Back in February I visited Dongara, a coastal town about 4 hours north of Perth, and the setting of my novel An Emu War (working title). It was a 40th birthday present to myself–a whole week without the kids and a bit of a road trip as well as journey home. Dongara is the place where my great-grandparents briefly lived in the late 1920s/ early 1930s and on whom the main characters of my novel are loosely based.
I never knew my great-grandparents and neither did my father. When I set out on my trip in February I didn’t intend for it to be for family history research: I had limited time, a rough first draft, and pages and pages of research questions. But as I got to know the locals within days as one does in a tiny country town, I found it hard to explain why I was there and what I was writing about. It was easier to discuss my ancestral connection. Soon I was being introduced as “the Wetters girl” (did I mention it was my 40th!). Wetters being my great-grandfather’s surname. I went down rabbitholes and wild goose chases as I started to make connections and find traces of my family.
Here are some photos I took on the trip.
There is a scene at this cemetery with my character Tommy where he witnesses something he shouldn’t have.
Back Beach, where the nuns in my story swim. And where something a little untoward occurs.
Then there is the Irwin River that figures so predominantly in many scenes.
I feel so homesick just looking at these pictures, and in a way, I think I set my story here so that I could explore through fiction my family connections as there is so little left of their memory within the town and within my own family. My daughter was born in nearby Geraldton. I need her to know where she comes from, just as the daughter in my story needs to know too.