“I remember clearly that throughout my life, I’d always told stories way back before I even knew how to write properly. Stories with adventures. Over the years, I did say to myself, ‘well, you’re never going to make a living out of this, what else are you going to do?’ So, I sort of trotted around life and I’d take up this job or that, mostly tourism and hospitality, and I’d do my shift and think, ‘Is this it? What am I going to do with my life? Will it just be more of the same?’ Then I’d go home and go, ‘ah well, now I’ll do what I enjoy, I’ll write.’ It only dawned on me very late 2012 that everything I was going back to and enjoyed after my shift was the only thing I wanted to do. Light bulb moment. I’d been ignoring it for years; I even engaged a life coach to help me choose a career path and still I ignored it.
I took the long way around but I eventually got it.
In fact, the first book was written in 1982 as a draft; I’ve still got the book, handwritten in pencil, and that book was first published in 2016. I dedicated it to the two main characters who waited so long to get into print. The whole journey has been strange, I always knew I wanted to write but I didn’t do any formal training. In school, we were taught how to write a composition or an essay—beginning, middle, end and all the threads had to tie up. But we weren’t actually taught how to put the emotion into a story. We were taught the mechanics and the grammar but not how your protagonist has to grow. I took a few short courses; they didn’t really satisfy me at all. I was a big reader and so around 2012 I wanted to find out how these writers did it, how they crafted their story. I wasn’t in there to plagiarise, I just wanted to understand how they put the sentence together, what the dialogue looked like. Importantly, trends in grammar, and style in storytelling, change, but not the basic premise.
What I learned from other people and how they put their words together, helped my own style come through. I don’t read as much as I used to anymore because I find I can’t switch from the writer to the reader and just enjoy the story.
A book like ‘The Last Truehart’ takes about 6 months from the first word to the last, a total of around 100,000 words. That’s what I call the first draft but it has gone through 3000 of my edits already at that point. Once the publisher has accepted it, it’s a 12 months process to get to the final version. I’ve probably read the thing at that point about 17, 18, 20 times and am over it. When release day happens, imposter syndrome settles and I get terrified no one will pick it up and read it, that the story will fail.
Mum did introduce us kids to books and I suppose in that sense she was the biggest influence. She always read stories and we were always encouraged to read. When I first started writing seriously, she would get the rough drafts. A lot of people think that, for example, writing pure romance is really easy but it isn’t, it is the hardest thing under the sun. I tried it, and I was terrible at it. I didn’t realise I’d chosen the wrong genre. They were the early drafts she got. She would frown at me and I could see her thinking, ‘you can do better than this’ and I thought, ‘I can’t.’ When I finally began writing what I loved, she never got to read those stories. Luckily the publisher produced the cover of my first book, ‘Daughter of the Murray’ in time so I could show her. She died a week before the book came out. We had a funeral and a book launch in the same week; that was tough, but she would have been cheering.
I’ve always loved history, mystery, and adventure, so there’s always a fair bit going on in my books. The next project I’m working on is contemporary—a female protagonist, crime, small town—so I see how I go.”