Useful Stuff for Projects and Questions Kids Ask
What is your Full name? Do you have any nicknames?
My full name is Jacqueline Anne French. (I don't think I'll mention my
nicknames!) (I kept trying to get called Jacqueline in
What was your favourite book as a child?
Karalta, by Mary Grant Bruce - it's exciting if you ever manage
to get a copy. Also Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne.
What's your favourite colour?
Dunno, it depends. Very fond of purple but not purple cows or purple skies. Also blue.
What sort of car do you drive?
A very dusty one. (We live on a dirt road called "The Goat Track'.)
What it's like to be an author?
Wonderful. You get to just sit at your computer making up stories... and
then get paid for it.
Do you ever get ideas from other writers?
No. Every time someone uses someone else's idea it sort of fades. and there
are alawys so many ideas and so many books to write, that sometimes I feel like
putting a 'shut' sign on my brain so that I don't start longing to write
another book before I finish the eight or so I have planned already.
Do you have any pets?
No...just the chooks and the wombats and the birds and the wallabies and the
echidnas and the...well, you get the idea. I'd much rather live with wild
pets. Wild animals don't need you, and don't have to suck up to you to get
dinner...it's really an extraordinary priviledge to have a wild animal as a
How do you get your ideas?
From music, walking and chocolate (not necessarily in that order). (A kid sent
half a Mars Bar last week. I'm not sure what happened to the other half, but
the bit I
got was delicious.)
It's a bit like making compost. When you make compost you throw in anything you
can find - dead dogs, old doormats, last night's dinner - and if you've made it
properly what comes out the other end is quite different - lovely, rich,
fertile muck. When you write stories you throw in everything you've ever known
- but what comes out at the end is quite different from the original
I love talking to the older people here and hearing their
stories (I get a lot of my story ideas that way) - about the time the flood
covered all the valley for six weeks and the time a bushranger held up the gold
coach just above our gate - but the driver slipped over the edge and over the
ledge of the mountain and ran down to get help - and everyone from the pub came
up to help the guard, carrying spades and mattocks and anything they had. The
bushrangers were so terrified by the noise they galloped away.
I've never met anyone who didn't have stories to tell - but
sometimes they think they aren't interesting just because they happened to
What do you do when you get stuck for ideas?
To be honest my problem has always been too many ideas, not too few.
wish I was an octopus and could write 8 books at once)
How can I get ideas?
That's easy. If you want the inspiration for a story you just go to the
nearest supermarket and ask the check out person where you can buy half a kilo
They'll either start laughing or think you're mad or call the manager
and have you chucked out....and any of those will give you a great story to
You can't buy inspiration. You can't call it like a dog either. But it's
true - sometimes inspiration does just jump on you and you feel you HAVE to
write a story.
I have four things I do that ALWAYS provide inspiration. I am perfectly
serious about all three of them so don't laugh. They really do work.
Step 1. Go for a walk. I have never gone for a walk without inspiration
floating in from somewhere. Humans evolved as walkers..and sometimes I think
we function best when we're walking. (Charles Dickens, a great English writer
of the Victorian era, walked for enormous distances around London and in the
countryside and wrote large rambling novels.)
Don't take the dog for a walk. Don't walk with your best friend or your
baby brother either. Just walk, so your mind is open for the stories.
Step 2. Play some music.
Most writers I know either write to music or play music before they
start. The area in your brain that appreciates music is very close to the
language centre in your brain. Music will ALWAYS give you inspiration.
Play whatever music moves you most - doesn't matter what. If you can,
move to the music. Let it flow through you. Don't think of anything but the
music - till the idea come.
Then start to write.
The last music festival I went to gave me three short stories. And the
last concert gave me a novel and a half. (I didn't go to the last music
festival in the country village a few kilometres from our farm - I already
had five books I was trying to write..and the last thing I needed was more
3. Have a cup of coffee.
The only time I drink coffee is when I work - and one cup is all I have
a day. If you drink too much coffee it loses its effect.
Coffee can also make it hard to sleep... and is not such a good idea
till you reach adulthood.
So forget about this bit of advice for a while... but remember it when
4. Eat some chocolate.
Yeah, I'm serious. That's one of the reasons I'm fat - every book I
write demands some chocolate and I write a lot of books. But I gained my fat
in a worthy cause - every kilo was a contribution to Australian literature.
I only eat chocolate when I sit down to write which means as I love
chocolate I am VERY eager to write my books every day.
Of course if you can reward yourself with an apple instead, it'll be
much better for you. And your books will probably be just as good.
You have probably thought of this yourself.
What if your teacher doesn't understand and won't let you go for a walk
or play rock music before you write your story in class and won't even give you
a bit of chocolate?
Answer: Play the music in your head for a minute and then write what you
Remember that the stories you write in class will never be your best
NO ONE could write a brilliant story in a class room full of other kids
snuffling and whispering and a teacher glaring at you out the front.
Write a story at home instead, or just a bit of a story, and try the
walking, music and chocolate (or an apple) then.
Dear Mrs Jackie French,
My name is Amal and I live in Cape Town South Africa. The other day I
was reading your book How the Aliens from Alpha Centauri invaded my maths class
and how I became a writer and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. The
reason I am writing to you is because of my desire of becoming a successful
children's author, but I am terrible at english.
Will reading help me to become very good at English comprehension? Will
reading help me to speak fluently with good usage of vocabulary?
Will reading and writing for an hour each day for two years be enough to
teach me how to write a story that can be published? And finally, will reading
one book per week with concentration be enough?
Yes, reading will help you to score better at comprehension tests and
all other English tests, and help you to speak fluently. Reading books is the
best possible way to do all these things- and it will definitely help your
But it isn't necessary to get good marks in English tests to become a
successful author. I know many very successful writers who were absolutely
terrible at English all through school. I did well at story writing and
comprehension, but I was one of the worst spellers in the school- I'm still
pretty bad at spelling, and my handwriting has always been almost impossible to
The most important part of being a successful author is having a
fascinating story to tell. While reading books will help you learn to make up
fascinating stories, it's even more important to learn to look around you...to
understand the world and the people you meet and why they do things and how
they do them....writing is about ideas as much as it is about using words well.
No matter how wonderful your vocabulary, it is much more important to have
insights into the world that are worth passing on to other people.
Good writers need to LOOK at the world to see the way it really is, not
the cliches that people so often put into books...the cranky teacher, the bossy
librarian, the kind caring doctor. You will need to spend time examining the
world to look beyond the cliches.The most important thing a writer has to do is
learn to see clearly.
If your grammar isn't perfect, or your spelling is bad, your book will
still be published. It is the editor's job at the publishing house to correct
bad grammar and bad spelling.
As for reading books- the more books you can read, the better. The best
way I know to read books is to gulp them down, as fast as you can. Don't worry,
your brain will soak up the vocabulary and grammar just like a sponge soaks up
milk from a bench.
Humans are natural language users, and natural story tellers. You don't
have to teach a child to walk- they just copy other people. Well, if your brain
is exposed to lots of words and stories and the music of words in poetry too,
it will just store all those techniques till it's needed.
Don't concentrate on the books too hard- just enjoy them, and let your
unconcious mind do the studying. If you think a book is really good though,
it's worth while doing a bit of thinking after you've read it the first
time...why was this book so good? (Or why was a boring book so bad?) Did the
writer use language in any really effective ways? Were the characters
But don't let this interfere with your enjoyment of the books. Just
reading them is the most important thing.
As for one book a week being enough...I just don't know. Most writers I
know read as much as they could lay their hands on when they were your age. But
other excellent writers I've met were never really into books till they grew
up. (All of those were men, but that might just be coincidence).
I think your one book a week will give you the word and technique tools
you need....but it's still better to gulp down lots than read one book with
concentration. And remember...a lot more goes into stories than words.
What other jobs have you had?
Sugar packer, cook, journalist, chambermaid, gopher for a private
Why did you start writing for kids?
Dunno. Sent my first story to Angus and Roberston..who deliberated about
whether it was for kids or adults and then asked for more stories for a book
for kids. By the fifth story I was hooked. (My work is often a blend of
detailed reality and fantasy: much more easily accepted in kids books
Where do you live?
Pudge also likes to bash up the rubbish bin, especially if
we don't feed her rolled oats and carrots whenever she wants them. She's eating
all the celery in the garden at the moment - she's the only wombat I know who
likes celery. I suppose it's very good for her (she does look very healthy) but
it would be good to have some for us too. She likes parsley roots too.
Megabyte is our latest wombat. Her mother was killed on the
road and she was brought up in Canberra, then given to us so we can teach her
how to be a wombat and learn to go back to the bush. She's still not sure that
she wants to (sofas are much more comfortable than wombat holes), but she is
exploring all around the garden now, and gossiping with some of the other
wombats in the moonlight. She does bite a lot - just gentle nips on your hand.
It's one of the ways that wombats communicate.
We live in a house we built ourselves out of stone from the
creek, with fruit trees and gardens all around us (Fudge the wombat helped dig
the holes - wombats are good at that - but it can be difficult to get them out
We've also got a possum who dances on the roof every morning
at 4 am, two wedgetail eagles who live in nests on the cliffs above us, 8 geese
(one of them only has one leg and none of them has many brains), a lot of
chooks and a very handsome rooster called Rodney with long black and green tail
feathers (they look like he's combed them) and a loud voice and another called
We live right down deep in the valley, so it's very dark here in the late
afternoons by now, with wallabies eating the rose bushes and roos and possums -
and a lot of wombats. Rikki the Wrestler, Bad Bart the Biter, Pudge and
Megabyte and Chocolate... and a few more too. Chocolate tries to boss Rikki and
Pudge likes to chew the doormat and Bad Bart likes to jump out at you from
behind the rose bushes and bite your knee.
What's you favourite animal?
Well, humans. But after that, wombats.
What are your favourite books?
What made you decide to become an author?
I'm not sure what my favourite book is - probably Walking the
Boundaries is the book closest to my heart, though I think
Summerland may be my best book - and Alien Games" and
A Wombat Named Bosco and Stories to Eat with a Banana
were the most fun to write. Tajore Arkle too- Tajore Arkle was the world I
lived in for so long as a child, and even now I sometimes miss it. (Although
not so much now I spend such a lot of my time writing stories).
For me writing is just like peering into another world - and then trying to
describe what is happening as well as I can.
I always wanted to be an author. I think people are born to
be writers - you know very early if you love words and stories - and if you do
- and you are prepared to work at it - really work - then you will become a
Being a writer is a wonderful profession - you get paid to
daydream! I still find it incredible that I actually get paid for doing what I
love so much. It's hard work - but then, someone once said that true happiness
is the opportunity to work very hard at what you love doing.
I've always told stories, as far back as I can remember. I
had an imaginary friend called Maria, at least by the time I was two, who used
to tell me stories about an incredible imaginary world, then showed me how I
could find out the stories by myself. When I was in primary school the teachers
would let me tell stories to the class at the end of the day, if we had all
behaved ourselves. Most of my stories had earthquakes, volcanoes or tidal waves
in those days.
Even though I always wanted to be a writer, I was
discouraged by everyone telling me it was a waste of time, and that you could
never make a living being a writer in Australia - so I was over 30 when I sent
my first story away. (I wish I had started much earlier.)
I sent my first book off to a publisher because I was broke.
All I really wanted to do
was get enough money to register the car - and I could think of no other way to
money with a baby in the bush in a drought. But my first book was accepted -
they sent me some money as an 'advance'-so I went on writing.
How difficult was it to get your first piece of writing
Not hard at all, once I'd summoned up the courage- or desperation-
to do it. My first novel Rainstones was shortlisted for the CBC and NSW
Premier's awards; my first articles to the Canberra Times, Earthgarden and
Hobby Farmer led to regular columns, and my first few gardening articles
to a request to do a gardening book.
I was lucky; I was also desperate, and that was probably
even more important than luck. I HAD to write publishable material; it was
the only way I could think of to support myself and my young son in what
was still a primitive shed in the bush. I simply didn't have enough money
to relocate. But I was surpised at my success. I sent the first story away
simply hoping to get enough money to register the car..and a year later I
was making a still small(but to me magnificent) reasonably regular income.
Have you ever studied to become a writer?
No. Yes. I study writing every time I start clicking at the
keyboard. I'll never stop studying, working at my writing, and I hope it
will continue to improve. And of course everything I see smell hear or
think becomes material I'll use. But formal study- no, though a lot of what
I have studied formally, from history to psychology to stylistics is useful
How do you become an author?.
Write. re write. rewrite again. And again. And again. Send it off.
Be prepared to repeat this process for twenty years. If you're dedicated
enough- and honest enough to keep improving your work, and don't close off
your mind to the fact that OF COURSE it can be better, you'll get there.
(But few people can do this; even fewer want to. If you both can do
and want to, you're a born writer.).
How difficult is it for new writers entering the
I don't know. If you're brilliant, you'll have no trouble..well
okay, yes you will, but not MUCH trouble. If you might be brilliant
with a heck of a lot more work...you may find an editor who'll work through
your book with you, but this is less and less likely as editorial staff
numbers decline in most publishing houses.
If you're the Duchess of York you'll have no trouble either, no
matter how boring your work is. If you're a good middle of the road
writer...well, that's where luck comes in. It may also help to try a small
publishing house first, or a new one looking for authors; or even self
publish. Major publishing houses are more likely to accept you after your
first book has been a success. So are agents.
Does writing run in your family?
Well, all the family tell stories..and don't let the facts get in
the way of a good anecdote. My sister has written books on sex education for
kids (her name is Wendy Darville) and Mum is a journalist, though she
wasn't when I was growing up, and Grandpa wrote a book about his
experiences as a psychiatrist, and Dad writes decent doggerel and sometimes
more serious pieces on management...we all love books, and are all expert
with words, but in very different ways. We're all good public speakers too,
and that HAS been useful..
Were you good at writing at school?
Yes, very. (She says modestly). My first book was called Tresses
and the Unghostly Ghost. I wrote it when I was six and the headmistress
liked it so much she had a copy run off for every kid in the school. It was
about a haunted horse. (The ghost noises were particularly good).
That was followed by Mary and the Disappearing Fish( they were
found in a cave below the sea...that one had an exploding volcano too, and
a tsunami) and then a couple set in ancient Egypt, also with volcanoes,
earthquakes, strange tunnels etc..
What the worst thing about being an author?
People keep giving you spoons. Can't think of anything really bad..
Do you think I could be a writer?
Of course...but I do need to give you a word of warning.
I love playing the violin- but I am a really lousy violin player. That's
because I don't enjoy playing the violin enough to ever practise it...I just
play when I feel like it. I'm an amateur violinist, and always will be.
Well, it's the same with writing stories. You may love writing stories-
but unless you love writing them enough to WORK at them, spend weeks and months
or years improving them, going over and over and over them, you don't really
want to be a professional writer.
Professional writers WORK at their stories. Yes, of course you need
talent too. But just as a professional football player needs to spend years
training for every match they play, a professional writer needs to spend years
working at their books.
If you don't enjoy the work- and aren't prepared for a heck of a lot of
it- don't think of being a writer.
Will you look at my story and see if it is good enough to be published?
Yes...if I have time. But I have to warn you...no one has ever sent
me a story that I thought could be published without a lot more work. Some of
them were good stories- but not one of those people ever decided to keep
working at the stories to make them better.
Lots of people write stories for kids. But very few of them are ever
published. PLEASE don't send me a story to look at unless you are prepared to
keep working on it for months.
How many drafts do you do of each book?
Dunno. I work on a computer, so I can just go over and over the story
making changes, rather than separate drafts. Some books like The Boy Who
Had Wings need a lot of rewriting, others like Walking the
Boundaries had only about six words changed.
How long does it take to finish a book?
Soldier on the Hill took a lot of research,
especially into the way people talked in 1942 - and to make sure I didn't put
in any Americanisms or other phrases not used in Australia back then.
Four weeks or two years or ten years - I write very quickly, and don't like
to do ANYTHING else while I am concentrating on a book. But by the time I sit
down to write I've been mulling the book over for at least a year - often many
years, and sometimes the research can take many months as well.
After I finish writing a book I leave it alone for a few months or even
a couple of years, then go back and revise it..and rewrite and rewrite till I
just can't stand it anymore and shove it off to the publisher.
Some books need very little rewriting. some like daughter of the
Regiment I throw in the waste paper bin and do the whole thing again. (I tried
to write Daughter of the Regiment as a short story. But it didn't work, because
I was hurrying it too much. so I left it alone for a year then rewrote it as a
novel...which did work.)
Have you had any problems publishing your books?
Not really. All my books have been accepted as soon as I sent them in and
some are translated into French and German or sold in the USA, Canada, New
Zealand or UK as well.
Do you like reading?
I don't think I'd be able to list all the other authors I
admire - there are too many. Patrick White, because he has the power to see
things so clearly, and Ursula le Guin and Randolph Stowe... but I enjoy
thrillers and romances too and now I write so much fiction I find myself
reading it less and less - more biographies and history and natural
I never read gardening books. They are too often wrong (and
I get annoyed) or boring.
I am a reading addict. I'll read the phone book if there is nothing else
What are your favourite foods?
My favourite foods are chocolate, chocolate and chocolate, followed by
cherries, watermelon, Chinese cloud swallows and char grilled or marinated
octopus - which we hardly ever get here as our town doesn't have a fish shop or
a very large supermarket.
What are your hobbies?
What are your major influences?
In my spare time I read and mooch around the bush and swim in the creek and
gossip (gossip is a very good way of getting material for books) but in a sense
I never have spare time, as anything that happens may be cannibalised and
turned into fiction. I also love cooking and gardening - but they aren't really
spare time activities, as I also write gardening books - and my family demands
to be fed.
Wombats - I'm not joking. Wombats are determined, but have a very great
sense of the quality of life - which for a wombat means dirt and food. Also the
valley where I live, which is part of my life in many senses. and people... but
I'd have to list hundreds. Seasons of Content (which is for adults,
but kids would enjoy it too) says more about the wombats and the place and the
Attitude to drugs
I drink coffee like a drug - to wake me up to work and chocolate too - I
only eat it when I'm working - one novel probably makes me put on four kilos of
But as for other drugs - I find it very hard to understand
people using them. One of my chief joys is actually looking at the world,
smelling it, hearing it, understanding it, analysing it - and using drugs
interferes with all of that. I like reality - and daydreams that are made up of
bits of reality, made into exactly the sort of world I want.
I've never met anyone who takes drugs that I really respect-
though I have met people who've given up drugs (after incredible effort) who I
do respect- who have found what's important in their lives and have had the
strength to change.
What were your favourite subjects at School?
How did you become so informed about aboriginal
My favourite subjects when I was at school were English of course, and
history and ancient history - maths and art were problems for me, as I am
severely dyslexic (you may have noticed some strange spelling in this letter- I
don't notice is something is spelt properly or not). I am the worst artist I've
ever come across - but I love creating gardens and houses, so it almost makes
up for not being able to draw. My son loves drawing though - mostly
Not sure - part I grew up with, part when I worked in an anthropology
museum, part study at university, part just asking questions around here, part
research - old books, diaries etc, partly from friends and Aboriginal people
No, none of my ancestors were Aboriginal. At least one had
dark skin, but I don't know what her background was. Grandma always said she
had dark skin because she was Welsh - and it wasn't till I was an adult and had
met many Welsh people that I realised that none of them had dark skin!
Any other details?
I was born in Sydney on 29 November 1953, grew up on the outskirts of Brisbane, left
my mother's house when I was 15, went to uni at 16 and went bush at 18 when I
got my degree, with a short break when I worked in the public service for a few
years to get enough money to buy this place.
My parents separated after many years of unhappiness when I
was 12 - it wasn't a happy childhood, which is perhaps one of the reasons I
began telling stories.
had the greatest influence on your becoming a writer?
I think most people are born writers- the passion for words and stories has to
come from within you. I can't remember ever not making up stories, or playing
with words in various combinations. But both my parents encouraged me to read-
my mother used to scour the bookshops for me to see if another lot I hadn't
had come in, and take me by tram to libraries far afield where there might be a
few books I hadn't read. One of my great disappointments was finding out that
libraries mostly had the same books...I thought that if I'd go to another
library there'd be a whole new lot of books waiting for me! (Libraries weren't
as well stocked in those days either- our school library didn't even have
books for every kid to borrow one!)
grandmother Jean Mc Pherson French also sent me lots of great Australian
all the ones that the CBC gave prizes. Books by Australian authors were pretty
rare in those days, and I was lucky to be one of the first lot of Australian
kids who regularly read words about the land I lived in.
did you become a writer?
was broke. I needed $106.40 to regsiter the car, and sending off a story was
only way I could think to do it. (I was living in a shed in the bush with a
young kid at the time. ) The story was accepted, and I went on from
I had alawys WANTED to be a writer. Just hadn't the courage to do anyhting
it...or possibly the desperation that made me really WORK at my story, to make
it the best that I possibly could. i think that bit is what really did
you always liked reading?
passionately. Still do. I'd pine if I couldn't read.
read that you are dyslexic. How has that affected your
doubt I'd be a writer if I wasn't dyslexic.
was a study of road accident victims who had certain sorts of brain injuries in
the US a few years ago...can't recall who did it now. After their accident
their verbal IQ, ort intelligence, went up by an average of 15 points.
study concluded that it's as though the visual part of the brain suppresses the
verbal..in other words, if you are dyslexic you may be much more intelligent
with the way you use words than you might have been otherwise.
doesn't mean that being dyslexic makes you a genius! But it does explain why so
many good word spinners are dyslexic.
my form of dyslexia too(t's a very common form) it's as though the brain goes
too fast to process the images in front of it. One way to tell if someone has
the form of dyslexia I have is to get them to look at a word. If the word blurs
before about 10 seconds is up, they have a problem.
much easier for someone with my form of dyslexia to read LOTS of words than to
read a single word on the page. (and the sad thing is that so many kids with my
problem are given 'Run Spot Run!' remedial books that just make the problem
can still remember the terror in my first year at school when each kid in the
class had to read a single word on the board. I didn't even know what they
emant! But luckily I had learnt to read when I was about three, just looking at
the page while my mother read to me...but the teachers didn't discover I could
read till they found me illegally in the library one lunch time, nearly
finished Black Beauty! I could read that okay...but not a single word on the
someone with my form of dyslexia(I won't call it a disabilty, because I don't
think it is) learns to read they are usually a very fast reader. I read faster
than anyone I know- and the more books you absorb, the more techniques you
absorb to write with.
But even if dyslexia isn't a disability (I think it
gives me a lot more than it takes away), it is a problem. I spell badly, though
I'm improving all the time- I was VERY bad when I wrote my first book. It's
almost impossible for me to pick up mistakes when I type (well, that's a good
excuse anyway), and I can never work out which way to unscrew a bottle of honey
or find my way out of a carpark...but that has probably nothing to do with
What do you plan to do next?
More of the same, I hope: more books, wombats, fruit
trees, long breakfast conversations and swimming in the creek.
Why do you write in so many genres?
For the same reason I read in many genres, and eat many kinds of food. I love both pizza and watermelon, but would hate to eat only those for the rest of my life.
I don’t see any real difference between fiction writing and gardening/pest control writing - both involve a close study of the interrelationships of the world, then forming them into patterns that might become stories or theories of weed ecology!
How many books?
There were over 140 at last count, slightly more than we have varieties of apples. If something is worth doing you may as well go heart and soul and boot leather ... I write for kids and adults, fiction, history, gardening, pests control, chooks and some that must be a nightmare for book shops to work out what genre they are. Have a look at 'which book?' for a probably not quite up to date list of what is where and for whom.
Are you married?
Yes, to Bryan, a deeply tolerant man who accepts marsupials in the kitchen and discussions about unicorns or chaos theory at breakfast; one son, two stepdaughters, two step grandkids.
None. I suspect the local wildlife see us as pets, not the other way around! Close relationships with assorted wombats, chooks, wallabies, possums, echidnas (Bryan says: too close, and get that wombat off the sofa).
Not really, as they all become ingredients in the slowly composting processes of my mind and turn into stories. Passionate plant collector, reader, animal tracker, and bush moocher-, which is a bit, like bushwalking but slower and with more stops to eat bush tucker, and usually with more worn out boots.
How can you run the farm and write so many books?
Read the books about growing a self sustaining garden, like The Wilderness garden. You CAN grow just about everything without fencing animals out, and without using poisonous sprays. White cockatoos? The white goshawk keeps them under control. Possums? The powerful owls take care of them. See the books for other ways to design a garden that controls its own pests and weeds, more or less feeds itself, us, the birds and wildlife and many friends ... takes about half an hour's work a week.
Advice to younger writers?
No matter how good your writing style, you must have something to write about. Each book should be a small part of your heart and soil, plus about two litres of life’s blood. Work out what you love and are passionate about, whether it's hamburgers or history. If you're not passionate about anything you are a deeply boring person and should only write books for snails.
An Average Day?
5.30 am - Woken by demented shrike thrush pecking at window.
5.32 -am - Swear at demented shrike thrush. Go back to sleep.
9.00 -12.20 - Write, with short breaks for aphid or fruit fly counting and mooching around garden.
12.30 – Used to swim in creek if water above freezing, but these days we are afraid of pollution from the mine upstream
12.35 greet chooks; lunch.
2 - 5.00 - Write; short breaks to pick asparagus, avocados or other stuff for dinner.
5.00 - ? - Mooch around bush or garden; say good day to wombat, cook dinner. After dinner - Answer letters; feed wombat.
10.00ish - Say goodnight to wombat; go to bed.
10.30 - Say a very firm goodnight to wombat.
11.30 - Rescue chewed doormat and mangled garbage bin from wombat. Speak sternly to wombat. Go to sleep.
Are there any people that have played a big role in your path to success?
Yes, hundreds, from my parents and especially my maternal grandmother and grandfather, my school teachers, especially Mrs Pauli and Mr Sullivan; the poet Oodgeroo of the Noonuccal who I knew as Auntie Kath Walker; my friends Noel Pratt, Angela Marshall, the late Judith Wright; my husband Bryan and my son.
Before you decided to make a career as an author, were you hoping to follow another career?
I always wanted to be a writer, but would have liked archeology, medicine, law, and psychology too. I worked as a farmer, and briefly in the public service, and had varied jobs in school and university holidays, as well as part time jobs: washing up at the Mater Mother’s Hospital, chambermaid, breakfast cook, sugar packer, working in a private detective agency, echidna milker, restaurant cook, cataloguer in an Anthropology Museum and Queensland university and others
What type of setbacks have you had along the years?
Too many to name, nor want to remember: prefer to think of the good, not the bad.
What type of advice do you have for any aspiring authors?
See the advice to writers section on the web site.
How long did it take to write your first published book?
See the first novel section on the web site, but about three weeks
Why did you want to be a farmer?
I loved the bush, and growing things. It took years to realise I was interested in the science and joy of growing things, not selling produce.
How many copies of your books have been published?
I don’t know. Harper Collins changed accounting schemes about a decade ago, so I don't think the sales before and after that date have been put together, nor do I have any figures for overseas sales, as the royalties. About two and a half million have been sold in Australia since the new accounting system cam in.
What is the weirdest place you've ever found inspiration?
There has never been one moment when I've thought' this is the book' Inspiration evolves, and comes pretty much when I am thinking about writing, either at my desk, or walking in the bush, or driving, with time to think instead of cook dinner or answer emails. Many people think inspiration flies through the universe and strikes you like an arrow when you are picking strawberries. But instead ideas evolve till suddenly- or no suddenly at all- they come together.