The story, Izzy, is fiction but is based in some of the facts discovered in the research for my website Dr Barry Cotter; the first doctor in Melbourne. Like most women of the 19th Century, Dr Cotter’s wife, Inez, left very little evidence of her life. The evidence I found pointed to an interesting woman, bound by the conservative attitudes of her time, with few rights and limited opportunities for economic independence. Izzy is the fictional reinvention of Inez.
I published Dr Barry Cotter; the First Doctor in Melbourne in 2015 as a website (drbarrycotter.com) and immediately set about preparing to tell Inez’s story. The known facts of her life were like lamp posts on a dark road, illuminating just a small space around them. I could see the next lamp post in the distance, but needed to employ plausible and well researched, but fictitious, characters and actions to get there. This is the image that sustained me throughout the writing. If you are interested to find out which events are fact and which are fiction, you could visit drbarrycotter.com. You might be surprised.
Many characters in this story are based on fact- Izzy, Bryn, Nell, Francis and Mary Parkins to name a few. Renaming them gave me more freedom to explore their characters and motivations. Others, like Charles La Trobe, William Buckley, John Batman and Joseph Gellibrand are historical figures and their lives are well documented. Others are purely fictional like Mrs. Betts, Madam Foveaux, Harriet and Sarah and their task is to give direction to the story when I did not have any facts to rely on. It was challenging to weave the facts and fiction together to create a credible sequence of events and a convincing story.
The 19th Century was a time of great change, innovation and progress as well as devastating crises as the following links to background events in the novel show.
The illegal settlement of Melbourne, 1835: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ql8aGLNouI James Boyce talks about his book,1835:The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia, published in 2011.
The Great Famine in Ireland, 1845 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5U7u1KwGE0
The First Anglo-Sikh War, 1846 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anglo-Sikh_War
The Great Exhibition in London, 1851 https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Great-Exhibition-of-1851/
I had a lot of fun writing Izzy. I especially enjoyed the research and the challenge of weaving the story into an authentic backdrop, of seeing life from the perspective of a woman in the mid 19th Century and of highlighting universals such loyalty, betrayal, courage and self interest that are part of the human condition and defy time and place.
I signed off on the printed proof of Izzy today (8th November, 2021), so I expect that the book will be available through all online bookstores within the next few weeks. We a planning a Launch Party for 9th December 2021, in Canberra. Please contact me if you would like to come and raise a glass to Izzy.
Cheers from Moira