Sonya Voumard is an Australian journalist who has written a novel Political Animals and a non-fiction book The Media and the Massacre, an account of the incidents related to the horrific Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania.
Sonya talks about writing her book The Media and the Massacre which depicts the way stories were told after the Port Arthur massacre of 1996. She discusses finding the pressure point in the event and focusing her writing on that. “I had always been fascinated by the events of 1996, the Port Arthur Massacre, but then I saw that there had been this terrible breakdown in relations between these journalists and this kind of high profile, but very weak, in terms
of social power, subject. So, those two things coalesced in my mind as something of great interest.”
Sonya is referring to Carleen Bryant, the mother of serial killer Martin Bryant, who was responsible for the deaths of so many people, it was one of the most horrific events in Australian criminal history.
While writing this book, Sonya encountered many road bumps, particularly not being able to interview many of the key players in this true story. “The hardest thing was that three of the key protagonists wouldn’t talk to me or even take interviews, so I had to learn to write my way around that. There were even some people who had suggested, ‘Well, if you don’t get them, you haven’t got a book.’ But, I just refused to bow to that, because I believe that it would be utterly un-journalistic to give up on the chase, simply because there are people who don’t want to tell you their story, or don’t want a particular story told, you know, refuse or decline to talk to you.”
When writing non-fiction it can be challenging to tell a version of the story that people want told. However, after publishing her book Sonya has since received feedback from Joan, the friend of Carleen, who wanted to bring Carleen’s story into the open. “I felt that I wanted to give voice to some powerless people. I feel like I did give voice to Carleen Bryant. I haven’t spoken to her directly, but her friend, Joan, has been in touch with me since, so I know that Carleen has read the book. [Joan] has told me – with a couple of exceptions that Carleen’s very annoyed about – she said: ‘Carleen told me to tell you she thinks it’s an excellent book and she’s going to recommend it to her friends’. And [Joan] thanked me on behalf of Carleen for bringing this story to light, because she felt that the story had been buried.”
Sonya's tip: Get the words onto the page
“I can’t drive myself unless I’m seeing some words on the page. The writing is the reward for the research.”
Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.