Mary-Anne O'Connor, author of Gallipoli Street
Interviewed by Honor Auchinleck
Mary-Anne O’Connor’s debut novel Gallipoli Street is far more than a story based on men who served at Gallipoli. The narrative encompasses Light Horse hero Jack’s service in Palestine and his and his family’s experiences in the wake of the Great War. Having a soft spot for fiction, I found that Gallipoli Street was such a gripping tale that once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. Mary-Anne kindly agreed to an e-interview:
Honor: It is such a treat to enjoy a book as much as I enjoyed your Gallipoli Street. Please, could you tell me what inspired you to write it? Was it a story you heard at home, or something you read, a photograph or a memorial?
Mary-Anne: Firstly, thank-you so much. I’m so thrilled you read and enjoyed my novel.
To answer your questions, my original plan was to write a biography based on my maternal grandparents however it soon became apparent such a task would be enormously challenging. Staying that accurate would prove almost impossible, especially when you come from such a large family as ours. People would remember events or details differently and I didn’t want anyone to feel I hadn’t captured the exact story as it occurred; far easier to base a fictional story on the real life tale.
I heard many stories at home and at family get-togethers. There are many photographs and artefacts that have been passed down as well and I was lucky enough to have them surrounding me as I wrote. I lit a candle in front of this photograph of my grandfather, James Clancy or ‘Da’ to us, and my grandmother, Gladys Richards or ‘Nana’, whilst writing. It was a form of reverence as well as a request for their blessing, asking them to help me lend authenticity to the tale and honour their generation as best I could.