean, they really believed that it was going to be the metropolis of Australia, and you know, they built this extraordinary convent for the Irish nuns that came out in 1888, which is now the wonderful James Cook museum. There’s really only two main buildings there, but it’s surrounded by extraordinary setting and all of this history. The book does also look at the Daintree and Cairns and some of the … Cairns in the 70s was an extraordinary wild place with the fishing and the music, the Barbary Coast, extraordinary music. There’s a theme, I’m writing about a brother and a sister and I’ve never written or explained a siblings relationship before in the relationships I look at. There’s the practical sister, and then there’s the dreamer older brother who wants to be a musician. The catalyst is that the brother has kind of disappeared and dropped off the family radar. There’s an event for their late father and of course the mother and the sister want him there and when they can’t find him, the sister sets off from rural Victoria to find her brother and she travels all up through Queensland and again, changes her as a landscape can, and then when she finds her brother in Cooktown, wow. All hell breaks loose, so that’s the story.

 

Rob:
The theme of, I suppose, of getting out of your comfort zone, the way that you explained it reminds me of a road movie.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yeah!

 

Rob:
What is it about, you know, changing circumstances that affect people, you think?

 

Diane Morrissey:
I think it’s the environment, it’s the landscape because here is a very busy, practical, efficient, you know professional woman in her 30s, and we see how her personality changes, how her attitude changes, and her pace slows the further north she goes, then she meets those eccentric people with no last names that drift up to the far north. Some people, like Bella embrace this new scenery and landscape and philosophy, but some people can also be quite intimidated or quite confronted by this extraordinary, when you’re very much out of your comfort zone in an extraordinary landscape. I think it does have quite an effect, whether you recognize it or not, on the psyche so I kind of like to explore that in this book. The story is told through 2 sets of eyes, one through Bella and one through Ned, her brother, so you get both perspectives which was quite a balancing act to do.

 

Rob:
How was that? How did you get into different head spaces?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Just by sort of saying, okay what is Ned doing? Speak to me Ned, and I heard Ned’s voice in my head. You know, I’m a very visual writer, but I see what I’m writing about, maybe because I’ve been there, like scrolling through my head like a movie, and I hear them. They talk to me and I just write it down.

 

Rob:
Tell me a bit about your writing process. Are you an organized writer? Do you plan things out?

Diane Morrissey:
Not really. I choose the … or the place choose me, the place. The relationship, I’m meant to be doing these characters, and then I go to the place and I get all of that kind of color and characters and stuff from being there. I come back and I’m very disciplined and I work every single day, from you know, 7 to 6 o’clock, 7 days a week for 6 months. I mean, I take places family things, okay. Essentially, I have a deadline, I’ve never missed a deadline and I’m very disciplined, but equally, I can be 2 chapters off the end and have no idea how it’s going to end. I’ve learned to trust.

 

Rob:
You trust the story and you’re along for the ride as well?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That’s why I could never … I’m asked all the time to teach, like, you know, classes in creative writing courses which I have never done, but I can’t possibly explain how I do what I do. I seriously really do believe that you can either tell a story, write a story, or you can’t. I can’t paint and I can’t sing, but I can tell a story, I mean we are given different gifts.

 

Rob:
One of the things that I got out of the book is the nature of seasons and how that affects people, especially obviously the title of Rain Music. How does that relate to the book?

 

Diane Morrissey:
The impending wet season up north, the beginning of the wet season which they call the Mango Season, which was what another possible title, sends people crazy. They really, really… their behavior change, the humidity, they go nuts, there’s all these false storms. Also, your lifestyle has to completely change. You have to hunker down for 6 months, not being able to go anywhere, when you’re … so many people are cut-off. There’s … you have to juggle your life and often you get caught during the wet season, and then there’s this sense of, I found, music that really kind of influenced … influenced me when I, you know, plotting the book as much as I ever do, that it’s very strong this Cairns is rich in music and musical history and there’s some amazing characters that are out there who were musicians. I just had Ned being this kind of dreamer and his father wanted him to be a doctor, go into, you know, the law and he wanted to write songs and he’s had one sort of successful album, but he wants to write the great Australian musical, or the great Australian rock opera, and he’s a drifter and a dreamer, and he’s now approaching 40 and everyone’s telling him to get a proper job. I wanted that kind of sense of impending doom like when the wet season is coming because now suddenly he’s been confronted with having to make a decision about, you know, get a real job and go back home, you have to front up to the family, or are you just going to drift and be a loser.

 

Rob:
That’s interesting. I really like the time stamp that the seasons give you. Actually reminds me of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.

 

Diane Morrissey:

Yes.

Rob:
Where it all ends, you know, it ends with each summer and each winter and there was travel involved.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Yes. You had to get the cane in, and it had to be cut again before the seasons change. Well, it used to be how life was dictated by the seasons but frankly now, with climate change, the seasons are extending people quite [inaudible 00:09:37] because you can’t plan anymore, nothing is as assured. People on the land really struggling in many ways.

 

Rob:
You know, many of your books have been set in rural settings, and you live in a rural setting.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Rob:
What’s the appeal verse, you know, living in the country verses city for you?

 

Diane Morrissey:
The tranquility, the peace, the productivity. I’m not so distracted. I like the environment, and so it’s, you know, to come down to Sydney, or you know, go to a big city is kind of fun for a = couple of days, and I’m at a stage in my life now where I’ve kind of been there, done that. Your life gets dictated by job, family, school, all of that stuff and I’m in the lovely position now of having a career that can go anywhere and so I like to sit in that peaceful sort of environment. I travel to exotic places a lot, so it’s the best of both worlds.

 

Rob:
Sounds like it. Now as you know many of our listeners are either at University or leaving University, you didn’t get to go to University, did you?

 

Diane Morrissey:
No, I didn’t. It was considered quite the shame because I was fairly bright at school but in those days you know, you had to, it was before Whitlam, you had to pay to go to University. My mother was widowed and she simply couldn’t afford it, but I knew what I wanted to do from age 7, and that was to write books. It was that simple, I was going to write books, tell stories, but then I discovered you actually don’t leave school and become a novelist.

 

Rob:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Diane Morrissey:
Nothing … that hasn’t changed. The smartest thing I did through my uncle who was a foreign correspondent, said you go and get a job at a newspaper or a magazine, and I did. I went in and got a cadetship on The Australian Woman’s Weekly after 6 weeks of running around as a copy girl making cups of tea and stuff. I got 4 years training as a journalist, taught me how to research, taught my how to interview. There is nothing better than on-the-job training. Those wonderful old hands and these extraordinary women who ran The Woman’s Weekly in those days taught me stuff you can never learn in school. You can have the most wonderful lecturer that can tell you things but until you are thrown into the deep-end and you have to go and interview someone who maybe doesn’t want to be interviewed, or you know, you have to learn tactics. I still believe in softly, softly catchy monkey. I don’t believe in foot-in-the-door journalism. I do think that you you can’t feel that, yes you put in the hard-yard so you deserve now to, like be recognized for what you do. You do have to be somewhat humble and consider that there are still things that you can learn. Now, it’s hard there’s so many, you know, kids going to University. Everyone goes to University now. But there out the jobs. It is really … I mean a lot of graduates properly have to suffer a couple of years before they really get their foot-in-the-door of the job that, you know, is meaningful. It’s tough, I wouldn’t want to be, you know, in that position myself … I wouldn’t want to be starting out now, I tell you th at.

 

Rob:
Who has been your influences as a writer?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Well, I’ve been very fortunate in that I just happen to live in an area, again, a very tranquil, beautiful, peaceful area on Sydney’s northern beaches. Morris West and Tom Keneally, were, you know, neighbors and very good friends, and they were very generous with their time and advice and stuff to a new, you know, struggling writer.

 

Rob:
If you were all on the same street, that was quite a …

 

Diane Morrissey:
Quite a neighbourhood.

 

Rob:
Very different writers, too.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Jon Cleary, they’re quite a few, yeah. When I grew up I was influenced by, well Dorothea Mackellar, the old poetess who told me when I was 7, put your stories that you make up in your head down in a book one day, and I go oh, right-o, that’s what I’ll do.

 

Rob:
Everyone that hasn’t had a chance to grab a copy of Rain Music, it is available at the Co-op Bookstore and various other places. What’s next, Di? What’s next on the horizon?

 

Diane Morrissey:
Well, I have decided I know where I’m going, so this … occasionally I go off-shore for part of the book, so I’ll be going off-shore again, I’ve set a book in Burma, I’ve set a book in Malaysia, and Hawaii, books that have a connection with Australia, I mean stories that have a connection with Australia, but I’m not going to tell you. That’s going to be a big secret.

 

Rob:
Okay.

 

Diane Morrissey:
I’m keeping myself busy. I’ve started a newspaper as well. I have a daily, I mean a monthly newspaper that I put out. I got a bit fed-up with the local press so I started my own.

 

Rob:

Wow. Just a small sidelight. Getting back into the media business.

Diane Morrissey:
See, once a journo, always a journo.

 

Rob:
Diane Morrissey, thank you for speaking us speaking to us at the Co-op Chat.

 

Diane Morrissey:
Thank you Rob, it’s been fun.

 

Rob:
Thanks.
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