Cryptic clue! This may well feature in my next book!

Cryptic clue! This may well feature in my next book!

I had a really interesting time in the UK researching for a new book – and I met some lovely people who were extremely helpful answering my questions. Now, it’s time to start writing. I’m hoping I can get past those first few scary pages without too much trouble, and that I’ll soon be immersed in this new story. Can’t wait to tell you all more in a few months!

On our return, I was really sad to learn that Semeru, one of the orangutans released into the Sumatran jungle by Perth Zoo, had died from the effects of a snake bite. I based one of the story strands in Shallow Breath on a fictional version of this project, and from all the research I’ve done I know this will have been  a huge blow to everyone involved. Perhaps it is some consolation that Semeru got to experience his last eighteen months in the wild.

My family, including  2-week-old, are in the B of Kimberley in this 2009 protest.

My family, including 2-week-old, are in the B of Kimberley in this 2009 protest.

A few days later came the news that the Kimberley gas project at James Price Point has been abandoned. As a long-time supporter of the protests against this short-sighted venture, which would have been catastrophic for this pristine wilderness area, I was overjoyed to hear the news. Since then I’ve loved seeing pictures of the celebrations by the protesters who have been camped up there for so long, and who deserve much credit for putting themselves on the line.

374520_557738140910921_934599965_nThis month I’m still doing some promotion for Shallow Breath – stay tuned on this site, facebook and twitter for a few new competitions coming up. If you’re in WA, please come along to Wanneroo library next weekend between 1 and 4 pm if you’d like to learn more about Atlantis, the marine park which featured in Shallow Breath, or share your memories. I’ll be reading from the book at various points during the afternoon.col-md-2

I’m currently packing for a trip overseas, which will involve catching up with family and friends but also some book research. I find researching one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing, so I can’t wait to get stuck in. Without giving too much away, I’ll be heading to the Lake District, another beautiful part of the UK, and not that far away from the North Yorkshire Moors where Beneath the Shadows was set. Wish me luck, and I hope to have more to tell you soon. Meanwhile, I wish you all a very happy Easter.col-md-2

It’s a real thrill to be featured in the March edition of Suspense magazine. My thanks to writer Susan May. You can check out the interview on her blog here, and be sure to look out for the magazine – it’s a real pleasure to be in such great company!col-md-2

It’s been a week since the Perth Writers Festival finished – how did that happen?! I don’t want to let it fade away without mentioning a few things, so here are my Top 5 highlights:


My Stella Prize trivia night team, l-r: Anita Heiss, me, Ailsa Piper, Annabel Smith, Mardi McConnochie and Susan Johnson

1. Margaret Atwood

Anyone who was lucky enough to get to the Perth Concert Hall on Saturday night was treated to a fascinating and entertaining hour listening to Margaret Atwood talking about everything from her childhood to writing The Handmaid’s Tale (one of my all-time favourite books) to her use of Twitter and co-writing an online zombie story! The hour was over far too soon, but I’d highly recommend not only her fiction but also her collection of essays entitled Curious Pursuits, which contains great material for anyone interested in writing.

2. Perth writers

Perth is booming – and thankfully it’s not just the mining sector! So many talented writers from Perth have introduced new books in the past few months, from the debuts of Dawn Barker (Fractured) and Emma Chapman (How to Be a Good Wife) to the second novels of Annabel Smith (Whisky Charlie Foxtrot) and Natasha Lester (If I Should Lose You). They were all at the festival talking about their work, they’ve all been getting rave reviews, and I’d highly recommend checking them out.

3. The Stella Prize Trivia Night

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Stella Prize trivia night. I had a brilliant team – comprising Anita Heiss, Annabel Smith, Susan Johnson, Ailsa Piper and Mardi McConnochie (who, thank goodness, knew some of the answers!) Everyone present made it a fun, relaxed evening, making up for my distinct lack of knowledge! The Stella Prize has recently announced its inaugural long-list, which you can check out here.

Sharing a poster with Margaret Atwood!

4. Dystopia

One of the sessions I was most looking forward to was called ‘Rise of the Apocalypse’. I’ve long been attracted to dystopian fiction, and the genre has had a resurgence in the last few years. After listening to readings by Peter Heller (The Dog Stars), Karen Thompson Walker (Age of Miracles) and Isobelle Carmody ( I want to go and find all their books. Dystopian fiction is widely classed as science fiction or speculative fiction nowadays – however, what Peter Heller had to say really struck me, particularly after all the research I’ve just done on endangered species for Shallow Breath: ‘…we are in the sixth great wave of extinction… don’t ask what will be the next apocalypse – we’re in it. We’ve lost half our coral reefs. What happens when the plankton goes? The ocean goes. You don’t need to know all the facts to know that things are changing at a faster and faster rate.’

5. Talking about Shallow Breath

On Saturday afternoon I got to talk about Shallow Breath as part of WritingWA’s ‘A Glass of Wine and a Good Book’ series. I was paired with Julienne van Loon, another fantastic WA writer (Harmless, Road Story, Beneath the Bloodwood Tree), who asked some great questions and allowed me to talk a lot about different aspects of the book – particularly re-creating the old Atlantis Marine Park in WA – as well as some of the more harrowing research on dolphin hunts in Japan. I was lucky to have Amanda Curtin (The Sinkings, Inherited) in the audience, as Amanda is a WA writer I greatly admire. Her comment that she found the ending of Shallow Breath to be a brave one was one of the greatest compliments I have received about the book. So I raced off to see Margaret Atwood on a high – thank you, Amanda, and everyone who came!


The next day I spent the morning as part of the family day at PWF, helping out with a Room to Read awareness stall. Room to Read is a fantastic, accessible charity promoting school libraries in developing countries, and girls’ education worldwide, so I’d urge everyone to find out more about them. I then rushed off to the Wilderness Society’s Concert for the Kimberley – and enjoyed listening to Missy Higgins and John Butler with 20,000 others while adding our support to this vital cause. More on that another time, but after a fantastic Perth Writers Festival weekend I can’t wait until 2014.



It’s almost Perth Writers Festival time – one of my favourite weekends of the year! I think this year’s highlight for those of us lucky enough to have tickets will be hearing Margaret Atwood speaking about her amazing body of work. I’ll be rushing there from my ‘Glass of Wine and a Good Book’ event in conjunction with WritingWA, where I’ll be talking about Shallow Breath. I’ll also be at South Perth library on Tues 19th Feb and at the Stella Prize quiz night on Fri 22nd Feb. For full details visit my Events page.

The February newsletter is also out, with a round-up of what’s been happening in my life over  the last  couple of months. Read all about it here, and if you haven’t signed up to receive this direct to your inbox then you can do so from my website or by clicking this link.col-md-2

Searching for the Secret River is the extraordinary story of how Kate Grenville came to write her award-winning novel. It all begins with her ancestor Solomon Wiseman, transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life, but who later became a wealthy man and built his colonial mansion on the Hawkesbury.

Increasingly obsessed with his story, Grenville pursues him from Sydney to London and back, and then up the Hawkesbury itself. Slowly she begins to realise she must write about him, and begins to discover what kind of book she will write. Grenville opens the door and invites the reader into her writing room, and tells us about how this novel was formed, the research she did, the false starts she made and the frustrations she experienced.


Having devoured The Secret River, I felt lucky to have this to hand. I am always fascinated by other people’s writing processes, and there were a number of things I really enjoyed about this book. I felt a strong kinship with Kate’s search among archives for pieces of information that would help her put together her story, having just done something similar for Shallow Breath. I thought she did pretty well in not getting the book bogged in details that were probably fascinating to her but perhaps not so much to an outsider – there were only a couple of times I felt I was getting a bit lost in facts and figures.

I really valued the importance Kate placed on visiting the places she was writing about, where possible, to get a feel for them, to try to become a part of the story, and flesh out the small details that would make the book interesting and memorable. I loved envisaging Kate climbing down to stand next to the Thames, and pocketing a bit of old roof tile!

What I also liked very much was how Kate outlines her struggles to find the way to tell this story – the false starts, the realisations, the certainties becoming uncertainties. I think it’s a wonderful thing for all writers to see that a fantastic book comes about through hard work, through being prepared to question your own decisions and change your mind, and that it is not just an effortless slipstream from mind to paper for even the most talented of novelists.col-md-2

In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand.But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. 

Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals—Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring—are finding their own ways to respond to them.

Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.

Inspired by research into her own family history, Kate Grenville vividly creates the reality of settler life, its longings, dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is a brilliantly written book, a groundbreaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.


Whenever I’m in London I am always captivated by the sense that I am walking through history, that each grandiose building or cobbled alleyway holds a host of hidden stories – some completely lost, others glimpsed through tiny carvings, or street names, or, if you’re really lucky, commemorative plaques. So I loved reading long-ago London brought back to life so vividly. The book is also a stark reminder of the timeless horrors of being poor, and the desperation that often led the destitute to lives of crime. William Thornhill and his family came alive to me from the first page to the last. Kate Grenville absolutely inhabits these characters, and makes it look effortless – a master’s trick, which actually belies an incredible amount of hard work (see also my review of Searching for the Secret River).

Once the story moved to Australia, Grenville’s writing adjusts seamlessly. The story made my senses come alive to the descriptions of the Australian bush. Once Grenville moves on to describing the settlers’ contact with the local Indigenous people, the simple scenes and actions of the characters are pared back to allow the reader to experience for themselves the fear and suspicion, the miscommunications, and the resulting horrors. Thornhill’s thoughts and decisions were frustrating, at times horrifying, but believable. It might be a fictional story but it points to a number of confronting truths.


To celebrate the 2-year anniversary of Beneath the Shadows‘ first publication, I have added all the extras to the book onto a brand-new website at You can find a video of me talking about the creation of the book, with footage from the moors. There’s a ‘bonus chapter’  – a short story from Annabel’s perspective which ties in with the novel. And there’s Annabel’s completed article too, plus an artist’s interpretation of the inside of Grace’s cottage. You can check all this out at

I’m very excited to announce a new Kindle edition of Shallow Breath, available via I have had quite a few emails from people in the US and the UK asking about getting hold of my other books, and Come Back to Me will also be available in this format within the next couple of weeks.

Find Shallow Breath on

Find Shallow Breath on