I grew up in rural New Zealand and have always been a voracious reader. I caught the reading bug from my parents. On those luxuriously long evenings before television blundered noisily into our living rooms, the whole family read.
Our idea of a big night out was a trip into town to the public library every Friday. There I worked my way through the children’s section, through the myths and legends into the Agatha Christies and out again to the classics, Dickens, et al. I read everything I got my hands on – if only I still had time to do that!
Although we were physically and culturally isolated, I had a window to the world through reading and never really considered any career other than being a writer.
I had imagined the way into the world of writing was through journalism and, while still a high school, put my name down with the local paper to become a cadet. But at 16 my world fell apart when I got pregnant, my school years and any thoughts of a career were over. It was one of the most difficult times in my life when I gave my son up for adoption.
At 21, to my parent’s relief no doubt, I headed off to London and my uncle took my literary education in hand. Under his direction, I worked my way through Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Mitfords, Anthony Powell, Olivia Manning – it was a wonderful time of discovery, exploring the world and being with people for whom reading was a way of life.
Reading and writing have kept me sane during some very difficult times in my life. They offer the gift of allowing us to escape life and resurface in another world. As a teen, I poured my angst into poetry. Living in London in my twenties, it was short stories. In Sydney, in my thirties, I turned my hand to freelance magazine feature stories – all the while working in various jobs to support my habit. The next step up was a non-fiction book entitled Battles with the Baby Gods followed by another Take Me Home – Families Living with Alzheimer’s – a long, hard slog!
By then I felt ready to tackle the big one and started on my first novel. Although it took five years to write, The Olive Sisters was quickly accepted for publication and released by Penguin Books in 2005. It was a dream come true with reprint after reprint and overseas sales. In 2007 it was optioned for a movie and I had the opportunity to write the screenplay. Another long educational process during which time my second novel Two for the Road (Penguin) was published in 2008.
In 2017 my latest novel The French Perfumer will be published by Penguin Random House and I’m currently working on my next book entitled Madame Mathilde.
I live in a beautiful part of the world, Sydney’s Northern Beaches and have three children (one being my son with whom I was happily reunited in 1994) and three grandchildren – all of whom are wonderful storytellers.