Q. Why did you want to become a writer?
A. I remember when I was fourteen years old. I wasn’t pretty or popular. I was socially awkward. I told my aunt I wanted to be a writer. She said, ‘first, you have to experience life’. She was right of course
Q. Are there any writers in the family?
A. No, no writers or artists of any kind that I’m aware of. It wasn’t that kind of family. My parents were country people with orthodox expectations. My elder sister became an executive secretary, my other sister a teacher and later deputy high school principal. My brother succeeded in business but only through his own entrepreneurial skills as a property developer.
Q. You’ve waited quite a while to launch your writing career?
A. That’s true. I guess there is a time and a place for everything but when I was younger I dismissed my writing efforts with distain. And then launching Australian Defence Magazine in 1993 kept me busy until I retired from the full time publishing role at the end of 2017. It’s hard to find the headspace to dedicate to writing when you have a full time career that saps your intellectual energy.
Q. Who do you think your Belleville family saga will appeal to?
A. I believe there are readers who are being ignored now by the major publishers - mature women readers. Even though I put the target audience for my first book at 35+, I think my books appeal to readers who enjoy being transported back into the fairly recent past - to a time when life was more formal. There are aspects of those times I don’t applaud of course such as the lack of opportunity and lack of equality for women. Most of all, I strive for an authenticity in my characters, an authenticity in their responses to circumstances and historical accuracy in depicting real historical events.
Q. This novel has an international flavour. Was that intentional?
A. Ideas for the story spring from many sources, but especially from my father telling me about the American Army camps based in Queensland during the Second World War. Obviously I wasn’t around then but I was intrigued by the idea of the ‘foreign’ presence in our country. And I know many Australian men were part of the RAF in Britain during the war. It was a period of great change in society as a whole but it had enormous impact on individual relationships and people formed relationships they would otherwise never have had the opportunity to do.
Q. Spoiler alert: without giving too much away, what are the major themes of your novel?
A. Indeed, spoiler alert it is. I’ve always believed that seemingly successful families may hide beneath their polished façades secrets and lies they would give anything not to reveal publicly. I won’t go into too much detail but suffice to say two big issues in particular are at the heart of the first two novels and I think many women - readers of a certain age - will identify with one particular issue. You’ll have to read the books to find out more. But it is not hard to imagine the issues that a wealthy family with three children coming to adulthood just as World War II takes hold will face. The world as they know it and as they expect it to continue is turned upside down.
Q. So the action takes place across the three countries?
A. Yes, it’s mainly based in Australia but the action moves to England and to the United States at various times. I was keen to only use places I’ve been to. I’ve visited England a number of times, most recently in 2017, and also the United States, most recently in 2003. My husband and I lived in Washington DC for a year during his time at the Australian Embassy too.
Q. So which authors inspire you or have inspired you?
A. Top of the list is the late Winston Graham who wrote the Poldark series. I was inspired too by the late Bryce Courtenay, a very successful Australian author and of course the late Colleen McCullough of The Thorn Birds fame. I saw both of these authors at author events and I found them both so inspiring. More recently, I've been inspired by Eat! Pray! Love! author Elizabeth Gilbert. And I have recently discovered Australian author Sulari Gentill and her Rowland Sinclair series. (I just love it!).
Q. What is your ultimate ambition as a writer?
A. My ultimate ambition as a writer is to tell a good story and to entertain the reader. I like to make sure that the historical background is accurate. I want readers to enjoy my books. I would be delighted to answer any readers’ questions. I have been asked if the plot is preplanned and my response is that it is to a degree, but given the characters and their situations, they dictate their responses.
I've become very emotionally engaged myself with the Belleville family, even though they are fictional characters. They are alive to me. I want my readers to feel the same emotional response I do.
Talking about books and writing
In this Q&A, I talk about the inspiration behind my first novel JULIA'S STORY and the Belleville family saga. To ask more questions, please go to the Contact page.