Australian Author Diana Plater, her new book, and the after-effects of trauma

This month I am particularly excited to present an Australian author whose inspiration for her book Whale Rock is as thrilling as the book itself. A journalist, Diana has had first hand experiences of the things she writes about, and I am a little in awe but also more than a little sure that this is an author to watch out for.  She is launching the book at…….. and she would love it if you attended. Meantime, lets get to know her a little:

Meet Diana Plater

DianaThe story which led to my novel, Whale Rock, began many years ago when I was living and reporting from Nicaragua, covering the Sandinista revolution in the mid-1980s. I was a young journalist who had always been interested in politics, and after interviewing one of the women revolutionaries who was visiting Australia I packed my bags, learnt Spanish and went to Nicaragua to live for a year.

It was tough – but much more so for the locals than the journalists and “internationalistas”, who flocked there to pick coffee and help the revolution. There was an economic embargo imposed by the US government, who did not like the idea of a leftist revolution in their own back yard. Later it was revealed that then President Ronald Reagan was also funding the Contras in their war against the Sandinistas.

While there I heard a rumour about a military hospital using unusual methods to treat soldiers for what was then known as war neurosis. The term PTSD hadn’t yet been universally adopted.

I had become interested in the subject of trauma, or in this case, the psychological effects of war when meeting former soldiers there who were suffering from it. A Nicaraguan psychotherapist explained the Sandinistas – as did the Contras — wanted people to believe that none of their soldiers would be traumatised for they were “fighting for the fatherland”.  Thus the secrecy behind the hospital.

I wanted to tell some of this story in Whale Rock as a series of traumatic flashbacks experienced by Rafael, a Nicaraguan former soldier who has lived in Australia for more than 20 years.

Here I have witnessed the impact of the traumatic policies that led to the Stolen Generations. My character, Colin, is based on the Aboriginal people I know and love.

Another character, Vesna, has also been traumatised, covering the war in Kosovo while the main character, Shannon, too is shattered by her grief, as is her estranged husband, Tom. Their son, Maxie, feels their pain but doesn’t understand it.

actual whale rock Tamarrama

Whale Rock at Tamarama, Sydney

Like Shannon I have also suffered from pregnancy loss – two stillbirths between my two children eight months apart. (I later wrote a self-help book, Taking Control, on this subject.)

I wondered how a woman who has gone through that sort of experience could connect with somebody who has also experienced trauma, in this case Rafael’s experience of torture and war. I wondered, too, how people who come to Australia with this sort of background manage to survive in a society that often just doesn’t care.

When a labourer plunges to his death on a building site opposite Shannon’s café the characters must all confront their secrets. Setting the story in Sydney’s Tamarama allowed me to highlight an exquisite Indigenous engraving of a whale and her baby whale, which overlooks the ocean below. The whale rock has deep meaning for Shannon, and of course Colin, and gradually becomes significant to all the characters.

This is a novel which I feel captures the zeitgeist. It is about Australia today and the serious issues we are pondering – immigration, Indigenous issues, the state of the media, politics, the environment. But it’s also about love and friendship – and dancing – told with dollops of dark humour! I hope readers will laugh –and cry — along with the characters but finish the book with hope for the future.

Landscapes and Travel Faces:
Facebook: Diana Plater Author 

You are invited to the launch of Whale Rock on Friday, 10th May at 6pm or 6:30pm at Gleebooks 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, Sydney. Music will be provided by Angela Rosero with Diana Plater in conversation with Jan Cornall. RSVP  by phone on (02) 9660 2333 or email;  Full details:

Was I right? Her life is as interesting and exciting as her book. Try to come to the launch if you live in Sydney.


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