Q1. Tell me about yourself – biography, career, likes, dislikes, hobbies etc…anything you would like to share about yourself? Any fun, interesting facts? Please insert a photograph if possible.
I’m an Australian author and I live in a beachside suburb of Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. We have great beaches, wonderful wine regions and a great arts community, and I take full advantage of having them close and within easy reach. I grew up in a country area just outside of Melbourne and my family moved a lot; hence I lived on a variety of different properties: a horse farm, a dairy farm, and a sheep farm before we finally settled on a small acreage with goats, loganberries and fruit trees. My school holidays were spent picking fruit, mostly cherries, for pocket money (although I didn’t earn much, I tended to eat more than I put in the basket resulting in a few tummy aches.)
I had the usual casual jobs growing up; babysitting, working at a dog kennel, shop assistant and even working in an electronics factory welding the gold connections onto transistor chips. That required looking down a telescope to see the minute transistor patterns.
After a short gap, I went on to tertiary studies and my first degree was a Bachelor of Science, Chemistry. A few years later I gained a Graduate Diploma in Education. I worked in several different government departments and my long public service career spanned roles as diverse as Management Trainer, Team Facilitator, Statistician and Laboratory Assistant. After retiring I studied creative writing at Adelaide University and pursued my dream to write a novel.
Besides writing, my passion for travelling and discovering new places means I have visited many fabulous countries and cities around the world. I keep a daily travel journal and take copious photos, many of which inspire scenes for my stories e.g. Deadly Secrets begins in Paris and has scenes set in Normandy, Nice and Barcelona before returning to Australia. I am an avid theatre-goer and subscribe to the Adelaide State Theatre company. I enjoy art exhibitions and galleries and of course, I love to read. In March each year, I take full advantage of the Adelaide Writers’ festival to discover new authors and to hear my favourites.
Q2. Can you tell me about your work – what have you written, what is it about, what type of genre is it?
My debut novel, Deadly Secrets, is a socio-political thriller. In this multi-layered thriller, ordinary people uncover an extraordinary conspiracy. Their choice is; stay silent and condone unspeakable injustice, or speak up and risk everything. It’s more than principles, it’s about lives. There is mystery, drama, and suspense. It’s a story of fighting the odds to do what’s right.
It is available in both paperback and eBook format.
The blurb says:
Can ordinary people thwart a powerful conspiracy?
Shelley Ormond’s life is about to change forever. Her friend, a young refugee, dies suddenly and the federal police have shrouded her case in secrecy. Shelley has never been bold, but she will have to break the rules and jeopardise her safe, public service career to learn the truth.
Her new friend Adrian, a medical researcher, is studying a mystery illness in outback communities. Young children are falling fatally ill, but there’s no obvious cause although suspicious mining activity in the area is worth investigating.
Shelley delves deeper and is drawn into a sinister world of police cover-ups, organised crime, corporate greed and government corruption. If she obeys the law, the powerful will continue to break it.
The stakes are high, and the treacherous schemers will do anything to keep their deadly secrets. Lives don’t matter, not even hers.
Can they expose the plot before more lives are lost?
Will the formidable and ruthless forces behind the conspiracy stop them?
Besides publishing my debut novel, several of my short stories have been published, one most notably in the anthology, When Stars Will Shine. Two others were published in The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine, Jan 2020 & Oct 2019 and another was previously published in the anthology, Fledglings, by Birdcatcher Books, July 2016.
I’m currently trying to focus on editing, rewriting and polishing the first draft of my second novel, another political conspiracy mystery/thriller. The beginnings of a third novel are sitting in the bottom drawer awaiting my attention.
Q3. Can you tell me about your writing process e.g do you prefer to plan or write spontaneously, favourite writing times, pen or computer, how long do you spend writing?
I’m a planner, although it’s only a loose guide. I need a sense of where the story is going and what the key points are. I use a sun-burst diagram to tease out the main elements, then I sketch out the beginning and end, and whatever scenes are already clear in my mind. Once the writing starts, new ideas and images add to the story. My novel has a multi-layered plot so using a sunburst diagram to plot out all the threads, develop the sequence and ensure the story ties together, is helpful.
As I write, I draw up a table to keep track of the main purpose, information, key characters, and key details for each chapter. My writing process often involves moving chapters around, so it’s important to keep track of the clues and specific detail to make sure it still flows.
I write when I have time. A local café is one of my favourite writing places; sitting, writing long-hand over a coffee or two seems to work for me. I usually type up the long-hand version sitting at my desk and this forms the first of many edits.
Q4. What inspires you? How do you come up with your ideas?
I collect newspaper clippings and non-fiction books. Current issues and the politics of our time often generate my plot ideas. I’m inquisitive and am fascinated by how rhetoric and spin are used by those wanting to wield influence. Once I start writing, the plot grows and takes interesting twists which sometimes surprise me too.
Q5. How long does it take you to write a book?
Deadly Secrets is my debut novel and it took me a long time. I was developing the storyline and plot, but I was also learning about creative writing. The reports I produced in my working life were very different and creativity was actively discouraged in those.
The ideas for Deadly Secrets percolated in my mind for a number of years then in 2009, after I retired, I took some creative writing courses. The first was a travel writing course. Although travel is a passion of mine, travel writing seemed more focused on facts and detail, so I then took a ‘How to Write a Novel’ course and I was hooked. I wrote, and kept taking different courses until I finally applied for and got in to Adelaide University in 2011, to do a creative writing graduate certificate. This propelled me into finishing the first draft.
The process stalled again because as a new writer, I tinkered, rewrote, sought feedback, edited and kept refining for years. My second novel has been a much quicker process.
Q6. Favourite part of writing a book / least favourite part?
I love being immersed in a new storyline, developing the characters and the plot twists. The story is like a movie in my head. I hear the dialogue, and see the characters in action, although I’m more aware of their personalities than their physical characteristics. It’s an exhilarating process.
I also enjoy the research. My natural curiosity about all manner of things means I have to be careful not to get lost researching and forget to write. The overflowing pile of reference material and newspaper clippings on my desk keeps growing.
It’s hard to think of a least favourite part but it would probably be sharing my work or asking for feedback. It is a necessary component of getting it right, but after investing so much of myself in the story, it’s difficult to open up to criticism. Luckily, once I get over the initial reaction (like many people, I focus more on the negative comments and ignore the praise, so I need time to digest what was said), I usually find I become inspired to refine and rewrite. I want my work to be the best it can be, and to be professional, so that drives me on.
Q7. Favourite character and why? From your own work.
All my protagonists have features I admire and it would be hard to select one. It’s like asking which one of my children is my favourite. What surprises me most is how much I enjoy writing the antagonists or villains. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I love getting inside their heads and trying to discover their motivation and driving factors.
Q8. How did you break into publishing?
I self-published. I hawked it around to agents and publishers (the Australian market is quite small) but they couldn’t fit my book neatly into the traditional genres they publish. I’d been getting great reviews from readers and fellow writers for years so decided I’d give self-publishing a try. I wanted a professional result and Amanda, from Let’s Get Booked, edited and formatted my novel and designed the cover and I think she did a fabulous job.
Q9. How do you market your books?
I’m still learning. Promotion and marketing are totally different to anything I’ve ever done, and now with the pandemic, it’s back to square one. I have been marketing through Facebook and my personal networks. The proposed launch and author talks have been cancelled. My local bookshops have been very supportive and thanks to guest blogs, thank you Julia Sutton, I’m getting some exposure.
I won’t get rich, but it’s rewarding to see the book sell and get some terrific reviews.
Q10. What is the strangest thing you have ever had to research?
I’ve researched the Iraqi war, drug trade, poisons and dangerous drugs, mining activities, weapons inspections, oil refining processes and political scandals. They all have strange aspects and I’m sure my computer’s search history could get me into trouble.
I once sat in on a court trial of four bikie gang members, charged with kidnapping, assault and belonging to an illegal organisation. It was fascinating to watch the process from beginning to end (although I didn’t go every day) and to observe the jury, judge, the accused, their family members, and barristers in action. I chatted to other observers (often law students) and some of the police officers who were following the trial. I filled an entire notebook with notes.
Although not strange, I use funny or unusual anecdotes from my travel experiences in my stories and my website features photos from my own travels that have inspired scene locations.
Q11. Any tips for new / aspiring authors?
If you want to be a writer, you must write. People often say they would love to write a novel someday, but the only way that will happen is if you sit down and do it. It’s not easy, and I think you never stop learning, but that aspiration can only be realised with ‘perspiration’.
Q12. Do you think writing is an innate gift or something which can be learned?
I think the craft of writing can be learned. It’s the dedication and desire or passion which is innate. Some people have a natural story telling gift, but like with any endeavour, it’s what you do with your talents, your willingness to learn, and practice, that decides your success.
Q13. Have you ever participated in any writing courses / retreats? Have you any writing related qualifications? If so have they been beneficial?
In 2011 I got serious and successfully completed a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at Adelaide University. I’ve completed many short creative writing courses at Writers SA and WEA (and still do). I’m a member of a novel-writing writer’s group, The Novelist Circle, which has a number of published authors. All of these have helped me learn and grow as a writer.
Q14. Who are your favourite authors and why?
Some of the writers I admire are Elliot Perlman, Anna Funder, John le Carré and Peter Temple. They all embed social issues into their writing and I love the way they can stimulate thinking. I enjoy the multi-layered plots and the intricate story telling for each of these authors.
I also, in recent times, have discovered some self-published authors that I admire. Barry Litherland, Greg McLaughlin, Dominic Breiter, Matthew Arnold Stern and Rowena Holloway are authors worth looking up.
Q15. What is your favourite novel and why?
Wow, that’s hard. I read a wide range of books, fiction and non-fiction and selecting just one is impossible. Novels by my favourite authors from the Q14 above feature highly, but I also enjoy books like Chocolat by Joanne Harris, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and The Olive Trail trilogy by Carol Drinkwater. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is still one of the most impactful stories I’ve read.
Q16. If you weren’t an author – what would you love to do?
At this stage of my life, I have tried a number of different careers, starting with science–based study, teaching and training roles, and worked in a number of different workplaces. I think writing waited a long time to be allowed to commandeer my attention and I am really enjoying it.
Q17. What are your plans / dreams / ambitions for the future?
To keep writing until I run out of ideas and to find the readers who will enjoy my stories. I really need to learn more about the marketing and promotion aspects of self-publishing so my novel can be discovered amongst the flood of books available.
Q18. What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
Right now I am rewriting the first draft of my second novel. It is again a political thriller, based in Australia, this time set in 2006. I also have a few scenes and a plot outline for a third novel sitting in my bottom drawer, waiting for me to finish. There are a number of short stories in various forms of completion, also in that bottom drawer, and I should really make some time to work on them too.
Q19. Can you supply a favourite excerpt from any of your works?
It was hard to concentrate with the fog blanketing his brain. An indistinct barrage of accusations flew at him, throwing him off-balance. He clasped the arms of his office chair and squinted at the red, contorted face bellowing at him from across the desk as a spray of spittle pricked at his face. A laugh tickled at his throat.
Dragging himself up, he carefully moved to the front of the desk. A wave of nausea lodged in his throat along with the taste of scotch. He stumbled and stifled a curse and immediately the tic in his forehead spasmed. He yearned for peace and quiet.
‘You don’t deny it?’ the visitor boomed.
‘I don’t admit or deny anything. This is progress. Sometimes there are losers, but they are…’ He scrambled in the recesses of his mind for some clever, elusive words. ‘Collateral damage.’ He smirked with satisfaction. ‘I’d have preferred not to have so many losers but…it’s out of my hands.’ The visitor’s response, a sarcastic laugh, surprised him.
‘Collateral damage? That’s what you call it?’ The visitor leaned down, drawing close, and stale hot breath flooded his nostrils. ‘You’re a megalomaniac. You think you’re untouchable. Well, you’re not. I’m going to stop you.’
The pulse in his temple throbbed more insistently now and he glared at the hard-set mouth opposite, his thoughts too slippery to form a witty retort. He was bored with the bleeding hearts. They just complained endlessly. No matter what he did, there was always someone ready to criticise or disagree. It was just self-interest.
‘I’m not quitting! So piss off and leave me alone.’ He pulled himself up straight to glare up at the red face. ‘I don’t answer to you…or anyone else for that matter. People will applaud my time in office. They’ll see I was revolutionary…visionary…taking this country to bigger and better things…taking it forward.’ He threw his head back for emphasis and immediately regretted it.
‘You’re out of control. You have to be fucking stopped!’
Spittle landed on his face again and he slowly wiped it off with the back of his shaking hand. The rest of that bottle of scotch beckoned, but as he stepped forward, he stumbled and again had to grab the desk.
‘Fuck off!’ he slurred.
‘You will be stopped…’ the visitor murmured before lunging at him. ‘I’ll make you pay, you bastard.’ The word ‘bastard’ echoed like a chant.
His chest clenched as steely hands dug into his shoulders and shook him.
He jerked back but the visitor’s hands held fast. He almost laughed at the absurdity of the scuffle. Instead, he growled, ‘You’ll pay for this…you, you…’
He thrust forward but his assailant didn’t budge. Nausea again rose in his throat but he was bound by a rough and clamp-like embrace and he choked on the bile. They tussled falling against the desk. He twisted, using what strength he could muster but couldn’t break free. His smothered jabs at his opponent’s belly had no impact.
‘I’m not quitting,’ he croaked through the acid taste.
As his visitor’s grip waned, a glint of something caught the corner of his eye. Then, without warning, a sharp stab seared through his neck. He grasped at the pain, his hand touching cold metal. Sticky wetness pulsed from its base down onto his collar. His legs buckled and he slumped to the floor.
A moan and an oath, ‘Oh my God,’ floated through the darkness, followed by retreating footsteps and the thud of a closing door. Silence. At last, he was alone. The pounding in his ears softened, his strength oozed onto the carpet in a steady rhythm. He tried to shout but only a hoarse gurgle passed his lips. He’d get that bastard; later.
Your social media links / website etc…
Amazon Author page:
Goodreads Author Page:
Deadly Secrets is available from:
Amazon in eBook & Paperback
eBook only from
Apple, Barnes & Noble (Nook), and Tolino https://books2read.com/u/bzoZVZ
paperback is also available from
Fishpond – Australia
Angus & Robertson – online
Germany – kindle and paperback, https://www.amazon.de/s?k=9780648766322&i=stripbooks&__mk_de_DE=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&ref=nb_sb_noss
France – Kindle & Paperback,
Spain & Portugal – Kindle & Paperback
Sweden – Kindle & Paperback