I cannot remember my life without books. I spent my childhood throwing sticks with Winnie the Pooh, eating marmalade sandwiches with Paddington Bear, on adventures with the Secret Seven, climbing the Faraway Tree with Moonface and Silky, and hiding from the Twits and the BFG. Later, I explored school: mostly Malory Towers and St Clare’s, but with an extended sojourn to Sweet Valley High! I soon realised how far books (and imagination) could take me – from the revelations in Judy Blume’s Are You There, God, it’s Me, Margaret, to the nuclear aftermath of Brother in the Land by Robert Swindell. I found How the Whale Became by Ted Hughes, the Sue Barton series, and Gerald Durrell’s stories. I wanted to be the fifth sister in Louisa May Alcott’s novels, and I loved Bernard Ashley’s books so much that I wrote to him (and he kindly replied).
Gradually, I moved on to the Brontes, Jane Austen and Daphne du Maurier, while in my studies I encountered everyone from Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf to Alice Walker and Tony Harrison. Then I travelled and began working life while devouring books by Amy Tan, Isabelle Allende, Stephen King, Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes, Nicci French, Harlan Coben, Jodi Picoult, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Carol Shields, among many, many others.
All the time I was reading, I was also writing. Working in the fiction department of HarperCollins UK, and then as a freelance book editor, meant I came into contact with some literary greats, but it also reminded me that I didn’t just want to be on the publishing side of the business, I wanted to write. Knowing how hard it was to make it, I kept my ambitions secret for a long time, but I wrote relentlessly, which eventually led to that wonderful moment in 2008 when I got my first writing contract with Random House Australia.
I still feel a childish excitement whenever I pick up a new book – I can’t wait for the thrill of discovery. Reading enriches my life, and cushions my lows. And I try to write novels that I’d like to read, about issues and emotions I feel drawn to examine. Writing is an incredible occupation: it allows me to reflect in private, and also to converse with people all over the world. Storytelling can be immensely challenging, but it is even more rewarding.
I live in beautiful Western Australia with my husband, my daughter, and two cats who have deigned to join us. And no matter how hard I try, I will never get through my ‘want to read’ list in one lifetime. However, I’m still going to give it a damn good go, because I cannot imagine my life without books.