Grenville sees the two books very much as companion pieces - "it's the yang to The Secret River's yin" - but in the end, The Lieutenant was simply the book she had to write. "It really did just kind of grab me by the throat, the way books are supposed to, and rip me along. It really was a kind of compulsion."
Grenville lights up just remembering its genesis. She was researching The Secret River, reading Tim Flannery's The Birth of Sydney, when she found extracts from the language journals of William Dawes. He was, says Grenville, "a kind of 18th-century nerd".