Clara saunders has been taking up most of my brain space as I put the finishing touches to the latest draft of Life Blood. Yes the name of the new novel has changed. I decided that the Blood-red Hammers of Day, while evocative and poetic, was way too complicated and difficult for people to remember. Life Blood references both the violence that each desperate rush to cash in on the latest gold discovery brought; and the lack of water in the desert region where such vast treasure troves of the precious metal were found in the late nineteenth century. Humans can survive without gold. But they can not survive more than a day or so without water. The combination of water and blood, life and death, is captured in the new, two word title.
Of course the story is about much more than that. It is about growing up, leaving your known world behind and setting out on a grand adventure. Clara’s world was a vastly different one from ours, and yet the basic needs for survival haven’t changed. Water, food, shelter from the elements and, eventually, contact with other human beings, still keep us alive. In the remote goldfields of inland Western Australia parties, sing-a-longs, dances and picnics took people’s minds off their desperate circumstances. Most of them lived in tents. Everything was shared, except their hard-won claims, pegged in hazardous country by men who sometimes hadn’t eaten for days. These claims were fiercely guarded. Their owners defended them, sometimes to the death, with their fists or, if they could get hold of them, pistols, shotguns and rifles. Life was tough in the frontier towns of Coolgardie and later, Kalgoorlie, where men vastly outnumbered women. But even at fourteen years of age, Clara relished the challenge.
Watch this space for more about Clara in the next few weeks.