CATE’S TOP WRITING TIP: ‘Be yourself ‘cause everyone else is taken.’ -Edgar Alan Poe
Cate Davis was born and bred on a sheep property in the New England District of New South Wales. When she was six, petrol rationing was introduced in Australia and there were no school buses, so to attend the closest primary school, she would have had to ride her pony six miles there and back each day. Although she was a competent rider, Cate’s parents thought this would be too much for her, so her mother home schooled her with the assistance of Blackfriars Correspondence School. Her mother also taught her to play the piano.
Cate boarded at a girls’ hostel during her high school years. After leaving school she travelled to Sydney and enrolled as a private student at the NSW State Conservatorium of music. She married and finally settled in Albury, where, with two small boys, she commenced tertiary studies externally. She gained three degrees in education and became a successful high school music teacher. She also co-founded the Border Music Camp which has now been functioning successfully for more than 40 years
Why do you write? Writing was a secondary career for me. I was a senior high school music teacher for 35 years, but when I developed tinnitus, having a ‘no note’ sounding in my head all the time robbed me of my confidence when tuning the orchestra. I had received complimentary comments about my writing style at university, so I started attending adult education classes in writing. In collaboration with my late husband Ian as illustrator, we produced the children’s book, Polly Platypus. Then when his aunt, who was the first migrant welfare officer to be appointed after World War II, failed to respond to persuasions to write her autobiography, I said I would write her biography and Great Granny B was accepted for publication. Then the discovery of my father’s war diaries from World War I whetted my appetite again and From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek was the result.
What would you do if you weren’t a writer? I would become more involved with handcraft – creative machine embroidery, tapestry, weaving etc.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Learning to read my own manuscripts objectively.
What is the best aspect of your writing life? Seeing hard copies of my books.
– the worst? When writing biography, you sometimes have to write about something that is very sad. When writing From Gallipoli to Coopers Creek , I had to include a chapter about my father having to shoot his own horse. This was because quarantine laws made it impossible for them to bring their horses home. If he had not shot him, the horse would have been sold to an Arab, and they did not deal with their horses kindly. His horse, Barney, had served him safely throughout the war, even saving his life on one occasion. My father could not bear the thought of him being cruelly treated. I loved riding horses as a child, and could empathise with his feelings – I cried all the way through the writing of this.
What would you do if you started out as a writer now? Because I still consider myself to be a beginner in this field, I don’t think this question applies.
What do you wish you had been told before you set out to become a writer? How tortuous the path can be from being accepted for publication and being published.
What’s the best advice you were given? To write confidently about your own view of things. Don’t feel you have to kowtow to the opinions of others.
by Cate Davis
This is the story of one soldier of the so-called Great War. He sailed from Australia at the end of 1914, a proud, even bombastic youth with the certainty that he would do his bit to save Mother England and by doing so, would set the world on the right path. He was totally ignorant of the real causes of this war and the place the different countries played in it.
When he landed at Gallipoli though and found the air permeated with the stench of hundreds of rotting bodies still lying where they had fallen a month earlier, he was confronted by the reality and horror of war. He records his first shot in his diary – it was far from the first time he had fired a gun, but it was the first time he had deliberately fired a shot with the intent of killing another human being.
The evacuation of Gallipoli, the inept defeat at Gaza and the realisation he had to become a completely different person to obey the orders he was given weighed heavily on his soul. Ghandi once said, ‘Man finds himself by losing himself’, and this is the story of how Lieutenant Bruce Campbell struggled to find himself and the difficulty he had in fitting back into a society where the civilians were still thinking in terms of pre-war society.
Returning home brought no joy either. Even things he expected to be familiar now seemed strange and no one at home had any idea what the war was really like. To make matters worse, his fiancée broke off their engagement.
This is a biographical story of his struggles to overcome all these adversities. He finally falls in love with a woman who has also been adversely affected by the war and has her own obstacles to overcome. Between them, they carve out a happy and meaningful life on the block of land Bruce has been granted under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. It is a heartwarming story about the legacy of war and the healing power of love.
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