Is there life after death? Novel set in Wisemans Ferry seeks out the answer
Author Desney King spent a couple of years living in a rented farmhouse in Central Macdonald back just over a decade ago. She calls it her ‘happy place’ and it had such an impact on her the area features heavily in her debut novel, Transit of Angels.
The novel is pitched as a story of love, grief and ultimate triumph over unbearable loss.
It revolves around lead character Angelica who is 34 when her beloved husband, Bill, is killed in a motorbike accident. She knows Bill is dead, yet she yearns to be reunited with him.
In desperation, she begs him for a sign.
What happens next makes Angelica leave the city and move to a quaint mudbrick cottage in a remote river valley where even the impossible feels sane.
As Angelica delves further into mysterious realms, she finds that grief – and life – have a way of carrying her forward, whether she likes it or not.
The author blurb says, “King asks unanswerable questions, and shows how hope can emerge even from the depths of darkness”.
The book is mostly set in the fictional Lawsons Landing, which is based on Wisemans Ferry.
Although this is her first novel, Desney King has spent a lifetime editing books for many of Australia’s major publishers.
The first words were written as part of a writing workshop with renowned author and mentor, Joyce Kornblatt, which was exploring self-discovery, passions, self-sabotages, hidden darkness and hidden light – going very deeply into emotions including grief and joy. Within a month or so, Desney realised she’d begun writing a novel.
“I wanted to write a novel that engaged readers profoundly enough to travel with a young woman over the early years of her grief after the death of her husband, to bring these ‘uncomfortable’ yet universal human experiences into the open,” says Desney.
Transit of Angels tells of the complex emotions and behaviours Angelica lives through. It asks existential questions and offers a range of possible answers.
Desney says her characters developed lives of their own as Transit of Angels emerged.
“Each of them began inhabiting my imagination, and revealed themselves gradually as I wrote. They often surprised me. For example, I am not an artist – I can’t even draw a straight line – and yet Angelica is an artist. Only one of them turned out to be already known to me.”
As a pantser - which means a writer who flies by the seat of their pants rather than a plotter, who works out the whole book beforehand - Desney was halfway through before she knew how the story would unfold. She even remembers the “aha!” moment when she thought “Oh! So that’s what’s going to happen!”
The fictional town of Lawsons Landing sits where the Macdonald River (which inspired the Lawson River) joins the mighty Hawkesbury.
Those who know the area will recognise the clanking cable ferry and the magnificent landscape, while those who know the village of St Albans will find its character reflected in Angelica’s fictional local village.
In her first 60 years, Desney King says she was many things – book editor, mother, activist, living a rich and full life – until 2012 when she had what would be the first of many strokes. Stroke number four took away her ability to sit or stand unsupported, and she now lives almost entirely on her bed, using a walking stick to move around her small northern Sydney unit. But the life Desney has rebuilt includes her emergence as a novelist.
She says it’s remarkable how much a stroke survivor can do with the love and support of friends and family, a customised purple wheelchair, a brilliant exercise physiologist, an overbed table and a team of fabulous support workers.
Factor in a lot of hard work and exercise, and Desney now pursues her passions in new and creative ways: reading, writing, editing and proofreading, crocheting, hydrotherapy and time with her adult children, and activism as a proud member of Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends.
Transit of Angels is published by Pilyara Press, and is available as an e-book or paperback.