The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Australian Farming Families
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born in England, raised in a small village in Gloucestershire, went to Chipping Sodbury Grammar School (polite student in class, wayward out of it) then University of West England to study French and Spanish, post-grad librarianship course in Leeds, acting course in London, followed by endless short courses and workshops.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At 12 I wanted to write stories (I loved escaping into a good book) at 18 I don’t know what I wanted to do (apart from hide) and at 30 I wanted to work in theatre, where I thought I could hide on stage. When I realised there was no money or job security in it I became a writer instead. Out of the frying pan and into the fire …
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At 18 I believed love didn’t need words. Now I know how much words matter.
4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Any play by Shakespeare has a physical effect on me, like a powerful emotional drum. I remember seeing people like Tom Wilkinson in King Lear, Sir Ian Mckellen in Richard III, Judy Dench, Cate Blanchett, Fiona Shaw – such powerful performances and such outstanding writing. I also read an anthology of poetry in primary school, called Come Play with Me, and was intrigued by what words could do.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Why does someone climb a mountain? For years I could see that ‘mountain’ in the distance but it seemed an impossible dream, a challenge of such immeasurable proportions, until I met someone whose life story inspired me. I knew I had to share her story somehow and that’s how I wrote my first book (Dream Wheeler).
6. Please tell us about the book you’re working on…
It’s a story about the internal and external struggles surrounding The Burroughs family in North Georgia. An infamous clan known for bootlegging, running guns, drugs, the works.
Clayton, the youngest son of three generations of outlaws decides to buck his heritage and take a different path by becoming a Sheriff in a small neighbouring valley town, but as anyone around here can tell you, Family doesn’t work that way.
Escaping who you were born to be isn’t as easy as it seems, and things can go south pretty quickly.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
First and foremost I hope my work is entertaining and I hope it gives people a glimpse into another world, with a sense of our connection and shared humanity.
There are so many, many good writers out there, right now I’m loving anything I can read from Helen Garner, who is such an honest, thoughtful, emotionally open writer.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’d like to try my hand at fiction next.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Don’t be afraid to spend time thinking before you start writing, and when a niggle of an idea comes to you, get it down on paper.
Deb, thank you for playing.
by Deb Hunt
‘This is a book about the human aspects of life on the land – the stories of success and failure, life and love, of hardship and celebration – and the passion and gritty determination that characterised every family I interviewed.’
Author Deb Hunt sets out to discover what makes what makes Australian farming families tick. She travels tens of thousands of kilometres to properties at either end of the country, from a vast, dusty cattle run in outback Queensland to the wheat belt of Western Australia and dairy and sheep farms in Tasmania. She introduces us to eight families who survive, even thrive, on the land despite fires, floods, personal hardship and uncertain economic times.
We see a different sort of family life, where the kids are expected to pitch in, the classroom is often the kitchen table, the nearest maternity hospital is a five-hour drive, and generations live and work side by side. We meet the French family, whose connection to the bush goes back seven generations, Philip the Philosopher, who by 29 was managing a property of more than one million hectares carrying 20,000 head of cattle, and the outspoken Roma Brittnell, who was awarded Australian Rural Woman of the Year in 2009.
Inspiring, moving and sometimes challenging, these stories provide a window into a way of life that defines the Australian spirit at its best.
About the Author
Deb Hunt was born in England, where she worked as a librarian, teacher, event manager, PR executive, actress and journalist. She has worked with Shakespeare in the Park in London, Australian House & Garden magazine in Sydney and for the past five years as a writer with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She is the author of Love in the Outback, and Australian Farming Families is her second book.