Growing up, were you an avid reader? If so, what did you read?
Yes, I've always loved reading. Books have functioned as portals into other worlds for me. I've always been drawn to novels that explored the times, culture, and values in which a story was set.
The 'Heidi' stories made a significant impression on me in my pre-teen years. In particular, the comfort that Heidi drew from the soft chorus of the alpine trees in her most vulnerable moments when she moved into her grandfather's house. That impression was so strong that many years later, I looked for a rural property bordered by confirs. It was the deciding factor for me when my husband and I purchased land north of Canberra,
As a teenager, I loved Jane Austen's novels, not because I saw them as romances, but because her stories looked at the world from the female perspective. Her novels explored the challenges that women faced in her society then as well as the changing attitudes to relationships. I think Austen would be upset to know many people nowadays had reduced her novels to simple romances. They represent so much more than that.
I also enjoyed writers like Elizabeth Gaskell and the three Bronte sisters. Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was another favourite. In each case, it was the world the stories were anchored in that interested me. I also read all of Agatha Christie's novels.
In my late teens, I was enlightened and inspired by authors such as Mark Twain, Leon Urus, John Steinbeck, and Hemingway. Their stories were firmly grounded in the historical, social, religious, and economic circumstances of the times they wrote about.
Reading helped me comprehend the world.
What did you read as an adult?
I loved quality fantasy fiction by authors such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Terry Brooks, and Raymond E Feist. I was fascinated by science fiction stories as told by Issac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, and Frank Herbert.
I loved James Clavell's novels - he wrote superb stories. 'Shogun' is a favourite. I loved the way Clavell positioned his readers to view Japan from the changing perspective of his central character, John Blackthorne. Half-way through that novel, if I'd been able to speak Japanese, I would have stopped speaking English. The female heroine in 'Shogun' is truly memorable.
Clavell had a huge influence on me as a writer. In my stories, I also position readers to see the world through one or more character's eyes. By doing so, I make it possible for the reader to feel life from that character's perspective. That makes the impact of conflicts powerful.
I was attracted to all of those stories because the authors wrote about ideas, values, and the world their characters inhabited. Stories like that can be read more than once.
I am also a huge fan of the TV series 'Castle' and have all the novels that were spin-offs from that series. Although those books were fun to read, they lacked the substance that I normally look for and enjoy in novels.
Have you ever had a favourite bookshop?
As a child and teenager, I did. My father used to take my brother, sister and me to David Jones at Parramatta once a fortnight (2 weeks) on Saturday mornings. My mother worked in retail - Rockmans at Cabramatta - and it was Dad's job to entertain us and keep us out of mischief.
We used to sit on the floor in the book department section of the store, browsing the first chapters of books, deliberating on which ones we'd ask Dad to buy. Although money was in short supply in those years and we didn't have much, we did have access to books.
Dad let us buy two - three books each on the proviso that we had to read them over the two week period and then talk to him about the stories, ideas, and values in them before the next trip to David Jones. In many ways, my father had difficulty relating to his children but he did share many precious moments with us through a shared love of reading and storytelling.
Those days are wonderful memories. I'd sit cross-legged on the floor in the book section, a book open on my lap, and disappear into new worlds. The shop assistants didn't fuss about us reading their books beyond talking to us about how to hold a book and turn pages. They actively encouraged a love of reading. When business was slow, they would chat to us about the stories they loved and thought we'd enjoy.