author of The Secret Years
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Sydney and at the age of four I moved Brisbane, where I attended The Gap State High School and the University of Queensland. I began a Bachelor of Arts degree, which I later completed in Townsville while I was teaching.
2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?
At 12, I wanted to be a star netballer. At 18, my focus was on becoming a high school teacher, although I was a closet poet and nursed secret longings to be a ‘real’ writer. At 30, I was immersed in motherhood and writing stories to entertain my small children, but the dream of publication was still there.
At 18, I was convinced that people in the city led much more exciting lives than country folk. I had the nerve to feel sorry for people in regional or rural towns. I left Brisbane when I started teaching, and I soon realised how wrong I was. I had a lot to learn.
4. 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?
Books, paintings, sculpture and music have provided inspirations throughout my life, and looking back, I can see that my preferences have always been romantic.
The impact of Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians, which I read at the age of seven, has been a lasting one. Judy’s death rocked me and taught me so much about emotional punch in writing.
As a teenager, I was fascinated by Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss, and by the paintings of the French Impressionists.
I love most classical music and I often listen to it while I’m writing. A standout for me is the Brahms’s violin concerto. There are sections in the first movement that literally stop me in my tracks. Every time.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I think this form chose me. When the time was right – and I’d been waiting a long time to fulfil my creative dreams – it finally felt inevitable.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Secret Years is about three generations of one family. There’s Lucy, a female soldier who’s returned from Afghanistan and finds her life at a crossroads, Ro, her under-confident mum who feels she’s made a mess of her life, and Harry, Lucy’s grandfather, an outback cattleman and WW2 hero, who won the heart of a London debutante.
The story moves from the Aussie outback to England and also to New Guinea during the war, so there’s plenty of romance and heroism.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A big happy sigh.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I admire so many published writers. The best thing about becoming a writer has been meeting wonderful and interesting people around the world who “get” my passion.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’m happy if I can continue to publish a new book each year.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read widely and deeply until you find the right kind of story telling that suits your writing voice. Have fire in your belly and be prepared to work hard. It’s not easy, but don’t give up. Too many aspiring writers give up at the first rejection.
Barbara, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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