- To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra, but when I was a toddler my family moved to Werribee – an outer western suburb – and I spent all of my childhood there. Back then living in Werribee was like living in a country town. We were miles from the city and the public transport situation was dire. In many ways it was an idyllic childhood for a dreamer like me. I spent lots of time making up stories for myself and playing creative games with my best friend.
- What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be a writer and I desperately wanted live in New York.
At eighteen I wanted to be a human rights lawyer, but I didn’t get the marks I needed to get into the course I wanted. Instead I started an arts/law degree majoring in journalism and commercial law. This didn’t turn out to be very successful. I dropped out and worked in a bank for a while before eventually going back to uni to study teaching.
At thirty I was a new mother and all I wanted was a decent night’s sleep. My first child had a lot of health problems so I was forced out of the workforce for a few years. It was during this time at home that I began to scribble and once again dream of becoming a writer.
- What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I still have the same core values I had when I was eighteen. I was probably more optimistic back then that we would one day live in an equitable society free from prejudice of any kind. These days I’m a lot more cynical.
- What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Visual art: This is such a difficult question as I’ve been influenced by many artworks throughout my life, it’s impossible to pick just one. I’m a big fan of the Impressionists, and post-impressionists like Van Gogh. Impressionist art reminds me that perfection is overrated and that the best art embraces experimentation and innovation.
Book: Again there are so many. Many childhood books had an influence on me – Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie and Seven Little Australians. As a child I loved books where I could imagine myself as the main protagonist, even if the book was set in another country or time period. The authors of these books created such relatable characters for me and that’s what I aim to do in my work. I want to write characters that make readers think, “That could be me.”
Music: I admire a lot of songwriters and a lot of bands. I’m always amazed at the ability of writers such as Paul Kelly and Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla and Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie) for their amazing ability to tell complex stories concisely. Some of the lyrics from Death Cab for Cutie songs directly influenced my work in The Shape of Us. On a personal level, I Love It, by The Hilltop Hoods continues to inspire me. I think it speaks to the western suburbs kid inside of me.
- Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I’m not good at anything else! If I could choose, I would love to be a musician and songwriter. I love music and am inspired by my favourite artists. In the mornings when I go for my run I turn up the volume and fantasise about being a rock star. Sadly I can’t play any instruments and my singing is woeful.
- Please tell us about your latest novel
The Shape of Us is a story about female friendship. It tells the story of Mezz, Kat, Jewels and Ellie, four women who meet in an online weight loss forum. Initially, a common goal accelerates their friendship. They soon find themselves sharing their innermost secrets. But when each woman sets upon a different weight loss path—some with greater success than others—the friendship bonds are tested.
- What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
If there’s one message I’d like readers to take away from this particular book it’s to love the skin they’re in. We are all so much more than numbers on a scale and when we tie our self-worth to such arbitrary measures we cheat ourselves – not just as individuals but also as a society.
- Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I am in awe of Geraldine Brooks. I love all her work, both fiction and non-fiction, and am just blown away by her talent. I also greatly admire the work of Liane Moriarty. Her books are so accessible but at the same time there is such depth and complexity to them. Her characters always stay with me for a long time after I’ve finished reading. Christos Tsiolkas’ work also really resonates with me.
- Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My goal is always just to finish the next novel!
- What advice do you give aspiring writers?
I have two pieces of advice.
– 1. Write. So many aspiring writers put writing at the bottom of their to-do list. If you want to be published you must make writing a priority.
– 2. Read. Reading is as much a part of being a writer as writing is. Read widely and outside your genre. Read for pleasure and for purpose. Analyse the books you love, but also allow yourself time to simply get lost in the joy of reading.
*Republished interview with Booktopia