Heroines deserve to be honoured for their courage

Como-based author, Camille Booker.
Como-based author, Camille Booker.

With a married name of 'Booker', it was only fitting that Como-based author, Camille Booker, would draw inspiration from the achievements of real-life heroines to write her debut novel, What If You Fly?

Heroines like Nancy Wake, Josephine Baker, Elsie Ott, Susan Travers and Eileen Nearne often go overlooked in history textbooks.

Camille Booker has a Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in Creative Writing through the University of Wollongong, where she now lives with her husband Adam, young son John-John and baby daughter Matilda.

Set in the Sutherland Shire, the story takes place during World War Two in Como and touches on themes such as the idea of a woman's place, xenophobia and fear of the other.

It was inspired by true events, such as the incarceration of Italians in internment camps around Australia during this time.

The Como author explores the difficulties faced by women when 4,700 male Italian Australians were incarcerated in internment camps, subjected to discrimination and open hostility.

Booker has no Italian heritage in her family, but her father's good friend Como veteran Salvatore Lomonaco inspired one of the characters.

Some characters are based on real people, such as Ted Carey, the butcher, who worked at his little Como shop from 1947 to 2019.

Mr Cary's father opened the store in 1926.

It is her first time navigating the publishing industry, and 'What if you fly' was long-listed for the 2019 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

Finishing her manuscript using the feedback from that prize, Camille went on to place second in the 2020 Hawkeye Publishing Manuscript Development Prize, and 'What if you Fly' was later signed.

Booker has always loved words and language, so her interest in writing fiction was a natural progression.

After spending so much time in book stores, examining covers, titles, and author's names, Booker said she always knew she would write a book someday.

"Then finally, all the stories and characters in my head just needed to come out. Writing has become something I try to do every day now, and it has become a sort of meditative practice for me," Booker said.

The first time author wanted to make readers keep thinking about the characters with whom they've spent a few hundred pages, to impact how readers perceive the world.

"When we learn about war, we so often hear about men, and never much about the struggle and efforts of women," Booker said.

Booker's fictional lead character, Frances, explores the roles of extraordinary women whose courage, intelligence and determination made a difference in the war.

Frances' love interest is an Italian fisherman and is one amongst thousands of internees.

"Fishermen received particular attention because their boats and experience constituted a threat to national security since they could aid spies getting in and out of the country.

"Fishing boats belonging to Italians were confiscated, fishermen had their licenses suspended and many were interned, " Booker said

"World War Two would not have been won by the allies without the bravery of women. These heroines deserve to be honoured for their courage."

She hopes this book will give readers a deeper understanding of women's roles in wartime Australia, the power to rethink their idea of a woman's place, and the courage to follow their inner voice.

What If You Fly? is available now for special edition pre-orders, with the book officially launching into bookstores on 16 October 2021-Hawkeyebooks.com.au