It’s 1878 and Eva Carmichael is excited to begin her new life in Australia. Her parents and five of her siblings are with her on board the Loch Ard from London, which after three months at sea is just one day’s sail from Melbourne. But late into that last night, the Loch Ard strikes rocks and sinks and all perish except Eva and a midshipman, Tom Pearce. These teenagers face a gritty struggle for survival on the wreckage-strewn shore of a remote gorge. Yet, after a dramatic rescue by a local farmer, the two young people find they must then tackle grief and growth as overnight they become inspirational but unwilling heroes across Australia and around the world. (Based on a true story.)
Let's talk about it
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
I’d love to visit Morocco one day. Or the Sea of Galilee. Or both.
Why did you choose the themes in your book and were you aware of them from the start?
The standout theme is survival – physically, and then in every other sense. From the day I visited Loch Ard Gorge and discovered its history, the thought of the survival of these two young people was the overall thrust of the story.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
Thorough research takes time, and it costs money sometimes (which shouldn’t be an obstacle, but it still made me pause before paying when I really needed the information). But the research was incredibly satisfying, especially finding so many old newspapers and documents to build the story.
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
I always write historical fiction. I’ve done English medieval (my MG novel, Emelin), and Australian historical fiction from 1806 to 1898.
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
I love to write in cafes. When someone’s baby cries, I can ignore it because it’s not mine.
What would you do differently next time?
Improve the way I document my research so it’s easier to look back on what I’ve found. I’m getting better.
With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?
Add more soul to the stories.
If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?
It was good because it challenged me to stop resisting change, and to learn to think differently. Also, fresh eyes on my work made a huge difference.
What’s next for your writing?
Back to the MG book I was working on a few months ago about a boy and a mystery at the oldest still-standing church in Australia.
Jackie Randall is a storyteller who researches historical events to bring people and their stories back from the past. Born in England, Jackie now lives with her husband Phillip on a small rural property north of Sydney, Australia. They have three amazing adult children who now each have their own beautiful families.