Why did you start to write? Tell us about moving from your previous career to writing?
I worked as an English and Drama teacher for many years in Australia and London. I never dreamed of becoming a writer but without knowing it I had been training to become a writer for ten years. All my years of reading, teaching great literature, analysing books, plays and poetry and editing other people’s work, albeit that of students, had led me to one obvious career. When my husband suggested that I should write a book the last decade of my career finally made sense.
How did you get published?
I sent the manuscript of Perfect North to three publishers. I had no hopes it would ever be published. However, all three received the book enthusiastically and I was faced with a decision I never imagined I would be forced to make. I signed a two-book deal.
So what comes next? Back to the writing desk?
I’ve just completed and submitted my second novel titled The President’s Lunch. It is a novel about politics, relationships and the hankerings of one’s appetite set during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration in the United States. I have recently begun my third novel.
Are there themes or ideas that you particularly want to explore in your writing?
No, I don’t sit down to write with a list of themes I want to convey through my novel. I start with the plot and the themes flow from there. However, judging from the two novels I have written, major themes that have evolved that are common to both are family, choices, compromises and the complications of love.
Structure: Do you plan and plot or do you let it unfold as you write?
I begin with a very basic understanding of the plot and then allow the narrative to unfold as I write.
Who do you like to read? Any favourites?
Apart from the Year 1 readers my son brings home every afternoon, I have by my bedside a stack of different books, mostly biographies and non-fiction, that all revolve around the subject of my third novel. However, my favourite author is Jane Austen. Her novels never fail to captivate and surprise me. I also have a passion for John Irving, A.S. Byatt and Hilary Mantel.
Can you tell us about your average writing day – where do you write and how do you write?
I have two young sons so my routine has to fit around theirs. My eldest is at school and my youngest is in child care three days a week. On those three days, during school hours, I work with a fierce, single-minded intensity of purpose. I’m disappointed when I have to stop to eat! During the rest of the week I attempt to write when it’s possible. For instance, when my thirteen-month-old is asleep or my husband is giving the boys a bath. They are only brief moments of time but because I’m thinking of the story constantly when I sit down at the computer in my home office I find the words flow quite freely.
What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
For me writing is about entertainment. I’m not attempting to change the world with my books. Primarily, I hope readers will enjoy my novels and that the narrative and character resonate with them. Consequently, I’d advise aspiring writers not to take the endeavour too seriously. I’d also advise them to trust in the story. Don’t plan too heavily. Give the narrative its head and see where it leads you. If one has a talent for writing and story telling then the book should develop quite naturally by itself. Finally, write something every day. Even if you don’t feel like it or the words aren’t coming, attempt to get down at least five hundred words. If it’s rubbish you can refine it the next day (I guarantee there will be something you can use) but at least you can feel as though something has been achieved. But this is the way I write. It might not work for everyone.
Where does your inspiration come from – the ideas?
My ideas mostly come from something I have read – usually a magazine article. The idea for my third novel sprang from my son’s love of pirates, and a trip to a pirate museum in Washington D.C. as I was researching my second novel, The President’s Lunch (due out in 2014).
How much research do you do?
A great deal. Even if it is not used in the final product the more reading on and around the subject I do the better. It helps me with backstory and aids in character development.
What does the future hold? Do you want to keep writing?
Absolutely! I’ve recently begun researching and writing my third novel. I have many more books to write!
What three qualities fascinate you most in people and inform your characters?
- Resilience. The ability to bounce back stronger from negative, life-changing experiences.
- Reason. The ability to see beyond the emotion of a situation.
- Passion. The overwhelming desire to follow your heart against reason.
A sentence describing you and your philosophy of life
I don’t believe in fate or that the meek will inherit the earth – people create their own destinies and make their own success in life.
Who you’d like to meet
Living – Woody Allen. I love all Allen’s movies, even his bad ones. He has a unique view of the world that always makes me smile.
Dead – Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a remarkable woman who I came to know very well during the writing of The President’s Lunch. She was an infinitely compassionate individual with the intelligence and power to make a difference in the world.
What are your interests/hobbies. Do you collect anything?
I’m not one for collecting things. I’m the opposite of a collector – I love throwing things away. I despise clutter. However, I enjoy being outdoors and keeping fit. I also have an interest in cooking, time permitting.
- Favourite music – In my teenage years I followed the careers of Madonna, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. My tastes then expanded and included the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, Deborah Conway and Natalie Merchant. Now I listen to an eclectic mix of Rihanna, The Beach Boys, The Spice Girls and Ralph’s World because it’s music my young sons enjoy.
- Favourite movies – Love Actually, The Apartment, Midnight in Paris, A League of Their Own, Jerry Maguire, Some Like it Hot, The Philadelphia Story. I know they’re all feel-good films but is there anything wrong with feeling good?
- Favourite TV – Breaking Bad, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deadwood and The Hour.