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M. L. Stedman

M. L. Stedman talks about researching The Light Between Oceans, and writing in the British Library...

M. L. Stedman wrote a lot of The Light Between Oceans in the British Library, as well as in the Margaret River and Gracetown areas of Western Australia. In the British Library you weren’t allowed to use ink, only lead pencils, and no post-it notes or water were allowed. While writing, she would imagine the wind and the waves and the water around Janus Island.
“I can thoroughly recommend the process of making up your own world,” she said. “It’s a cheap holiday and thoroughly fascinating.”
She said whatever you do in life should be worth the heartbeats you have in life. While writing in the British Library she realized there was nothing she would rather be doing, “and to get published then was astonishing.”

Once she had started writing the story she researched lighthouses. “You can’t help but become enthralled by them.”
At the Australian National Archives she read logbooks of lighthouse keepers that hadn’t been opened for a hundred years. She was interested in the meticulous nature of the way lighthouse keepers recording things like wind speed, and she loved putting in these details in her novel.
She mentioned how lighthouse keepers were not in the Maritime Union and received “the short end of the stick” as far as working conditions went. Her book was “a bit of a homage to a past way of life”.
To research the WW1 veteran lighthousekeeper Tom, she read battalion journals, and field diaries which were the personal diaries of soldier’s days in action in WW1.
The diaries had no self-pity, she said, as they described lives of young men who’d come from sunshine and wheat fields to the frozen mud of the Somme.
She contacted the Tasmanian archives by phone and was told how soldiers returned from WW1 often went far away from civilization.

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-copyright Simon Sandall