Katharine Susannah Prichard wrote some of her books in a frenzy of activity, completing whole novels in a few months. She took three months off freelance journalism in early 1914, just after turning 30, to write her debut novel, The Pioneers. She wrote for long hours through winter in her London flat, almost forgetting to eat. Her best-known novel, Coonardoo, came in a similar burst of inspiration when she was midway through Haxby’s Circus and set it aside to write the novel which had been brewing out of her trip to Turee Station in the Pilbara.
Having lots of time to write wasn’t the biggest factor in productivity for Katharine. In her literary peak from 1924 to 1929, she produced 3.5* of her finest novels and many short stories, and yet she was a busy mother of a young child. The building of her iconic workroom (still standing today) in the orchard to write in didn’t necessarily lift her productivity either; it was built in 1930 after her literary peak.
Her letters seemed to indicate her preferred time to write was in the morning, setting aside the afternoon for editing or correspondence. She complains a lot about interruptions in her later years and she did have a lot of visitors. The problem for every writer is that it’s hard to shut out the world and get the writing done.
She wrote by hand but there’s very few of her original handwritten manuscripts in existence – I’ve only seen a few scraps. Her papers do include a lot of her typescripts; these were usually typed by others with some corrections by hand. I wish we had more evidence for her writing process, the edits and the sections scrapped; they would give a lot of insight into her literary life. The Fellowship of Australian Writers WA in Swanbourne holds her typewriter.
*Intimate Strangers was half-written – the better half.
I had assumed Coonardoo was written on Turee, so I went back to T for Turee for another look. She stayed there 10 weeks but I guess took notes rather than began the novel (and the play and short stories).