When did you start writing?
To answer your question, I was writing stories from a very early age. Not that they were very good! As I got older they seemed to follow a similar theme. Girl has a truly horrible time. For some reason I enjoyed putting my characters through hell. But then something happened. I discovered “Girl has a rough time, yes, but girl fights her way through it and, in the end, lives happily ever after”, and I’ve stuck with that.
Why did you start writing?
I don’t know if it was a conscious thing. I just loved creating stories and characters, and as I got better at it, I started to see the possibility of making a career out of doing what I loved. How could I resist?
Both Sweet Wattle Creek, and your last book, Colours of Gold, are set across multiple time periods. What is it about this style of writing that appeals to you?
Good question! It can be quite difficult to bring all the strands together in one story let alone two or three. I love writing about different time periods–looking at history as one long strand instead of separate compartments. Threads from one time period reach out to touch another and ta
ngle together. That sounds a bit strange, perhaps, but that’s how I see it. Also, writing a book can be a daunting business and I have a low boredom threshold, so the more distraction I have the better.
When did the idea for Sweet Wattle Creek first come to you?
I’m not sure it arrived fully formed, my books never do, but I get flashes of scenes and characers, snatches of conversation, and gradually I have enough to start a book. I had an idea for a wedding dress, and a woman whose fiancé died in the First World War. Belle, that’s the woman’s name, goes into emotional retreat, but finds herself learning to live again during the Depression. And I had a picture in my head of a pilot who wears a metal mask to hide his injuries, and he became Michael, the perfect partner for Belle. My mother told me the story of when she was a child and saw the famous Sir Charles Kingsford Smith on one of his barnstorming visits to Victoria. So that fitted in nicely with Michael the pilot and the small town of Sweet Wattle Creek. The later story, set in 1986, was slower to form, but gradually Sophie grew into such a strong character there was no resisting her. Sophie has to navigate a life she never expected to lead. She and her son are hiding from a violent situation, and she just wants to blend in, but somehow Sweet Wattle Creek draws her out, and then she meets Ian. She has to make a decision whether to stay in hiding or step out of the shadows.
I’m not a plotter or planner, but as I write I learn more about my characters, and slowly their story takes shape. I’m not a fast writer, and I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I often get bogged down, but as I approach the end I find myself flying. It was like that with Sweet Wattle Creek.
Is the fictional town of Sweet Wattle Creek inspired by a real place?
I think it is probably inspired by many places I have lived in, heard about or imagined. I didn’t want it to be a real place, but size-wise and location-wise it is probably similar to many towns in Victoria. I’ve set it in Northern Victoria, where my mother lived when she was a child, and that’s why I dedicated the book to her. Because I was always ringing her up and asking her questions!
What do you like to read in your down time?
I read a wide variety of genres, depending on my mood and where I am in my writing. I prefer to avoid books like my own while I’m working, but I enjoy a good crime. The latest Val McDermid is currently on top of my TBR pile.
The Harlequin Australia website allows you to read an extract and purchase a copy.