My Writing Life
I was first drawn to history as a child. I recall being on a family outing at a homestead called “Emu Bottom”— forever ingrained in my memory— no doubt due to the visual the name inspired. But mostly because the magical building evoked a sense of mystery.
I have vivid memories of wandering rooms steeped in the stories of those gone before me, and peppering my mother with questions;
Who lived here? What happened to them? Where are they now?
What did the world look like in their time?
The homestead was built in the traditional settler style and shone bright against the landscape. It was probably made of local hand made mud bricks, but whitewashed and elegant, it was a castle as far as I was concerned. It was set in a haven of bushland, where ancient gumtrees and the scent of eucalyptus mingled with dampened soil in the fresh air. I told my parents that I wished we lived there— it was special, and there was something secretive about it. I think my love of old homes began that day.
I was fascinated by the musty scent of the past— the pieces of embroidered children’s clothing draped over brass beds, and yellowed linen covered with a scattering of books— the cast iron household implements arranged on the tables. I imagined the family’s isolation, how scared I would be to live in a homestead in the open bush— far away from my familiar suburban streets.
I knew straight away that I wanted to learn more about the past. But it has taken a lifetime for me to write it.
I always wanted to write. It’s what I loved most. I wrote stories as soon as I was able, sticking and stapling pages together with crudely drawn illustrations; bold titles and headings prepared using lettering books or font templates. My stories were usually about families, or children and their friends— but the allure of magic—tales of superstitions and folk stories and far away places, interested me too. Places and lives far more exciting and interesting than mine, and my cloistered city life.
As a teenager, a friend and I spent hours reading and sharing Mills and Boon romances, and hiding them from our teachers inside our textbooks. Barbara Cartland was a firm favourite, interspersed with a few Agatha Christie’s. Then I was drawn to romantic suspense of novels such as Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” and the extensive volumes of Victoria Holt and Susan Howatch. I imagine these are the books that shaped my early writing voice.
I realised early on that it was the romance of a story that I preferred.
The writing dreams that once inspired me were doused and quickly forgotten as I found love and embarked on my own journey. But I never let a day go by without reading for pleasure.
As life became busier, and with little time to invest in leisure, the escapism and sense of humour in the works of Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher were great for my soul. I quickly devoured the contemporary voices of Cathy Kelly and Marian Keyes too. Then came Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Morton and Lucinda Riley and my interest in dual timelines began.
My love of reading strongly influences my relationship with writing. It’s in the dreaming of a new story, the spark of inspiration, then the locations, the romance, the drama and the mystery. I love the flow of words. Should I write gothic romance — or romantic suspense? Whatever I decide, there is freedom as a writer to write what you love to read. I plan to continue on with the process until the well is dry. There are so many great books to read, and so little time. The one thing I have learned, is that it takes much longer to write them...
Despite a journey of pain and suffering— my characters' arcs and stories finish on a high. In my opinion, while the mark of a great story is heightened pace and tension, as I turn a last page, the enjoyment for me is to finish a book and feel uplifted. I'm a romantic at heart, and while it is the growth of the characters that appeals — it's the thread of hope for the future that spurs me to reach the end of a book.
Alongside careers in education, design, fashion, banking and the charity sector, I have undertaken writing courses to improve my craft. But it was a course in writing procrastination that encouraged me to persist.Writing has returned me to the dreams I once imagined possible, and has connected me to the wider writing community that I love.
There are so many stories to tell. Let's step into the past together...