News

Historian

Introduction to Sara The Historian and Academic 

Hello everyone. I have something new and wonderful to share with you. But before I do, let me provide you with a bit of background.

Apart from re-releases of Sara’s existing books or new reviews, I often wondered what I might be able to share with you that Sara would also have been willing to do so and which would add a fresh dimension to the Sara Douglass we all knew and loved. Many of you will be aware that Sara was a person with so many different talents and aspects to her personality and self – from academic, popular historian, writer, blogger, devoted cat lover, gardener and sustainable living advocate as well as a keen collector of many things from old maps to books and more – some of which she allowed various people access to while others she kept very, very private. IMG_0310

The one part of her life that’s probably least explored online and yet was integral to the person and writer she was, is her role as an academic and excellent historian. Beloved as a writer, before that she was also a much loved and respected lecturer at La Trobe University, Bendigo. It was in this role that I first met Sara. New to the university, she was one of my lecturers (medieval history) during my Honours year in 1992. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s because of Sara I became an academic – she encouraged and inspired me into what has been my career for over twenty years. I was among the first students she taught there, but of course she went on to teach for many years, introducing  students to the wonder and horrors of the past, igniting a passion for history within them, and influencing men and women in numerous ways in the process. One such person is Dr Ian Irvine.

Ian was one of Sara’s students as well, one who went on to teach beside her and, after she left La Trobe to pursue writing full-time, in her stead. I’ve known Ian for many years and recall him as a wide-eyed student, much like I was, yet to embark on the hell-year that was Honours. Imagine my utter delight then when, out of the blue late last year, Ian contacted me with an amazing story and offer. Turns out, when cleaning his shed, he found the boxes containing all the notes Sara had bestowed upon him when she left the university – all the lectures and jottings from her years of teaching history at tertiary level. Ian asked if I would like them. Yes, he really did. To say I jumped at his offer is an understatement. Generously, and with such goodwill, Ian sent me electronic and hard copy of all Sara’s notes. They are now in my desktop and safely stowed in a cupboard in my study – but only after they were pored over.

What a treasure trove they are! But it seemed such a pity to keep them under metaphorical lock and key when they not only reveal so much about history, but give us an insight into Sara Warneke, the brilliant historian and teacher.

Then I had the idea to share them with you.

Talking to Gina (my website guru) and Ian, cemented this notion – they were both so enthusiastic about it. Gina began uploading them for me to edit (I have just moved around some of the material – no words are changed) and I asked Ian if he could write an introduction.

Picture of fourteenth-century nobles from Paul Lacroix, Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages (London, 1874).

Picture of fourteenth-century nobles from Paul Lacroix, Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages (London, 1874).

Being a writer himself – a lovely one – Ian has written a simply wonderful, lively and fascinating introduction that’s also quite long. I have broken it into three parts (to draw out the delight as well) The first three of her lectures are ready for you to peruse, enjoy and, hopefully, gain more insight into Sara the historian. The second and third parts of Ian’s introduction I will release over the following months along with further of Sara’s lectures.

Whether you are a history buff yourself, a fellow writer or teacher, or simply a fan of Sara and her works, I really believe these lectures give you an insight into the depth and breadth of not only her knowledge, but the ways in which she imparted it to others, making the discovery of history simultaneously entertaining and educational. Just like her books!

So, over the next few months, I will be releasing more of Sara’s lectures on medieval history, starting with her introduction to the medieval world. Before I do that, however, I will let Ian set the context.

I hope you enjoy exploring this world and aspect of Sara as much as I did both in the past and again in the present, and as much as you have through her fantasy novels and non-fiction.

Warmest wishes,

Karen


Background to Some of Sara’s Many Worlds by Dr Ian Irvine

Rusty Implements Buried in the Fields of Medieval History

saras-notes-1

It was a typical Bendigo winter’s day – cool but sunny – when our band of stressed BA Honours students trundled into class to attend a session on Medieval social history. We were about midway through the year (being 1993) and the relentless Honours reading schedule was starting to wear down many of us. For the Medieval unit alone we’d read, analysed and delivered or listened to seminars on works by Aquinas, Dante, Chaucer, More, Erasmus, and others. The full-time students had also been reading a dozen other literary, philosophical and historical texts for a subject on the Roman world. At the same time we were all struggling to find time to research and write the thesis component to the qualification – due in November.

‘Anyone like to guess what these were used for back in the Middle Ages?’ asked our guest lecturer, a recently employed Medieval historian. She proceeded to run through a dozen or so slides of rusty looking cutting, chopping and pulverising implements dug up from all over Western Europe.

‘Farming tools … used in the fields …’ said one brave student.

‘Good guess, but nope …’ said the lecturer, her name was Sara – Sara Warneke, as it as written up there on the board.

‘Torture instruments,’ said a wag, and everybody laughed – a little hysterically it must be said.

‘Nope …’STM3D00Z-1

‘Carpentry!’ said someone else.

‘Nope …’

‘Tools used by butchers …’ I ventured.

‘Close …’ said Sara, ‘… doctors and surgeons in those days were ranked only slightly above butchers … Not many people survived “hospital”’. She paused thoughtfully. ‘These tools were used by surgeons … This vice-like clamp gadget, for example, was used to extract babies from their dead or dying mothers – probably had rust on it back then too …’ she mused. ‘They had no concept of infection in those days.’

Gasps of horror from the ten or so students present – all of us traumatised, it must be said, by months of reified analysis of classic Medieval texts.

Next up were images of strange metal gadgets – sometimes with locks, sometimes chains. Many seemed oddly ornate. As with the medical implements they were all somewhat rusty. They turned out to be chastity belts imposed on ‘ladies’ whilst their ‘lords’ were away fighting in the crusades.

‘The lord would take the key with him,’ said Sara. With this detail the class erupted into ghoulish laughter for a good quarter of an hour. The dam of stress that had been filling relentlessly across the semester suddenly gave way and we had a kind of group catharsis. By the end of this outburst a number of students were in tears. Sara watched it all unfold for a while, then began to joke along with us. At one point each student began adding bizarre story developments to a ridiculous scenario about a ‘lady’ in a castle who wished to set her chastity belt aside whilst hubby was away crusading. For the first time all year we felt relaxed about our Honours studies.

Boxes of Lectures Buried in a Shed

I’ve been asked by Karen to write this introduction to an aspect of Sara’s life – that is, her academic work and how, from my perspective as a student and, later tutor, it impacted upon her fiction. The collection of lectures that will be uploaded over time were all written and delivered by her between 1992 and 1998. She gave them to me – along with other course materials – when she resignsaras-notes-2ed from her position at La Trobe University in May 1999. She had decided to pursue her writing career full time and had recommended to the Head of School that I take over her Medieval World unit for the 2nd semester. I was eventually employed to deliver the unit across three campuses. For me the resources were a life saver since I hadn’t previously tutored in that particular Medieval history unit. Sara’s gift was but one example of her amazing generosity of spirit. The material – print and digital – was handed to me in a couple of large boxes just before she left the university. At the time I thought the boxes only contained resources for the unit I was about to teach. I remember at the time asking her whether she had digital back-ups and print copies.

I must have looked concerned because she added, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll do great! … Besides, there’s other stuff in those boxes – notes for the first year Early European History and Early Modern units. Actually, most of what I’ve taught here is in those boxes – that’s why they’re a bit heavy!’

I thanked her and pretended confidence but in my head I was thinking, ‘The students are expecting a celebrity author – this will be a really tough gig!’

When I too left La Trobe for an ongoing teaching position elsewhere at the end of 1999 I put the boxes aside. Interestingly, I was never quite able to throw them out, despite never teaching Medieval history again. After a while I moved the boxes out to our shed where they were slowly buried under building materials, garden tools and webs populated by red-back spiders. In short, they were all but forgotten until through Gina, Karen contacted me about an interview I’d done with Sara for The Animist in 1999. With my memory jolted I did a bit of suburban archaeology and set about recovering the boxes.

A Note on the Lectures

The various lectures featured at this website should be viewed much as theatre goers might view the printed script of a play. They were primarily written to be ‘performed’ for students and fall into sets related to at least three subjects Sara taught at La Trobe University between 1992 and 1999. The subjects are as follows: a first year general Early European History unit (the Fall of Rome to the period preceding the Reformation); a general Early Modern History unit (Reformation to Revolution) and a 2nd and 3rd year Medieval World unit based around the book Montaillou (a first-hand investigation of the Cathar heresies but also a wonderful description of little known aspects of Medieval social life). I suspect there are also one off lectures/presentations for Honors level subjects that were primarily taught by others in this collection, as well as material concerning some of Sara’s favourite Medieval literary texts – she loved the Arthurian tradition, for example, and wrote a book on it in the late 1990s. The lectures are exactly as Sara left them prior to her departure in 1999.

To best imagine attending a series of her Medieval lectures readers should try to imagine the print/oral content of the lectures being augmented by: a) dozens of black and white images projected onto a white overhead screen; b) Sara’s numerous asides detailing humorous, gossipy or strange stories concerning historic personages or events – sometimes she would quote historic figures directly (sometimes in character); c) discussion of essays or chapters from set-texts related to the topic (which students had supposedly read prior to class); d) quotes from favourite Medieval literary or pop culture texts that illustrated historic issues; and e) sessions involving colour slides related to Medieval life, landscape, architecture or art. Occasionally, students were also treated to a relevant video – e.g. The Devils of Loudun. The last ten minutes of classes were usually reserved for student questions, since on the whole Sara preferred not to be interrupted whilst delivering the primary content of her classes.

On the whole, the lectures give us but a glimpse of the vast materials she researched and, eventually, taught between 1982 and 1999. The process of absorbing that immense body of material, then synthesising it with her marvellous imagination was complete by 1994. Thereafter, the Medieval World became the essential back-drop to her life as a fiction writer.


Welcome to Sara Douglass Worlds

Welcome to SaraDouglassWorlds.com, the new cyber home of the extraordinary writer, Sara Douglass, originally located at SaraDouglass.com. Many of you will know (and I apologise in advance to those of you who are about to learn this) that on the 27 September 2011, Sara died of ovarian cancer after a long and extremely painful struggle. After her death, I was told that she had entrusted her literary estate and creative legacy to me.

sara-karen-in-nonsuch-gardensAllow me to introduce myself, my name is Karen Brooks and I was Sara’s friend for over twenty years – a writer and academic like Sara who was not only my beloved friend, but mentor and inspiration as well. Along with my husband, Stephen, I was Sara’s primary carer for the last nine months of her life. The best and worst thing I’ve ever done…

Humbled, privileged beyond words with Sara’s amazing gift, it has taken almost three years to resurrect her website after it became swallowed by red tape, ridiculous legalities and what appears to be a great deal of ineptitude on the part of various domain providers and hosts. Not even lawyers’ letters and emails, threats and promises could restore what was now rightfully mine – this precious legacy I’d been given. I despaired – I really did. But, just when all seemed lost, a woman named Gina (and new fan of Sara’s) swooped into my life and accomplished what I begun to think impossible. Due to her perseverance, incredible contacts, energy and knowledge (as well the generosity and support of my own website host and designer, Oliver from MediaBox), we now have saradouglassworlds.com and nonsuchkitchengardens.com to enjoy.

Thank you Gina. I cannot recommend this lady highly enough.

While I’ve made the decision to maintain nonsuchkitchengardens as a memorial site, this one is different in that not only does it contain some material you may not have seen before, I will be posting updates when relevant and invite you, Sara’s fans, to post your views and share your insights and pleasure in her work with each other. If you have anything you’d really like to know or see, please feel free to ask – though, be warned, asking doesn’t always guarantee the answer you might like 😉

I have also duplicated some material across both the Nonsuch site and this one as some things are too important not to – such as Sara’s Silence of the Dying blog post.

I hope you enjoy the SaraDouglassWorlds.com as much as Gina and I have enjoyed bringing it back. For those of you who knew Sara and her wonderful imagination, it’s a bitter-sweet experience revisiting your favourite places and characters, I know; for those of you who have only just stumbled upon her work, I envy your voyage of discovery.

Whoever you are, old fan or new, you are a friend and I warmly welcome you to the worlds of the wonderful Sara Douglass. May you soar with the stars.

Karen Brooks
8th April 2014
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Karen Brooks: One year on…

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since Sara died. It’s not that the reality of her death isn’t apparent; the ache of her absence is constant and painful. Rather, I think it’s because through her books, short stories and lingering cyber-presence she continues to touch, challenge and move us.

In some ways, it’s as if she’s still here.

Like many of her friends and fans, I’ve been reading her books again – it’s a way of bringing her closer, providing comfort in bleak and sad times. What re-reading her novels has also served, is to remind me of what an astonishing talent she possessed.

From her very first novel, BattleAxe (which changed the landscape of fantasy publishing in Australia) right through to her final books, The Devil’s Diadem and the posthumously published collection of short stories, The Hall of Lost Footsteps, the breadth and depth of her work, the way she used and transformed history, invented complex and rich societies; the liveliness and courage of her characters, their weaknesses and strengths, passions and foibles, are all there to enjoy whenever we want.

The problem with this, of course, is that the experience is bitter-sweet. On the one hand, you plunge into a novel (actually, you’re grabbed by the throat and dragged into the world between the pages whether you’re ready or not) and lose yourself in an astounding tale. On the other, once the final line is finished, there’s the cruel reminder that never again will there be the opportunity to dive into a new Sara Douglass invention.
Every day around the world, someone who has had the Douglass experience wakes to the knowledge that they won’t again – at least, not in the same, thrilling way that first encounters engender – and they too mourn what we’ve all lost.

For those who are Sara Douglass Worlds’ virgins, understand how much you’re envied. But how lucky are we that she’s left behind such a legacy for us to discover or revisit over and over and extract whatever pleasures, memories and wonder we can? That was Sara’s gift to all of us; one she willingly and lovingly gave.

Then, there’s also the powerful truths contained in her blogs, like the one reproduced here, The Silence of the Dying. Here, Sara discusses death, giving voice to those who cannot speak for themselves as well as bearing her heart and fears in such a raw and frank way. Reading it again isn’t easy, but it is a privilege; a difficult, demanding one, but a privilege nonetheless and I’m grateful to Harper Collins and Voyager for this.

Sara’s words, the lyrical, sensual, sorrowful and authoritative, however, are only one aspect of Sara’s life and thus death. For those who truly knew and loved her – those few whom she admitted into her extremely private world – her loss is both a yawning chasm and a constant whisper, a murmur in the heart and soul that reminds you of the joy her love bestowed and the anguish it’s no more. The song of her surcease should be sung – not as a dirge, but as a sweet refrain.

In commemorating Sara’s death, I think it’s more appropriate we remember her life. We should, on this day especially, celebrate her accomplishments. But let’s not forget the amazing, beautiful woman behind the words – her knowledge, compassion, honesty, empathy and her delight in a life cut brutally short.

We’re so fortunate Sara’s spirit lives on her words. Every time we read or recall these, it’s comforting to know that, like her characters, she is also brought to life again and again and again…

Karen Brooks


This memorial was posted on the VoyagerOnline blog, you can read the post here.

SMH: Writing was fantasy novelist’s own escape

sara-douglass-smh-obitSara Douglass, 1957 – 2011

Sara Douglass was the pre-eminent Australian author of epic fantasy and the first author to show that an Australian could have worldwide success from writing fantasy. Her books sold almost a million copies in Australia alone, and far more internationally, with many translations.

She was born Sara Warneke on July 2, 1957 in Penola, South Australia, to Robert Warneke, a health and weeds inspector, and his wife, Elinor (nee Lees). A notable ancestor was the 19th-century spiritualist Robert James Lees, who claimed to have identified Jack the Ripper.

The Warnekes moved from the family farm to Adelaide when Sara was seven and she was sent to Methodist Ladies College. She began writing at school and came second in a national essay competition. Despite showing academic promise, she followed in what she described as a ”female family tradition” of nursing.

She worked as a registered nurse in Adelaide for about 17 years and completed a BA, then a PhD in early modern English history, both part-time at the University of Adelaide. Many of the manuscripts of her best-selling fantasy novels are held in the Barr Smith Library at the university.

In 1992, her PhD completed, she left nursing for a lectureship in mediaeval history at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus, and published one book of history as Sara Warneke, Images of the Educational Traveller in Early Modern England (1995).

Later, under her pen name of Douglass, she also published a study of the King Arthur legend, The Betrayal of Arthur (1998).

Warneke found academia stressful and uncertain, and again she sought a way out of her employment and returned to writing, completing several unpublished novels, including Mills&Boon-like romances that were rejected for being too dark.

Then, in a move she would describe as ”almost by accident” she turned to writing fantasy, hitting her literary stride with Battleaxe (1995), set in the imaginary world of Tencendor. Like J. R. R. Tolkien, she found a background in mediaevalism the perfect training for writing in the epic fantasy genre.

Middle Ages history informed the imaginary sword and sorcery realms of her novels, and made them credible, lived-in worlds.

Once Battleaxe was accepted, her publisher, HarperCollins, requested a pseudonym because Warneke would mean relegation to the lower shelves of bookshops, She chose Douglas, the name she would have had if born a male, with the added ”s” to feminise it, mediaeval-style.

Now in her niche, she completed more than 20 novels. She was formidably prolific, especially since genre expectations for epic fantasy mean trilogies and books that can exceed 200,000 words.

Battleaxe was the first book of the Axis trilogy, followed the next year by Enchanter and StarMan.

The latter two books were joint winners of the 1996 Aurealis award for best fantasy novel, followed in 2001 with another Aurealis for The Wounded Hawk.

Two later series, The Wayfarer Redemption and Darkglass Mountain, revisited Tencendor. She also wrote several independent historical fantasy series, The Crucible trilogy and the Troy Game series.

Despite the pace and volume of her writing, she never compromised her authorial standards.

Advised to move to Ireland for tax reasons, Douglass preferred the cool climate of Hobart, where she restored a historic house and garden. Although she was an intensely private person, she maintained contact with her fans via email, bulletin boards and her website.

She stopped only when she was receiving hundreds of messages a day; she was generous with advice, and encouraging, to aspiring fantasy writers.

In 2008, Douglass was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the disease that had killed her mother. She produced some remarkable writing about her disease, including a blog entry, The Silence of the Dying. It drew a strong response, both online and when reprinted in newspapers.

Despite her illness, Douglass saw through the editing process of her final novel, The Devil’s Diadem, and although too weak to read, she saw advance proofs of her first short story collection, the recently published The Hall of Lost Footsteps.

Sara Douglass is survived by her siblings, Christine, Paul, and Judy, and her carers during her illness, Karen Brooks and her husband, Stephen.

©2011 Lucy Sussex / Sydney Morning Herald.

This obituary originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and was syndicated throughout the Fairfax Media network. 

SMH: Late author’s lasting legacy

sara-in-office-featuredSara Douglass was world-famous for her novels, but her blog about dying, featured in the Sunday Times, captured WA’s attention.

She sparked a flood of letters when her controversial blog entry, The Silence of the Dying, featured in the Sunday Times last year. And now she has found peace.

Award-winning fantasy author Sara Douglass had her ashes scattered over her gardens at her home in Tasmania on Friday after passing away from ovarian cancer, aged 54. (September 30th, 2011)

The former South Australian nurse turned medieval history lecturer shot to international fame with her Axis Trilogy.

A collection of short stories, The Hall of Lost Footsteps, was finished just before her death and will be published in November (2011).

Douglass, whose real name was Sara Warneke, gained unexpected attention mid last year when her blog was featured in Sunday Times , giving a raw, funny and honest account of dying.

It included how the well-meaning drown people in soft toys, cards and empty platitudes, while the seriously ill are forced to cheer up loved ones. Assuming loved ones still want to visit, that is.

“Our collective attention span for someone who is ill lasts about two weeks,” she wrote. “After that they’re on their own. From my own experience and talking to others with bad cancer or chronic illness, I’ve noticed a terrible trend.

“After a while, and only a relatively short while, people grow bored with you not getting any better and just drift off. Phone calls stop. Visits stop. Emails stop. People drop you off their Facebook news feed. Eyes glaze when you say you are still not feeling well. Who needs perpetual bad news?”

“I have begun to notice death all about me,” she also noted. “I resent every celebrity who ‘has lost their long battle with cancer’. Oh God, what a cliché. Can no one think of anything better? It isn’t anything so noble as a ‘battle’ gallantly lost, I am afraid. It is just a brutal, frustrating, grinding, painful, demoralising, terrifying deterioration that is generally accomplished amid great isolation.”

The response was enormous, and Douglass told The Sunday Times she was greatly warmed by the outpouring of emails and feedback.

“Incredible,” she emailed later about the huge response. “And such a shame. As a society we deal with death very badly. I am glad if I could help – and shed light on just what one person goes through.”

The author is survived by two sisters and a brother. They posted a tribute online recalling her as “possessively private” and someone “who could see a funny angle to most situations”.

Douglass’s close friend of 20 years, and carer for the past nine months, Karen Brooks, wrote this week: “She seemed to find inner peace. She died, as she lived  on her own terms, in her own time. Her death was quick.”

Brooks spread the author’s ashes “over her beloved garden with her cats and a bottle of bubbly as witnesses”.

She also shed some light on Douglass’s final days, which the author had always said she hoped would be spent at home.

“The final days were, by her choice, in a palliative care ward in Hobart,” Brooks wrote in a tribute. “Despite what she wrote in her forthright and amazing blog, ‘The Silence of the Dying’, Sara chose not to die at home.

“After two weeks in hospital and then just over two in palliative care, she made the decision, despite everything being set in place (care teams organised, doctor ready, and I was to move in with her), not to return.

“I think it was emotionally too hard for her – the distancing from her old life had begun. The palliative care ward was comfortable, the ambience was warm, the staff caring, frank and compassionate: just like Sara.”

Douglass’s five adored cats, featured regularly in her blogs, will be adopted by Brooks and her husband, Stephen.

Read The Silence of the Dying blog post here.

This article was written by Sheryl-Lee Kerr and originally appeared in The Sunday Times, the Sunday edition of perthnow.com.au.

Adelaide News: South Australian-born fantasy writer Sara Douglass dies of ovarian cancer

Best-selling Australian fantasy writer Sara Douglass has died, aged 54, from ovarian cancer.

HarperCollins publishing director Shona Martyn believed Douglass led the way for female fantasy writers.

“At the time that she was signed most fantasy writers around the world were men but Australian women particularly have become very significant fantasy writers and I think she gave confidence not only to a lot of female writers – she was very supportive of female writers – but also to a lot of readers …” Ms Martyn said.

Douglass, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, was the first Australian author signed to HarperCollins’ Voyager Fantasy list in 1995.

Her book, BattleAxe, sold almost one million copies in Australia alone, Ms Martyn said.

Penola-born Douglass published a number of fantasy series, including The Axis Trilogy, as well as stand-alone fiction, non-fiction and a collection of short stories.

On the Harper Voyager Facebook site today, Voyager publisher Stephanie Smith wrote: “Sara Douglass was an extraordinary woman and one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

“I cannot express the personal sorrow I feel at the loss of Sara from our lives. It was an honour and a joy to receive her new manuscripts and to work as her editor.

“Although an intensely private person, she was always generous with advice and encouragement to other writers and in her communication with everyone who visited her websites.”

Douglass’s fans have sent their condolences to her family and friends via the Facebook Sara Douglass Official Fan Page.

One fan wrote: “You gave me so many hours of enjoyment while I flew through your books to find out what happened next … you will be forever missed, but never forgotten.”

While another described Douglass as an amazing woman and author.

Douglass, whose birth name was Sara Warneke, moved to Adelaide when she was seven. She worked as a nurse then studied at Adelaide University, where she received a PhD in Early Modern English history.

She later moved to Cornelian Bay, Tasmania. Her mother also died from ovarian cancer and Douglass wrote about her own diagnosis on her blog.

©2011 Jennifer Chapman, AAP.

Herald Sun: Australian fantasy writer Sara Douglass dies of ovarian cancer

BEST-selling Australian fantasy writer Sara Douglass has died. Douglass, 54, died from ovarian cancer at 5am (AEST) today.

HarperCollins publishing director Shona Martyn believed Douglass led the way for female fantasy writers.

“At the time that she was signed most fantasy writers around the world were men but Australian women particularly have become very significant fantasy writers and I think she gave confidence not only to a lot of female writers – she was very supportive of female writers – but also to a lot of readers…” Ms Martyn said.

Douglass, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, was the first Australian author signed to HarperCollins’ Voyager Fantasy list in 1995.

Her book, BattleAxe, sold almost one million copies in Australia alone, Ms Martyn said.

South-Australian born Douglass published a number of fantasy series, including The Axis Trilogy, as well as stand-alone fiction, non-fiction and a collection of short stories.

On the Harper Voyager Facebook site today, Voyager publisher Stephanie Smith wrote: “Sara Douglass was an extraordinary woman and one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

“I cannot express the personal sorrow I feel at the loss of Sara from our lives. It was an honour and a joy to receive her new manuscripts and to work as her editor.

“Although an intensely private person, she was always generous with advice and encouragement to other writers and in her communication with everyone who visited her websites.”

Douglass’s fans have sent their condolences to her family and friends via the Facebook Sara Douglass Official Fan Page.

One fan wrote: “You gave me so many hours of enjoyment while I flew through your books to find out what happened next … you will be forever missed, but never forgotten.”

While another described Douglass as an amazing woman and author.

Douglass, whose birth name was Sara Warneke, lived in Cornelian Bay, Tasmania. Her mother also died from ovarian cancer and Douglass wrote about her own diagnosis on her blog.

Written by Jennifer Chapman for AAP, appearing in the Herald Sun.

The Sara Douglass Official Fan Page

Editors Note: This was the last post on the news section of the saradouglass.com website before Sara’s passing.


I have finally succumbed to Facebook and have started up a fan page there. It will be the easiest way to contact me, and to catch up on news of forthcoming books etc etc etc. You can find me listed as Sara Douglass, Official Fan Page (the other Sara Douglass page is run by Tor and I can have no input there). Celebrate the 15th anniversary of BattleAxe by becoming a fan!

Guest Blog: Sara Douglass ‘Escape from the Starship Enterprise’

I’ve escaped my evil abductors and made it back home! I went into hospital on Wednesday morning and awoke to find myself trapped on Starship Enterprise – honestly, the nurses station of the High Dependency unit reminded me of the bridge of Starship Enterprise – it was so cool! I had a serious case of ex-ICU-nurse envy! They controlled everything from great sweep of a bridge from where they surveyed their domain of about 6 captives.

We were all tied to our beds by a variety of strange communication devices that were wired into our bodies (seriously, I still have the holes to prove it, I am covered in plastic patches from where they took out wires) and we were all surrounded by Machines That Go Beep! Occasionally … actually, fairly often … the Machines That Go Beep! would become Machines That Go BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! and then that got Captain Kirk and his cronies moving, let me tell you. It kept all of us captives awake and in torture, too.

I had an epidural pre-op and the main problem was that epidural which firstly caused a crisis during the op when it caused my BP to drop out of control and the next few days were spent trying to get the BP back above 60/20 (we were aiming for 100 over anything at all, we’d take anything, but that 100 was pretty damn hard to achieve) and by the fact that about 6 hours post-op the epidural began to fail. By 10 hours post-op I had all my sensation back, I was in agony, and they couldn’t give me anything apart from Panadol (oh, Plu-eeeeze!) as my BP was so bad. So I spent a serious night in agony and don’t want to go back there any time soon.

Captain Kirk also had devised a super form of water torture called “let’s drag the ice block down Sara’s body again and see if any of the numbness has returned” and so every hour out would come the ice block and torture would commence. Dick Cheney would be seriously envious of this kind of torture.

I honestly kept trying to phone home to people but Kirk’s communication devices sensed every time I tried to use my mobile – I tried to ring friends five or six times but every time one of his lieutenants would inform Capt Kirk that the Alien in Bed 104 was trying to communicate with her fellow aliens and they’d cut off all signals. They could do all kinds of cool things from their bridge!

High dependency was staffed by some of the kindest people – and the hunkiest – most of the staff were male and they were GODS. Honestly. Gods. And they offered to take off their clothes to help raise my BP! Wasn’t that just the sweetest offer? 🙂 (Having got me in a lustful frame of mind they then refused to come through on their offer, which I decided was yet another form of torturing the poor, captive aliens.)
So gradually I got better and the staff found out my secret place for stashing my hated nasal probes (in the lifting mechanism of the bed, which seriously stuffed it up). They eventually put me on a morphine infusion which I controlled which wasn’t as cool as it sounds, but it was better than the stuffing panadol! LOL

Every day they got me out of bed which was so painful that I would literally burst into tears when they said it was time to get out. Better than the ice cube torture was the get out of bed torture. (Truly, the getting out of bed torture always left me sobbing, morphine or no morphine.)

On Saturday things started to get better and out came all the tubes and devices and off I went back to the surgical ward which was a strange and silent place compared to the Starship Enterprise. And yesterday I came home!

Surgeon said there was less cancer than she’d anticipated (you should have seen me in Recovery trying to feel about for a colostomy bag! LOL) and that she has got 99% of it out, and there is just a teensy tiny bit left in a couple of places on my bowel but that chemo should clean it up. She gave me the double thumbs up on the operation and ‘stuff’.

Oh yeah, and the epidural – it took the anaesthetist three frigging goes to get it in and by the end they had to have 3 people holding me down as it was so agonizing (the pain wasn’t in my back but everywhere else as the guy kept hitting nerves). After my horror experience I would not recommend them for anyone else – the side effects are appalling. I managed to have a chat to the alien in the bed next to me on Starship Enterprise and her anaesthetist had to have 3 goes to get hers in, too, but at least hers was working.

Once the Alien in the bed next to me and I were transferred back to a ‘normal’ ward we got quite friendly – she also has ovarian cancer (she was diagnosed 8 years ago) and has had two tussles with it since).

Three Cheers for the Starship Enterprise! 🙂


Hip hip hooray! I’m sure you’re all as pleased as we are to hear about how Sara is doing — and that her sense of humour is still very much in place! For more info on Sara and her books, or what she’s up to at the moment, click here to visit her official website. And don’t forget to join her rake squad!