The Golden Land - Di Morrissey
Authors Note: The Golden Land by Di Morrissey
Tell us about The Golden Land
It is a novel inspired by the mystical and intriguing country of Burma, now known as Myanmar, and the story of its democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi as seen through the eyes of a young Gold Coast mother. I wanted to tell the story of a country, a people, a woman, showing strength of moral courage. I wanted a character who, like many Australians, knew very little of this sweeping history, yet finds herself connected to Burma through an inherited family artefact. As Natalie, the young woman, begins to learn more, so do we, the reader. There is a significant contrast between the two “golden lands” – the Gold Coast and Myanmar – as Natalie finds herself becoming drawn into the story of her great uncle, Burma and its people, she too, finds she is facing a moral dilemma of doing the right thing which pits her against her husband and family and sends her on a risky path into the remote hills of Myanmar.
You do quite extensive research for your books and spend a lot of time in the countries they are based. The Golden Land is set on the Gold Coast in Australia and Burma. What was it about Burma that originally piqued your interest?
My grandfather used to sing “On The Road To Mandalay” to me, we read Kipling and Somerset Maugham’s poems and stories set in Burma and I always thought “Rangoon” sounded the most romantic city in the world. My husband was a diplomat specialising in SE Asian studies so I came to learn a bit about the political troubles in Burma after the military coup in 1962, but of course over the years Burma has been so isolated and repressed we knew very little of what was happening under the military regime. But with the student uprising in 1988 and the saffron revolution by the monks in 2007 and then Aung San Suu Kyi being under house arrest, Burma came to my notice again and I joined the Burmese community in supporting the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. My son Nick also traveled to Burma as he teaches Buddhist studies and told me what an amazing country it is and I should go there. I was finally able to obtain a visa in 2011 and visit, one year after Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest.
What was the hardest part of The Golden Land to write?
The first chapter is always difficult. You want to grab the reader’s attention but set the scene as well. While you hope the reader will keep turning the pages you also need to fill in the background, describe the landscape and delve into the motivations and relationships of the characters.
How do you choose the countries that you base your books around?
In a strange way the country seems to choose me. I lived in Hawaii, (“The Islands”) and I lived in Singapore and Malaysia (“The Plantation.”) A country seems to attract at a moment in time when it’s significant, like I went to Vietnam and wrote about the battle of Long Tan just as Australian’s came to recognise its significance on its 40th anniversary (“Monsoon”). I wrote about Aboriginal reconciliation in “The Songmaster” back in 1997 which made many of my readers aware of the richness and complexity of Aboriginal culture which they’d never considered or known about before.
Can you give us a hint of where the next book will be set?
In regional coastal Australia. No more cues!
Describe the place where you write.
I converted an old garage into a beautiful studio and sunroom plus library that is away from the house in my garden and overlooks the beautiful Manning river, paddocks, cows and a horse stud.
What book are you reading right now?
The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh.
What are the best traits that all authors should have?
An unshakeable passion to tell a story whether it ever sees the light of day or not. Passion. Honesty. Persistence.
Name two authors that you would like to see collaborate on a book.
Tim Winton and Di Morrissey???? I have no idea. Collaborations are strange bedfellows. They’d have to come from totally different genres I suppose. But I’d love to do something with some of my mates maybe on film and not in a book…like Richard Flanagan, Rob Drewe Robert Dessaix, Charlotte Wood, Anita Heiss…
Your house is on fire (sorry) and you have time to grab one book from the shelf. What is it?
Sorry, I’d grab the pets first!
Name three people who would join you for your ultimate dinner party…
I’ve learned that often “famous” people can be boring or obnoxious and people who don’t seem to lead high profile or spectacular lives can be utterly fascinating. So you might never have heard of the people around my table but they can be utterly fascinating.
If you had $20 left in your bank account what would you spend it on?
I’ve been there done that… a mango, jasmine oil, treats for the dog.
Tell us a secret about you
I love cooking as an escape and am considered something of a marmalade queen. I make tons of it when our fruit trees bear bags of fruit. I’m gestating plot and story as I chop and cook the fruit…I give everyone jars of it!