David Allan-Petale is a writer from Perth, Western Australia whose debut novel Locust Summer was published in 2021 by Fremantle Press.
The book was long listed for the 2021 ALS Gold Medal for “an outstanding literary work”, and shortlisted for the 2022 WA Premier’s Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards – The Premier’s Prize for an Emerging Writer.
The manuscript was shortlisted for the 2017 Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award, and developed through a fellowship at Varuna, the National Writers’ House.
David has worked for many years as a journalist in WA with the ABC, and internationally with BBC World and Al Jazeera.
David has been recognised for his contribution to writing
Long-listed for the 2021 Australian Literary Gold Medal
Short-listed for the 2022 WA Premier’s Book Awards for Emerging Author
Short-listed for the 2017 Vogel’s / The Australian Literary Award
MEAA 2017 WA Media Awards for Best Feature Writer
On the cusp of summer, 1986, Rowan Brockman’s mother asks if he can come home to Septimus in the Western Australian Wheatbelt to help with the harvest.
Rowan’s brother Albert, the natural heir to the farm, has died, and Rowan’s dad’s health is failing.
Although he longs to, there is no way that Rowan can refuse his mother’s request as she prepares the farm for sale.
This is the story of the final harvest – the story of a young man in a place he doesn’t want to be, being given one last chance to make peace before the past, and those he has loved, disappear.
What the critics say
“Locust Summer is about a final harvest, but it’s so much more. Few novels have such quiet authority and insight into pasts and futures, nostalgia and grief.”
“Authentic, true, and moving – this book made me want to hug my kids, my wife, my parents, and never let them go. This writer will break your heart and fix it again, all within a paragraph. A real talent.”
“I felt like I was reading one of those literary masterpieces we had to read and analyse in English High School classes … this book falls into that group of literary masterpieces.”
Beauty and Lace
“Locust Summer is an absorbing novel that I found unputdownable, and I look forward to reading more from this author.”
“In telling the story of this ultimate harvest, the novel works throughout on a metaphoric level, moving from hints of the biblical Plagues of Egypt to the dispossession of Australia’s First Peoples, to the shadowy figure of the Grim Reaper. As the harvester moves through the wheat, the men go “deep into the rhythm of work, like monks meditating.”
Carmel Bird, The Australian
“The chapters are short, lending strength to the narrative drive … the to and fro between mother and son, and the father’s health battles are worth your reading time.”
“This is a book that reflects on families, and grief, and memory, but also on the challenges of trying to capture the complexity of real life in prose …”
“With true journalistic precision, Locust Summer gives the reader just enough, and gets to the emotional heart of its story quickly and with great impact.”
The AU Review
“David Allan-Petale’s debut is a quiet, heartfelt novel …”
Sydney Morning Herald
“Although strongly evocative of rural life and the relentless work involved in farming the land, the novel’s strength, for me, lies in the delicacy of its handling of family relationships and the way those bonds are tested by internal and external pressures.”
“David Allan-Petale has written a rich, complex and heart-wrenching novel that is full of insight into how our past stays with us, wherever we go, and whoever we decide to be.”
“It is a superb book – a fine, multilayered synthesis of rich ideas, emphases, sympathies.”
“Powerfully poignant, beautifully crafted debut …”
Australian Women’s Weekly
“The writing is superb, authoritative and insightful and what’s more it is all set in Western Australia … One of my best books of the year!”
The Lane Bookshop
Write Your Novel
Writing is hard. But it’s not impossible – especially when you have some inside knowledge.
Drawing on nearly twenty years of writing experience, David will teach you how to elevate your writing while deepening your enjoyment of the craft.
This no BS, straightforward, and always enjoyable online course will help emerging writers understand and master the basics of writing so they can craft something special.
And with weekly group coaching calls and a one-on-one writing session, writers will have the opportunity to pick David’s brains and share their writing journey and work.
It’s often said that story is character, and character is story.
Learn how to create authentic, believable characters that have agency and depth. And what to do when they rebel!
Themes give a story its meaning. But they can also infuse your characters and events with a deeper dimension. Learn to use this often neglected writing weapon with actionable lessons in thematic writing.
Plot is not just a series of events that give your story a spine. A good plot can help shape your characters, deepen your themes, and keep your reader hooked. Learn how to go beyond the usual run of things.
What David’s writing students say
“Over the years I have joined many courses for would-be writers. Some were day long, others weekend residential, yet others extended over multiple weeks. A couple were memorable, others less so.
I regard David’s course as having been the best I have attended.
David is totally professional. His course is well presented, his standards are high, and yet he manages a personal touch which makes him extremely approachable.”
“David was very keen to deliver his knowledge in a very affirming and non judgemental manner which gave me more confidence to share my work undertaken on the night. That was unheard of, literally, in my past. He did not stand and talk at us; he asked us to write and give feedback if we wanted to. I loved the exercises and will continue to use his ideas as warmups for my own writing. I definitely recommend attending his workshops.
Furthermore, David is a very human and affable guy who shares his writing journey quite openly. He demonstrates humility, enthusiasm and a genuine willingness to help budding writers.”
“I really appreciated all the effort you put into these classes and I came out inspired to get writing!”
“It has hands down been one of the best workshop series I’ve attended. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, insight and experience. I picked up lots of little gems to take with me on my own writing journey. I look forward to the next series!”
“David is an entertaining and clear presenter who is generous in sharing his knowledge and experience. I would recommend enrolling in one of David’s writing courses, as participation is sure to improve anyone’s writing skills.”
How long did it take you to write Locust Summer?
The first lines of Locust Summer were jotted in the margins of a notebook while I was bored at a travel conference in Porto, Portugal in 2012. The essence of those lines were carried through a nine year long writing process with the bulk of the first drafts tackled whilst travelling through Asia with my wife.
After a few years back in Perth where I continued to work on the manuscript, we packed up and went traveling again, this time with our baby daughter in tow. I continued the writing process, revising the manuscript significantly after a two week long fellowship at Varuna, the National writers’ House in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
I typed ‘the end’ on a beach at Kalbarri, then embarked on a lengthy editing and rewriting process under the tutelage of Dr. Laurie Steed (link to: https://www.lauriesteed.com/), a good friend and brilliant writer who helped me shape Locust Summer into the story I wanted to tell. Check him out if you need help with writing, he’s the best.
When it was accepted for publication with Fremantle Press, the MS underwent a final revision process overseen by razor-sharp editor Georgia Richter who developed the story into its final version and ushered me through the publication process with empathy and
All told, that’s over nine years. A long time. But a great journey that I wouldn’t shorten by a day. Because everything that happened brought me here.
What was the inspiration for your story?
My first job as a journalist was to be the Mid West reporter for the news service on a TV station called GWN that broadcast to regional Western Australia. Based in the coastal city of Geraldton, I roamed all over this sun and wind-blasted section of Western Australia, where fishing boats ply the seas and farmers tilled the soil.
A few years later, working in Kalgoorlie for the ABC, I took up the chance to work on a mate’s farm over in New South Wales, bringing in a wheat crop over two hectic weeks.
Then my beloved grandfather got sick, and the family businesses and houses that had shaped my life began to disappear as his health deteriorated.
Three threads. Twist them together and you have the beginnings of a story.
What writers have shaped your writing?
As a child I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, Tintin, Asterix, The Famous Five and Secret Seven, Anne of Green Gables and Commando comics. By my teens I’d moved on to sci-fi by Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, and then embraced American literature from Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Mailer, with social realism from Tom Wolfe bringing it all in focus.
In my twenties I read a lot of British literature, everything from Greene and Durrell to modern masters like Hillary Mantel and Patrick O’Brian. These days I read anything and everything from business books and non-fiction to the latest commercial releases and Booker prize winners.
Above all I have always read lots of history books, with Barbara Tuchman and Max Hastings particular favourites, expanding my understanding of the darker side of humanity and the passions we all have.
All of this has shaped me. But my favourite writer of all would have to be Lawrence Durrell for his Alexandria Quartet, a writer who ignored the advice to “kill your darlings” and instead raised them up. He inspires me to take risks and seek the truth wherever it leads.
Do you do speaking engagements for schools?
English, Politics, History and Drama were the only subjects I really paid attention to in school. So to come full circle and come back to schools to talk books and writing is something I’m always keen to do.
I’ve spoken at a few High Schools schools over the years and would relish the opportunity to engage with students and discuss everything from my career as a journalist to the travel, writing and entrepreneurial work I’ve pursued.
Do you offer mentorships to writers?
I’ve been very fortunate to have been shaped and influenced by many mentors. Some extraordinary people freely gave their time and expertise to help me along over many years. Even the rejection emails helped!
I’m always open to helping other writers and would relish the chance to offer mentorship. I’m part of a few private and public Facebook writing and reading groups, and in regular contact with a few younger writers as they go through their journeys. So always keen to chat writing and share the knowledge.