Rose was a very lively character to me, right from the beginning. I couldn’t imagine writing about a girl in any era who was quiet and passive, but she didn’t really start developing until I did some research about the Federation period and realised it was also the time when the suffragettes were most active in their struggle to achieve the vote for women.
How then could Rose become involved? Although it was tempting to have Rose come from a poor, working-class family, another branch of my research revealed that in the Bust in Melbourne in the early 1890s, a lot of very grand houses in places like Hawthorn were sold for a pittance when their owners went bankrupt. Suddenly I could imagine Rose’s father being a canny businessman who snapped up one of these houses, and from there Rose and her family grew in my mind.
‘Old money’ is naturally a little snobby, but ‘new money’ – the kind Rose’s dad had acquired – would easily lead to Rose’s mother having notions about her place in society, and being desperate for her daughters to make good marriages. After all, to her, what could be more important?
But I knew someone else was going to enter the picture, someone who would have a great influence on Rose despite her mother’s rules and restrictions. This was spinster Aunt Alice, a suffragette who believed in standing up for herself.
The quandary with this story was that Rose could well end up as the kind of passive character I didn’t want, swayed by her mother one way and then by her aunt the other. She could also fade into the background if not enough of the story was happening to her instead of around her (something that had to be worked on in further drafts).
So Rose became much more feisty, a girl who has to learn when to control her outspoken ways, but also an observant girl who begins to realise how lucky she is to have money, and to go to a good school (in the end). Part of Rose’s growth includes becoming more compassionate and understanding, as well as better at going for what she wants most.
The cricket was an added extra. I thought that Rose would be physically active, at a time when ladies were expected to sit in the corner and embroider nicely, and when I wondered what sport she might play, it turned out that women’s cricket was just becoming popular and played at schools – perfect!
Over four books that span a year, I felt Rose would have the opportunity to learn many things and to grow as a person and an individual. I think young readers love characters who change and grow, and whose lives are intriguing and different. While there may not be any major disasters in Rose’s life, there are many events and challenges that test her courage and determination, but I knew ultimately that she would not give in. She’s a young woman of the new century!