Author Interview: Mary-Anne O’Connor

We are privileged to have an interview with the author of our April Book of the Month

Mary-Anne O'Connor!

Gallipoli Street

How did you come to write the book?

maryanne o'connorThe Gallipoli campaign is part of my family story, a legacy of experience that has been passed down through the generations from the day my teenage grandfather first set foot in Anzac Cove. Being his grand-daughter, I felt especially moved as I watched the veterans pass by each year at the Anzac Day parade, old and frail, and I wondered at the days gone by. I imagined what they looked like when they set off for war, marching down to Circular Quay, young and strong in fresh new uniforms, and I wondered at the lovers, family and friends they were leaving behind. My grandmother, 'Nana', was a completely amazing, strong, kind and intrepid woman and I used to sit and ask her what those days were like; how it felt to live through two world wars and the Great Depression. What it was like to be married to an Anzac. Their story was deeply woven into me over the years and one day I just sat and started writing. It poured out of me like a vivid dream. Three months later the first draft was done.

What research did you do for Gallipoli Street?

A: I read a great deal of factual history of course but the really moving and inspiring research came from real life stories, mostly from reading actual letters from soldiers at the time but also from talking to my mother, my father, my aunts and my uncles. They lived through those years and had incredible insights and memories that cannot be found anywhere else. They exist only within peoples minds and hearts. There are many real life details within the novel as a result, something that makes the story very personal to my family.

What do you hope readers take away from Gallipoli Street?

A: I hope they see these men and women in the full flush of youth with all the challenges, emotions and drama of the times enveloping their lives. I hope to make the readers feel a myriad of emotions: hope, fear, love, anger, desperation, grief, joy, triumph, forgiveness, passion, humour and faith. Most of all I hope I move them and that they resonate with the Anzac generation. Even though this is fiction, it is inspired by very real people living through something extraordinarily difficult with extraordinary courage.

9781743692141And I hope they feel gratitude that the Anzac generation sacrificed so much for us- the future Australia they fought for.

With the centenary year, what does ANZAC Day mean to you?

A: It means more than parades, black and white footage of battles and flag waving. It is a time to let go of the politics and embrace the wonderful legacy they left to us: take the best of what they gave us and aspire towards it. I truly believe my grandfather and his mates loved our country- and not just because it is a beautiful place. They fought for each other and they fought for their loved ones but they also fought for a way of life. Perhaps 100 years later we can consider that and strive to build the best country we can, remembering that they fought for Australia. One in five died for Australia. A new country filled with hope and freedom. I hope we always aim to honour that and be the country they believed in. To do them proud.

Finally, how can QBD readers get in touch with you? 

I am available on Facebook and on my website