Mary-Anne O'Connor, author of Gallipoli Street

Interviewed by Honor Auchinleck (continued)

Honor: How much are your characters based on those of your ancestors and of their neighbours and how much of is your imagination? I know it is difficult to quantify this sort of thing, but so often it is people we’ve met and with whom we’ve shared some experiences who sow seeds that become ideas for characters.


Mary-Anne: It's a funny thing how the characters are both themselves and yet hold traces of real life people that you’ve known, or least feel you know. I would best compare this to dreaming; when you awake you feel the characters were so real you must have known them somewhere along the line and yet they are mere products of your imagination. Having said that, some characters in your dreams are people you know in life, or at least versions of them. In my experience in writing novels the characters are similarly formed.


In Gallipoli Street, the character of Jack is based on Da, or what I knew of him. He too grew up on a farm, although he wasn’t wealthy like Jack. He too served the whole length of the war and he too struggled when he came home. Veronica is very much like my Nana in some ways: headstrong, incredibly kind, determined and loyal. Her parents are also like my own. Pattie is an amalgamation of my closest girlfriends, although she most resembles my best friend while I was growing up, Gemma Glendenning. Mick and Tom have strong similarities to my brothers and Rose…well don’t all girls cross paths with people like her during their lives? She’s really just a compilation of experiences yet she ended up intriguing me and, strangely enough, she became my favourite character, from an authorly perspective.​

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.