In the first of Ryn Shell’s epic “Dreaming Billabong” series, the history of the ghost who haunts the billabong, or lagoon, in remote Fife Springs Australia is revealed. Harry, descendant of the powerful cattle baron Alan Fife, is a lonely child, born at the very end of World War II in the isolated town. Harry’s difficult childhood and loneliness have an impact on his behavior throughout his life, but when we meet him as a child he has created an imaginary friend, Charlotte, to ease his loneliness. She is based on a real woman, Alan Fife’s mistress, who lived in the 1880s. Harry uses his connection with her to escape the real world and travel back in time to the very same billabong near where he lives now. And where the real Charlotte was killed in a massacre. Charlotte is the Billabong Ghost, who counsels all who seek her out but who is powerless to stop the crimes that plague the Fife family throughout the series.
The entire “Dreaming Billabong” series of 7 books is based on the author’s childhood in post-war Australia. A time when paternalism and racism as well as the spirit of discovery that new immigrants brought with them colored the atmosphere and culture. This book, like the others that follow it, is a sweeping epic about love, crime, loss and most of all the connection to the land that grounds each of the characters. It is the characters that Shell has created — Harry and, in later books, Emily and Jarrah, two young people from different backgrounds who nevertheless find a deep connection, who ultimately make the “Dreaming Billabong” books so compelling. Beautifully written, with rich detail about Australian culture, Aboriginal spirituality and the landscape of the Australian outback, “Billabong Ghost” illuminates Australian history through the struggles, losses, crimes, loves and triumph of the families of Fife Springs.
“The lagoon named Dreaming Billabong reflects every colour of the Rainbow Serpent that rests in its depth. When the serpent sleeps, even life-hardened swagmen swear they hear the ghost. Harry heard the ghost. She told him how to gain his mother’s love and become the cattle king.”
About the Author
Ryn Shell is a prolific author and artist who has been writing for 60 years. As Ryn Shell, she wrote the 7 books in the “Dreaming Billabong” series. As Kathy Shell, she writes books on art instruction and designs eBook covers, including for the “Dreaming Billabong” series. As Gray Nomad, she writes nature, travel and lifestyle non-fiction as well as instruction books on plot plans for almost every writing genre: epic, romance, young adult, mystery and more.
Shell’s own life has been as fascinating as the lives of the characters in “Flood”. Indeed, the character of Emily in the “Dreaming Billabong” series is based on Shell herself. Shell says that she felt she needed to wait 50 years until she felt safe enough to tell the stories contained in the books.
Like Emily, Ryn Shell was born into a wealthy family, to parents whose talents included the criminal. As a young child, her father, on the run from the authorities, abandoned the family. More loss followed when her mother, who was left in near poverty, became incapacitated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In reaction to the losses and loneliness of her childhood, young Ryn created an imaginary friend, Charlotte, as does the fictional character Harry in Dreaming Billabong. Ryn modelled Emily after herself, having her draw strength from nature and the place she lives.
Shell’s lifetime of experiences and her ability to become a stronger, more resilient person because of them are evident in the characters she creates in her fiction. Multi-faceted, with depth and sensitivity and keen powers of observation, Emily is a heroine that readers will instantly identify and empathize with. She, like Ryn Shell, gets fortitude from her connection to nature and to Australia itself.