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My Writing Life

The first time I recall being drawn to history was as a child. We were on a family outing at a homestead called “Emu Bottom.” It’s forever ingrained in my memory— no doubt due to the visual the name inspired. But mostly because the building evoked a magical sense of mystery. I have vivid memories of wandering throughout the whitewashed rooms 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.

Image by Mzimasi Ndzombane

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 about 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 my cloistered city life. 

As a teenager, a friend and I spent hours 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 that we judged more respectable if we were caught. For pure joy and escapism, I was drawn to the romantic suspense of novels such as Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” and the extensive collections of Victoria Holt and Susan Howatch. On reflection, these are the books that helped shape my early writing voice. 

I realised early on that it was the romance of a story that I preferred.

Image by Chris Lawton

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 go a day without reading for pleasure. I began with Jeffrey Archer and all the wildly sensational Jackie Collins sagas, followed by Barbara Taylor Bradford.

 

 As a young mum 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 the soul and books I quickly devoured. They led me to the contemporary voices of Cathy Kelly and Marian Keyes. More recently, I've become an admirer of the works of Maggie O’Farrell and Lucinda Riley

Image by Heidi Kaden

As I write this, I reflect on my past and see my reading history’s relationship with my choice of career. It’s in the locations, the romance, the drama and the mystery. I love the flow of words. Perhaps I should be writing gothic romance — or romantic suspense? Whatever I decide, there is freedom as a writer to write what you love. I plan to continue on with the process until the well is dry.

I read— voraciously. There are so many great books, and so little time. The one thing I have learned, is that it takes much longer to write them...

Despite a character’s journey of pain and suffering— I insist that my stories finish on a high. In my opinion, while the mark of a great story is the heightened emotion, 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 to me— it's the thread of hope for the future that spurs me to reach the end of a book.

 

​ Over the years, I've taken various courses in creative writing and worked in education, fashion, design and the charity sector. But it was taking a course in writing procrastination  that connected me to the wider writing community and encouraged me to persist. The channels of inspiration opened. Writing quenched my soul, and now I have returned  to the dreams I once imagined possible.

There are so many stories to tell. Let's step into the past together...

x Chrissie 

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