Have you ever read an historic novel where you were so engrossed in the story line you didn’t even realise you were learning something about historical events and places? When I had finished ‘Black Forest Redemption’ by Amanda Deed, I thought back over the story and marveled at the way she had incorporated so much of our Australian history into the novel. This is a fast paced read – which I loved. Action, adventure, romance, and the added bonus of a dramatic insight into this colourful era of Australian history.
A man resigned to a life without fulfillment or purpose. A woman desperate for adventure. Set against the tumultuous times of the Eureka uprising in Ballaarat, 1854, the two find themselves victims of an abduction. To escape could mean death. To hope for rescue is not an option. Together they must find a way to survive in an untamed land where bushrangers, dense forest and wild animals are only some of the dangers they must face. Can he find the courage to succeed? Can she realise her dreams of freedom? Will the ordeal forge a bond of love between them, or drive them apart? And above all, will they find their way home?
Amanda was good enough to answer some questions about ‘Black Forest Redemption’ for me.
1. I think that Australia’s gold rush era tends to be romanticised in our modern culture, but it could be a very dangerous time to live in. Did your research unearth any interesting stories, and how did the lawless aspects of this era influence your story line in Black Forest Redemption?
I actually stumbled across a conspiracy theory from a descendant of a family who was very involved in the lead-up to the Eurkea Stockade. He suggested, and he had some compelling evidence (none of which I’ve verified) that perhaps the sly grog industry was involved. The Eureka Hotel was doing good business, so the sly grog people tried to put him out of business, setting him up for murder. The murder outside the Eureka Hotel was one of the factors that started the flame of revolt leading to the Stockade. I hinted at this controversy in Black Forest Redemption. With men around who were either greedy or desperate for gold, it was dangerous indeed.
2. One thing that struck me when I read Black Forest Redemption was the drastic difference between what was appropriate for pioneering woman, and what was appropriate for women today. How hard was it to write a strong, independent female character, and still work within the constraints of the era?
One of the reasons I used a head-strong female character was to show what women were not permitted to do in that time period, and the scandal they caused if they did. Things that seem insignificant to us today, such as wearing or not wearing gloves, the length of hems, the way one sat on a horse. The 1800s was still a very ‘women belong in the home/kitchen’ time period. I had a lot of fun with my character though, who wanted to break out of those confines, but did learn a few lessons along the way, that some of those confines are useful.
3. The Australian bush plays a major role in this story. It feels like a main character, the way it influences and sways each villain and hero in the book. As the author, how important was it that the stetting of this story stand out?
When I first read about the Black Forest, that it was a favoured haunt of bush rangers, and that travellers feared to pass there – at least not to camp there for the night – I thought it would be a great setting for a story. What better place to hide a couple of abductees? And what a great adventure to try and escape from there. I drove up to Mount Macedon to explore the area, so the view described from the top of the mountain is from my actual experience. So is the discovery of the waterfall. That waterfall actually exists. Nothing much remains of the Black Forest today, however, as most of it was logged by the late 1800s. But there is a road called Black Forest Drive which leads into the Macedon area.