What is your creation process?
I usually start by sitting down and thinking about my main characters. Once I have a visual idea of what they look like I start to place them in a situation. With the Guardians of Time Trilogy, I visualised Ethan first. I knew right from the start that I wanted to write about three people, two of them being siblings. It didn’t take long to visualise the siblings Isabel and Matt. As I started to flesh out their personalities, I decided I would write a novel based on each one of them.
When you write a book, how is a normal day in your life?
A normal day would consist of getting up around 7.00am so that I can be settled in front of the computer by 9.00am. I would then spend about six hours writing, though during the first-draft stage I never ‘switch off’. Ideas, plot changes, character’s conversations can come to me at any time, even through the night, so I always keep a notebook close by. After the first draft is complete and I move into the re-working, polishing and checking-facts stage, the pressure lifts considerably and the work schedule is not so intense. This is the part of the writing process I enjoy the most.
Where do you write normally?
I have set up a room in my house with a desk and computer and bookshelves loaded with resource books. I call it my home office. It is a room at the front of the house with a big window that overlooks a bush-type forest across the road. There are koala bears in the trees there and sometimes I catch myself staring into the treetops looking for one. I always use a computer to write my novels, but usually end up writing copious amounts of notes by hand.
Would you like to see your books in cinema? Why?
I would definitely like to see my books made into films. I have been told many times that my novels are very visual, and that the chapters are like scenes in a movie.
Have you ever thought about writing any non-fiction novel? And for adults?
Not at this stage, but perhaps one day I will write my autobiography.
Are you going to write more books?
Absolutely! In fact I have written two new books. They are currently with my agent who is trying to find publishers for them.
What are they about?
One is a contemporary novel called Hidden, which follows the lives of two brothers after their mother passes away. The younger brother Vince tries to deal with his loss by turning to a world of violence, while the older brother Julian begins experiencing frightening psychic visions. It is a modern story of racism and gangs, but mostly of love, loyalty and courage.
The second novel I recently completed is called Mark of the Pharaoh. This is a fantasy in a contemporary setting based on two teenagers who live on a beautiful yet dangerous island. On this island, history and magic intertwine to set the teens on a journey where they find themselves unravelling an unsolved mystery from their past.
Who was the first reader of your first novel?
The first reader was my daughter Amanda who was thirteen at the time. She’s 25 now and still the first person who reads my manuscripts.
How many books did you write before Old Magic?
I wrote four books before Old Magic. I think of them now as my training novels. I learnt a lot from the feedback I received from publishers at the time. What happened to them? I still have them on disk and a hard copy print-out, but no one will read them now – they’re too embarrassing!
What would you say to new writers?
Make sure you are writing because you know in your heart that you would not be happy doing anything else. Writing can be extremely challenging and is a difficult area to break in to, but if it is truly your passion then the rewards, whether you make money from writing or not, will be enormous.
What kind of literature do you like to read?
I enjoy novels written for young adults and read many of them written by authors from across the globe, but my favourite genre is historical fiction.
What does your family think about you as a writer, and about your books?
My family is extremely proud of my work. I think my husband is my greatest fan. I can’t use him to give me feedback because he is so biased! My son Chris and my girls and their husbands love my novels and are always passing them around to their friends.
What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing I am usually reading. I used to walk everyday along the beautiful beaches around where I live, but since my illness and subsequent back injury I can’t walk on the sand any more, so now I spend more of my free time taking photographs. In the evenings I like to unwind with a good movie. I also like to knit.
We know you were afflicted with myelofibrosis and because of that we waited more time for The Key. What could you tell us about that horrible experience? Did you learn something new?
Mostly everyone in my hospital ward had leukemia and many were waiting for bone marrow transplants. One night three people died after a germ accidentally came into the ward carried by a visitor who hadn’t washed their hands properly. I remember how upset the medical and nursing staff were the following day and I realised I had become a part of a large family who cared for each other almost as if we had known each other all our lives. It was in this ward that I learned how well the human spirit prevails under the most difficult conditions. I met many courageous people during my time in hospital, and while every person was suffering a life-threatening condition, they still managed to laugh and joke whenever they could. It was here that I learned that life is as fragile as a spider’s web, but in order to live a meaningful life, we cannot think of ourselves as fragile, but we should venture out beyond our limits, try new things and stretch ourselves. The experience of myelofibrosis has left me grateful for every new day, and appreciative of the beauty this planet has to offer.
Did the experience inspire you in any way for new books?
I wrote the novel Hidden with the passion fuelled from my experience with illness. Through the people I met in hospital, and the stories they told me, I felt I had gained an understanding of what it would be like for a family of teenage boys to live with the fear of losing someone precious and vital in their lives.
What do you think about the new young literature appearing?
The new young literature appearing is wonderful in the way it appeals to both girls and boys, and also to adults. It has advanced and highlighted young adult literature around the world, and made readers out of people who might never have picked up a book.
Have you ever thought about coming to visit Spain? You have a lot of fans of your books here.
I am aware that I have a lot of fans of my books in Spain and I would dearly love to visit your country. While I was ill in hospital, and because I had to undergo very strong chemotherapy, my bones became soft and brittle like honeycomb. Three weeks into my transplant I slid off a chair and broke three vertebras in my back. I was very lucky the fall did not damage my spinal cord, but unfortunately I now have four crushed disks and a permanently curved back. Because of this injury I can only travel long distances in the First class or Business class sections of an aeroplane, and because these seats are very expensive I have not been able to afford to travel out of Australia as yet. I am hoping that once my new novels are sold to publishers I will finally be able to afford to travel, and I assure you that Spain is definitely high on my list!