Thursday 29 April 2021

Why I Write What I Write

Many years ago I told my friends that I wanted to write a romance and be published by Mills and Boon. Their eyes widened in disbelief. I drafted a few stories and even submitted one manuscript to M&B in London. I received a message that they liked my writing 'voice' but the storyline didn't suit them. My story didn't fit a genre where you must meet a hunky hero on page one and something 'sparks' between the hero and heroine but they have to overcome various stumbling blocks before they reach their happy-ever-after ending. 

M&B enclosed a 'With Compliments' slip for me to attach to my next submission - which I never made. I realised I didn't want to write that kind of story. I began a long journey as a non-fiction writer (as Louise Wilson) of family history, still writing about how people got together but trying to understand the actual lives they'd led, not a made-up life. 

Writing non-fiction can be quite constraining - the facts and nothing but the facts - and eventually I broke free and completed a novel, 'Retreat into Paradise'. It honoured a promise I once made to an old neighbour, who taught me all I know about farming, that I would write a book about her. 

Then I wrote a second novel, 'Trading Secrets', drawing on my experiences in the financial markets.

I wondered - of all the possible novels I might have written, why did I choose to write those particular stories? Working on my third novel 'Still Waters Run Deep', my themes became clearer to me. Why I feel compelled to write what I write is beginning to make sense. 

My books are slowly revealing, to me, what's been important to me in my own life. As a Baby Boomer, the eldest of four girls, a student at an all-girls high school, a university student in a predominantly-male faculty and the ex-wife of three different men, feminist issues naturally attract me. So do the struggles of being taken seriously at work and trying to combine work with marriage and motherhood. Plus infertility problems, family dramas, managing as a single parent with a full-time career. I'm fascinated by people who don't fit the mold - nerdy people, serious people, loners, introverts, people lacking in confidence, confident men with power or influence who are trying to achieve something of value in their lives. Moral choices. 

The ambience of 'place' is important to me too. All the lovely harbourside suburbs of Sydney featured in my second novel 'Trading Secrets' - Mosman, McMahons Pt, Kirribilli, Manly - are suburbs where I've had homes at different times in my life.  Five adventurous years in PNG remain a highlight of my life.

I love a good story but I hope my novels - women's fiction - show the benefit of having many decades of life experience to call upon as an author. As an example, consider this article published in 'Bank Notes' in 1966. After I did the Leaving Certificate in 1962 and won a Commonwealth Scholarship to attend the University of Sydney, the Commonwealth Bank advertised for 'boys interested in a career in banking'. Aged sixteen, I rang the bank and said 'what about girls?' At the next Board meeting the directors agreed that, indeed, girls could aspire to a professional career in banking. Thus, in 1963, I entered the man's world partially described in 'Trading Secrets', which is set in the mid 1990s, well after my time working in Sydney's financial markets! Can't believe it was so long ago.

I'd love to know what you think of my books - there are more details on my website or follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

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