PROFILE: HOLLY RINGLAND
From the minute I picked up The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, I was enthralled. Holly Ringland undoubtedly deserves the title of storyteller, because she so beautifully transports the reader to rural Australia. Each chapter is headlined by flora and it's meaning, acting as a seamless thread throughout Alice's journey. I got to ask the spirited author about her process, the one book she always recommends, and what's next.
What are you reading at the moment?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I was in my mid twenties when I first discovered Doerr’s writing in his short story collection The Shell Collector. Once I’d read it I did what I do when I fall deeply in love with a writer: hope and pray they have other books and hungrily amass them all. All the Light is Doerr in full, long-form bloom, finding the ways people can be good to each other, in the most hideous and harrowing of circumstances. Just one of the reasons, I imagine, it won a Pulitzer.
What are some of your favourite books?
In fiction, I love compelling, emotive, layered, and page-turning stories. Just some are…anything by Alice Hoffman – I’ve carried her books with me on travels around the world. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Elemental by Amanda Curtin. Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Brooke Davis. Favel Parrett. Myfanwy Jones. Kate Forsyth. Ali Cobby Eckermann. Sharon Blackie. Amy Bloom. Dervla McTiernan. Amanda Curtin.
How much of Alice is a representation of you?
I believe fiction is emotional truth. Alice, like all the characters in Lost Flowers, comes from some part of my lived experience and emotional truth. So she is me, but also and equally she is not me.
Can you share a bit about your process?
I handwrote the first 11,000 words of Lost Flowers in May, 2014; they poured out, and then dried up. I knew enough to know not to force it, and to take care of my mental health (I was bereaved at the time) so I stepped away from writing prose to focus instead on daydreaming. I did that for about 14 months – vividly dreaming the story to life – before I returned to writing in August 2015. I wrote the 100,000-word first draft in the following three months, finishing at the end of October. I didn’t plan it extensively, but while I was daydreaming - gathering and developing the story in my mind - I did uncover major skeletal bones before I went near my keyboard. I’ve learned about myself that I can’t write blind to find where I'm going… when I’ve done that in the past I just end up writing hundreds of thousands of unnecessary words, trying to find my way. I believe nothing is wasted, all of those words got me to where I needed to be, but writing is enough of a leap of faith as it is, I don’t need extra fodder for the anxieties and doubts in my mind. I find writing to be more joyful when I know vaguely where I’m going in the story, versus writing totally blind to find my way.
The best advice you’ve ever received:
You can’t edit a blank page.
I have a whole new appreciation for flowers. The same goes for Indigenous Australian culture. Was that your intention?
Thank you, that’s lovely to know. I didn’t want Lost Flowers to feel overbearing or coercive in the themes it explores. To write a story with characters exposed to male-perpetrated violence, land rights, and who come from non-Anglo cultures, for example, I wanted to do so in a way that was through the perspectives and emotions of individual characters. Which is to humanise those themes. To humanise them was certainly my hope and aspiration.
What’s the one book you always recommend to people?
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m in the daydreaming stages of my next novel at the moment. It draws on stories from my female Danish ancestors, unpublished fairytales, and women with tattoos.
Read and excerpt of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart here.