After a ten year gestation period, I’m the proud mother/writer/flogger of an independent contemporary Young Adult novel, Facing Up. It’s been exhausting living with her, but my character Carly is finally out of my head and onto the page in full grumpy teenage glory.
Carly’s face has been messed up by the car accident which put her crush Dave in jail, best friend Suzie into a wheelchair and Suzie’s boyfriend Aldo into a grave. To top it off, the driver of the car they hit is also dead. Funnily enough, Carly is not really dealing with it all, and now her younger brother Ben is following down her same rebellious path. Her family is about to implode, unless Carly can pull herself together.
To answer a couple of questions: yes, I’ve been in a car accident (two, within a week of each other). And yes, I love reading and writing YA – it’s amazing how your teen years can stay with you, long into adulthood.
As to how I got there, it was a zigzagging path that didn’t involve thinking about a writing career until my mid-twenties.
I did have my head stuck in a book as a child in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, but my dream was to be a librarian – yes, I wore glasses and was a giant nerd!
But then I did the teenage thing and fell in love with horses, and headed straight from high school to agricultural college to study equine management (a diploma in ‘patting horses’, according to our farm student colleagues). It was an interesting couple of years – put adults into a boarding-school situation in a beautiful, isolated rural area, add alcohol, and stand back…
Somehow I managed to complete my diploma and spent a few years working with some great people and beautiful horses in Australia and Ireland, mostly preparing yearling Thoroughbreds for sale but also three months’ polo-grooming/jillarooing that packed in three years’ of experiences (see car accidents, above).
After suffering one too many injuries to my body and pride, I yearned for something a little safer. I remembered the suggestion of a college lecturer (who may have felt I’d be a better writer than horsewoman) and sent my essay on basic horse genetics to a riding magazine. To my surprise, they published it, and it’s still framed in my study. I was that proud! Just don’t ask me about genetics, it’s all long been wiped from my memory 😉
It became addictive to see my name in print, and over the years I’ve had non-fiction, book reviews and travel articles published in magazines and newspapers such as The Australian Way, HQ, New Woman, The Big Issue, Australian Cyclist, The Age, The Herald Sun, Who Weekly, The Sun-Herald, RM Williams’ Outback and Australia’s Parents (see some of them here at Non-Fiction and Travel Writing).
Along the way I edited and proof-read for a typesetting company, which sharpened my attention to detail. And I worked in completely random and short-lived jobs such as candle-making, door-to-door sales, phone sales (I lasted less than a week) and house-cleaning.
Then I satisfied my latent librarian by working as a bookseller for some years. Yep, it’s a book lover’s dream, but nightmarish for a budding author. The first time you see that storeroom stacked to the ceiling with books waiting to be returned because they haven’t sold… ugh!
I moved to customer service at a major publisher and book distributor. You would think this an ideal platform to kick-start your author career, but… no. It’s not nice to harass your colleagues with your badly written first drafts. But publishers are a fun and eccentric lot (Friday night drinks were BIG), I met many authors (ooh, Tim Winton!) and learnt much about the industry (it’s not easy, would you believe).
When customer service moved across the city, I took redundancy and used the opportunity to change direction again. I became information officer for BrainLink, a not-for-profit which assists people with acquired brain disorders, and their families. It was challenging, amazing and life-changing – I met and talked to people whose lives had been forever turned inside out, but who battled on and somehow saw humour in some dire situations.
I’ve since moved to another full-time position as receptionist/admin assistant in a private company, still working with people with brain injuries. Their sense of humour keeps me going and they inspire me even on the craziest days!
- Adopting animals: 2 dogs, 2 cats & 4 chickens (the house gets crowded, let alone the bed!) See The Menagerie
- Volunteering for TreeProject, growing trees for landholders to revegetate their properties
- Occasionally updating Think Before You Buy, a Facebook page and blog on just that: encouraging people to think about the impact of their consumerism
- Baking to compensate for neglecting my patient husband while I write, blog, and keep our hairy family in check 😉
Meanwhile I’m working on a second YA novel plus numerous short stories and a couple of picture-book manuscripts.
Warning: writing is addictive and you may never recover once you start!