MEET THE AUTHOR: DEBORAH BURROWS
The question with Deborah Burrows isn’t so much why did she decide to write a novel but why has it taken her so long to become a writer.
Deborah is a law graduate and has three degrees in history, including a Masters from Oxford University. All of which have come in very handy in writing her debut novel A Stranger in My Street.
Meg Eaton and Tom Lagrange meet on the street on a summer’s day in 1943. One is damaged by love lost, both are damaged by war. When they discover the body of Meg’s neighbour Doreen Luca, and Doreen’s missing husband is wrongly accused of her brutal murder, Meg and Tom unite to find the real killer. Their investigations lead them straight to the American naval base and they unravel far more crime than just a murder.
The Hoopla’s Meredith Jaffé set out to discover exactly how this story came about.
Where did the idea for this story spring from for you?
I was born in 1959, so the war for people of my generation loomed very large over all of us. My father fought in WW2 – he was 20 and was part of a group of commandos sent up to Timor. The Japanese invaded on the same day they bombed Darwin. His group was cut off from Australia for a year and fought a guerilla campaign. At one stage they were the only allied forces fighting the Japanese after the fall of Singapore and even Winston Churchill mentioned them, he said “they alone did not surrender”. So I had this war hero father but it destroyed his health and he died young. He died in 1962 when he was 42 leaving mum to raise four children on her own.
The war took my father but mum used to talk about her war in Perth. She was a secretary (Meg isn’t mum at all but I used some stories that mum told me) and she would tell us about going dancing with the Americans, she had pins they gave her and she had a fabulous time. It seemed to me that there was this really interesting dichotomy between the two wars, of the women and the men who were fighting horrible shocking wars away from home.
Did the characters of Tom and Meg evolve or did they arrive fully formed?
I had a pretty good idea in my head of what Meg was like. She’s no one I know but she has elements of me and my mother and my friends in her. Tom, he developed. I was trying to get all those aspects of the best really intelligent men that I know and he evolved into that.
Tom is a very interesting character because he’s physically and emotionally damaged from his war experiences. Sometimes he seems so much older than Meg , too old to be a potential life partner because that experience had aged him. It must have been hard to keep him in check.
Well I think that’s right. He was socially very top of the tree in Perth and went off to Oxford and had a great time and all of this. Then he came back and joined the army and suddenly he was in charge of all these men.
Here was this very sensitive person involved in fighting and he got the medals and was a good soldier but hated it. Like my dad really I suppose. I’ve still got dad’s diary and you can see in some of the things he says how much he hates killing people. He says, I haven’t written anything here about the battles because more than anything else I hate killing another human being but I have to do it, they are enemies, I have to kill them and I’ll keep killing them until they kill me and then he said something like, I think this will happen.
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