Ann Cliff was born in Yorkshire and brought up in a farming family. Despite living in Australia, she writes frequently about nineteenth century Yorkshire and her previous novels include Summer by the Sea, Poacher’s Moon and Shadows on the Moor, also published by Robert Hale.
Here, Ann talks about the research behind her new novel, Raven’s Gold, and relocating from Yorkshire to Australia.
I’ve always been fascinated by tales of Australia in the nineteenth century, a time of great contrast between the civilized life in prosperous cities and the rough conditions that miners and settlers endured.
Beneath the tranquil waters of the Blue Rock Lake, a reservoir in Victoria, lies a little gold mining town and all its turbulent history. Shady characters as well as honest miners were attracted to Tangil by the prospect of riches, but it was never to become a major goldfield. Some of them went on to clear areas of forest and settle there.
We now live on a farm in this area, on the edge of a forest. Local tales of the gold mining days led me to research the background for my story, Raven’s Gold. This is fiction based on a dramatic time in history, with challenges for both men and women as they came to terms with a harsh environment.
In the story, the Ashby family come to the goldfield in the valley of the Tangil river to repair their lost fortunes. Snakes, spiders, bush fires and wild dogs are hazards of the forest. Even worse are the bushrangers, the highwaymen of the time like Malcolm Raven, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the gold that others have won from the earth. Jane Ashby is a young woman of independent mind and she has been warned never to marry a settler because the life is too hard. Her first experience of Tangil makes her want to go straight back to the city, but this is not to be.
My experience of coming to this area was at the end of the twentieth century, but at times we’ve had to face bush fires, snakes and wild dogs, so I was well able to imagine the struggles of the early settlers. Life is far easier for us. The contrast with city life is still apparent, but in goods seasons we live among green and pleasant hills – and with the benefit of refrigeration.
– Ann Cliff