Geraldine Brooks is an Australian journalist and writer whose books include Nine Parts of Desire, March, Caleb’s Crossing and her latest, The Secret Chord.
She spoke to Kate Evans as part of a special event for the Sydney Writers Festival at the Seymour Centre, in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd. I was one of the audience, seeing Geraldine from a long way away, so that she looked like a tiny doll, way down there on the stage, talking to ABC’s Kate Evans. What I took from her talk was her unfailing cheerfulness, her humility, and her sense of humour. She is obviously much loved, judging by the enthusiastic response from her audience that night. I was struck by her phrase ‘the swan-dive into the imagination’, describing how she works as a writer of historical fiction. As a writer of fiction based on fact myself, (faction) I understood perfectly what she meant by the need to have ‘a solid scaffolding’ when writing a novel such as ‘The Secret Chord’.
Brooks began her career as a journalist in Australia and then a foreign correspondent. Her first book was the non-fiction Nine Parts of Desire, about women living in Islam. Eventually she turned to fiction, writing about the plague in Year of Wonders, about a native American scholar in Caleb’s Crossing and then about a pacifist philosopher during the American Civil War in March, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest novel The Secret Chord, tells the story of King David, a man who left traces in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. Her new novel takes her to the iron age and into the bloody, complicated and barely-documented life of King David.