Bestselling local author Victoria Purman has a backlist that I have adored, and she has just released a new novel that shines a light on Australian women in post-war Sydney. It is filled with heart, humour and HERstory.
I was fortunate to have Victoria agree to answer some questions about the book, I hope you love learning more about The Women’s Pages as much as I did.
Hi Victoria, thanks for being here with us at Mic Loves Books for a chat. It’s always a pleasure to catch up on what you’re doing and I’m thrilled to support you on my new blog.
I have been following your journey since the beginning, though I have missed some digital releases that I plan to get to, can you tell us about the different genres you write?
I largely now write novels based on the real stories of Australian women. Booksellers might call them “women’s fiction” or “historical fiction”. I’ve also written romance novels and if I had more time in the day I’d still love to do both!
The new release is The Women’s Pages, can you tell us about the book?
“The Women’s Pages” is about a woman called Tilly Galloway, who was a war correspondent for a Sydney newspaper during World War Two. Her husband has been a Japanese prisoner of war for three years, her career looks like ending because the war is over, and just as everyone thinks life will get back to normal after the war, everything is turned upside down.
Are any of the characters in The Women’s Pages real people?
A few real life people make (very) cameo appearances but all the rest are figments of my imagination – but based on all the research I did about Sydney during the war and the battles Australian women reporters faced to cover the war the way the men were allowed.
What inspired you to tell this tale?
I loved the real stories I uncovered in our history and when I finished “The Land Girls” (2019), which ended on VP (Victory over Japan Day) on August 15th, 1945, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened after. And as I was a journalist way back when, I was fascinated with the battles they fought to cover more than fashion and the social scene. (Not that those things aren’t fun and interesting – but every other area of newsgathering was closed off to them).
Tilly Galloway is an exceptional woman who fought hard for her career, do you think her childhood gave her the passion required to fight for her place on the paper?
I created a childhood for Tilly that was based on the research I did on the lives of real families whose breadwinners worked on the wharves in Sydney. There was no such thing as regular work, and men were selected to load and unload ships based on an assessment of their physical strength and on their preparedness not to rock the boat. Tilly’s father is a wharfie – and committed unionist – and her mother is his rock, and together they have spent their whole lives fighting for the rights of wharfies. How could she not want to fight for a better world when she had learnt about the struggles from her earliest days? Looking back, we seem to assume that women simply put up with their lot in life. My research proved the opposite is true. Everything women have won has been won because they fought for it. She is the essence of that spirit.
Do you think, if things had turned out a little differently, Tilly would have given up her career as a reporter to be the dutiful homebound wife?
That’s a great question! I think Tilly is a product of her circumstances – as so many women of that generation were and continue to be. Once her eyes were opened to the world, her talents and all the possibilities of where that might take her, she wanted to see more and do more.
You managed to explore many different outcomes for women after the war, can you tell us about your research?
I read widely and scoured the internet on issues as wide as ‘what colour lipsticks were available in WW2” to “what was the bull system on wharves”. I hunted articles in newspapers of the day, checked on what food was available under the rationing system, the prevalence of dry cleaners in Potts Point, the availability of French perfume in Sydney during the war and… the list goes on! My Publisher says there is research on every page in my books, and if I have woven that history seamlessly into the story, I have accomplished my goal.
How much do you agree with Tilly’s feelings about the Women’s Pages of the Daily Herald when she was first moved from general news?
Tilly was dismissive and downcast about being sent to the “women’s newsroom” – it was true that all the women in newspapers at the time were lumped together, very separate from the men. She says at one point, “I want to write about what women do, not what they wear” but time covering “women’s issues” really helps her realise that women’s stories are important too and deserve to be raised. I feel the same!
There are questions that I want to ask but am conscious of spoilers so instead I will say… what an ending. Can you tell us why you ended it how you did?
Without giving anything away – I will cryptically say that I wanted Tilly’s eyes to be opened to all the possibilities available to her.
Are we likely to hear more of the adventures of Tilly Galloway?
“The Women’s Pages” was always planned as a stand alone story… but now you’ve got me thinking!
Is there something new you’re working on that you can tell us about?
I’m in the very final stages of my book for 2021 – title yet to be finalised – it’s set in a WW1 army hospital in England, one that was staffed entirely by Australians.
Do you have a favourite time of day and place that you write?
I’m pretty rubbish in the mornings (such a night owl) so on the days when I’m not at work and I’m writing, I sit down about ten, faff about for a couple of hours catching up on admin and other things and then crack on with my manuscript.
Thanks so much for being here with us and good luck with the release of The Women’s Pages.
Thanks so much Michelle for your amazing support of Australian writers.