Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Yes. I started writing when I was still at school. I think I would cringe now is I could read some of that. I studied journalism at university was a TV journalist for a long time. But even then I was scribbling away at fiction in my spare time.
I love reading and always thought it would be pretty wonderful to be a writer. I was right – it is wonderful, and at times I still can’t believe I’ve done this.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
I started writing fiction seriously when we moved to the UK more than 10 years ago. My first couple of ‘novels’ were really bad, but they taught me a lot about the craft of writing. I think it’s like many other things – you wouldn’t expect to be a concert pianist the first time you sat at a piano would you? It’s the same with writing. You have to develop your writing muscles. It took me a little while - but I am just finishing what will be my sixth published novel.
Gosh – even now I still surprise myself when I say that. It really is a dream come true for me. Of course, there was a lot of hard work making it come true.
This is a book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s the story of two damaged souls who come together in a small community in outback Australia. It’s not just a book about falling in love (although there’s a lot of that going around). It’s also a book in which I try to capture the unique experience that is living in a small isolated community.
Jess Pearson is the pilot of an air ambulance, and running away from her past. Adam Gilmore is a doctor – who is hiding his own dark secret.
There is also a battered wife trying to make a safe home for her children. And a gentle giant of a man with a Disney tattoo on his arm.
The thing about small towns – they attract really unusual and interesting people. Everyone knows everyone else.
Everyone helps when they are needed. That’s the sort of experience I want my readers to get from this book.
Oh yes – I want them to cry too. In a good way.
Where did the inspiration come from to set this story in the Australian Outback?
I grew up in Queensland – in a tiny bush town. As a teenager, of course, I hated it. I thought it was remote and boring and lonely. I know realise that it was a unique experience growing up there – and one I now remember with the greatest affection.
The outback is a truly remarkable place – it’s beautiful and harsh at the same time. I wanted to share that. Writing a book in that setting felt like coming home to me. And I hope the readers will feel equally at home in Coorah Creek.
Do you have a favourite character in the book?
I should say the hero, Adam. He’s very easy to fall for. But I am going to say Sister Luke – an elderly nun who is also Adam’s nurse. She is a gentle person, with a wicked sense of humour. A bit of a busy-body, but with the kindest heart. I can’t say too much about her role in the story… but I think she is the favourite of all the characters I have written so far.
Are we likely to see a return to Coorah Creek in the future?
Definitely. When I was living in New York, I began reading books by Robyn Carr. She wrote a series set in a small town called Virgin River. I loved them and decided I wanted to try something similar – create a small town and fill it with characters. Each time the reader comes back to Coorah Creek, they will revisit old friends as well as make new ones.
I have almost finished writing the second Coorah Creek novel... and I am very much in love with the hero (Dan Mitchell – who you will first meet in Flight to Coorah Creek). He works in the National Park just outside the town. He’s an honourable man put in an impossible situation. But more about that when I finish writing his story…
Have you ever had writer’s block?
Not really. My head is buzzing with ideas… with characters talking to me, wanting me to write their stories. There are never enough hours in the day to do it all.
There are times when a book gives me a problem and I have trouble going forward. That usually means I have gone wrong somewhere. If that happens, I go back a read over the last couple of chapters. Then I ask my characters what to do – they usually tell me.
Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
I think there is a little of me in all my characters – even the men. The good characters, that is, not the villains. It’s my sense of humour. My sense of right and wrong. But then the characters themselves take over and often say and do things I myself would never do.
I write about strong women taking control of their lives back… and I like to think there is a lot of me in them.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
Fantasy. I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and George R R Martin. I love that they can weave these wonderful worlds out of their imagination. They truly do make magic happen – in every sense of the world.
I do have this idea – involving dragons (I love dragons) – but I guess I am terribly afraid that I won’t be good enough to do them justice. Maybe one day.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
My first instinct is to say Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and George R R Martin. J But then I got to thinking about dead authors.
William Shakespeare – to ask about the rumours he didn’t write all his plays.
Ray Bradbury – possibly the greatest fantasy writer ever!
Daphne Du Maurier – I am a huge fan of her books. She wrote such compelling characters. And in so many different genres.
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
I read both. I love a ‘real’ book and have a lot of signed first editions. I always buy a hard copy of a friend’s first book and get it signed.
But I travel a lot, and a week away can involve several books. I am never sure what I will want to read, and need
to have a spare or two in case I try a new author and don’t like them. My e-reader weighs a whole lot less than half a suitcase full of books.
Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
Dozens. Hundreds. There are so many brilliant books out there.
I do wish I had written one of the mega-best-sellers and made squillions. But mostly the books I wish I had written are the ones that touch my heart and leave me in awe of the writer’s mind.
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) is one. It’s such a brilliant portrayal of its time and place.
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) is a dark and disturbing book that shows the dark side of obsessive love.
And The Cat in The Hat (Dr Suess) because it has made so many children, and their parents, smile.
What’s the last book you’ve read that has made you cry?
Falling For You by Giselle Green. She writes really smart, intensely emotional books. She always makes me cry.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
I always have what my husband calls my ‘post book meltdown’. I decide I need to spend a week curled up on the sofa watching soppy old movies, drinking tea and eating chocolate while reaching for the tissues. It usually lasts about three days before I am back at the computer – creating a new document and writing Chapter One at the top.
If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Now that’s’ tough….
George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (better known as Game of Thrones). It’s very good – and it’s
BIG… it would fill in a lot of time.
Then probably Forever Amber, by Kathleen Windsor. It’s an older historical romance that my mother introduced me to many years ago. It’s a bit dated now, but I still love it. And it has wonderful memories of my mother attached.
For my third – does my Kindle count as a book? If I could take that, I’d be set. There are more than 400 books on it. Image all that time with nothing to do but read books. Heaven! But, if I can’t take my Kindle, I had better take one of those guides about how to cope with disasters – because if I was stuck on a desert island without enough to read, that truly would be a disaster.
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