Reeling from the devastating collapse of her marriage to the man she thought was the love of her life, after a late night enjoying smashing all her china a little too much, Sheridan Jobbins decides she needs to do something drastic to save her sanity.
Her solution is to buy a hot red car and drive across America. Hopelessly unprepared and heartbroken, she sets out on the road trip of a lifetime determined to find herself – and ironically finds love instead. But not before she has a whole bunch of crazy adventures and wrong turns along the way. Every woman with a heart and a sense of humour will want to read Wish You Were Here, (part memoir, part rom-com). It’s the best antidote for anyone who’s ever had her heart broken and thought she might not survive.
Sheridan Jobbins is an Australian screenwriter, author, script mentor, script editor, producer, director, journalist, and television presenter. She has been writing screenplays with Stephan Elliott, the latest collaborations being Easy Virtue (2008) and A Few Best Men (2011). Prior to that she was a director of the film company Latent Image which produced The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, among others. Sheridan now answers the Booktopia’s 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’m Melbourne born, Sydney brainwashed. My family lived in Eltham when it was an artist enclave with mud-brick houses and unpaved roads. We moved to the upmarket Sydney Suburb of Bellevue Hill which was a bit of a culture shock – particularly since it was foggy the night we arrived and there were wailing foghorns in the harbour. I was about four at the time and thought they were sad monsters.
Coming from the bush I still find the smell of hot hay evocative, but nothing moves me like diving headlong in the Pacific Ocean. “If I’m crabby throw me in water.” I got that off a greeting card, which doesn’t make it any less pertinent.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I would sit in front of a typewriter clacking away even before I could read. By 12 I was in the grip of dyslexia and no-one seemed to think my writing was much chop, so then I decided to be a spy. I particularly wanted the WWII hero Violette Szabo from the book Carve Her Name with Pride but I would have settled for being a spy like Simon Templar or even Maxwell Smart – which is an indication of the depth of my seriousness.
At eighteen I wanted to be an actress, (if I couldn’t write, I’d say other people’s stories.) Thanks to an aunt (Penny Jobbins) who was a patient Montessori teacher, I was able to work my way to legibility and by twenty-one I was working as a journalist on Simon Townsend’s Wonder World!
By the time I was in my thirties I’d returned to my childhood dream of becoming a writer. Not as the great author I’d imagined, but as a screenwriter of Easy Virtue.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That everyone would like me if they knew me. I even set out to prove the point by befriending difficult characters who were sink holes of need. Being a consummate people pleaser, it took a lot of therapy for me to understand that other people’s feelings are out of my control. But I’m still shocked when someone takes a set against me. I have learned my lesson, though – honest. Instead of bending my character to be someone likeable, I’ve learned to let it go. In the face of negativity, I now employ something I call ‘bland face’ – a pleasantly unreadable expression. I also imagine a spinning force field of loving energy which I use to repel vampire energy. Pow! Ping! Zowie! It’s my secret super power.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
For storytelling: My Mum, Joy Jobbins, was a major influence. She was a busy working executive who always made time for Sunday lunch. Every week she’d go the full nine yards of lamb legs and apple pies. These were massive events. Everyone was welcome to sit around the table and eat their fill and tell their stories. But you sort of had to fight it out for attention. At her table I learned the value of cutting out the boring bits. Making Mum laugh is still my golden reward.
More recently, Stephan Elliott – my screen-writing partner – has shaped my story-telling. He’s one of the funniest, most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with. (Writing with Steph is way too much fun to call work.)
As an early reader: Black Beauty was the great revelation of my childhood. Before I could read, I made my eldest brother, Cob, read this story to me over and over until he was bored crazy and I had learned every word. One day, I was pretending to read the story and I realised, in a single glorious breath, that the black bits were words and I knew what they said.
As a life event: I once won a lot of money playing roulette. I was about 18, and on holidays in Noumea with my brother, Cam. He decided to go to a local casino saying I couldn’t go with him. Apparently it was ‘men’s business.’ I was peeved, got my passport and went anyway. I sat opposite him at the roulette table, and this stranger who was also playing showed me what to do. I put my chips down and every time was a winner. I got the number so many times my brother came and joined me. Everyone was cheering me on. I kept playing until my chips made even piles of ten. When they did I stopped, and the stranger said, “Don’t ever play again. That’s not how it normally goes.” And I haven’t, but the reason it was important to me, is that it was the first time in my life I felt lucky. It was the first time I felt like there was good magic in the world and some of it was for me.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book?
Printed paper books are not a mere communication tool, they’re a portal into another world. A chance to live another life – even if only for a short time. “I read to know I’m not alone” is a quote from the film Shadowlands, but it’s true for me. To put someone else’s brain on – to live in their thoughts – connects me to humans in an intimate and abiding way.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
Wish You Were Here is a rom-com memoir. It’s about being dumped, buying a big red car and driving across America. It’s about how good things can come out of bad times. It’s about a third date which lasted six weeks in a Chevy Camaro and a tent. It’s a love letter to my husband.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
I’d be pretty happy if my writing was able to fill an empty reader. And if I couldn’t do that – at least pick them up and make them laugh. I have a genuine ambition to write a soap bubble – something shiny and pretty which makes you go, ‘Ahhh.’ That said, if I could create world peace out of words – well, I’d be right chuffed.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
I’m not big on ‘heroes’. Most people are fragile and full of contradictions, and they’re beautiful for that. But if I had to pick one – I’ve always had a soft spot for Benjamin Franklin, the American politician and inventor. Such a complicated man. A real humanitarian who created public libraries, community fire departments, and harnessed electricity. Franklin negotiated the money from France to finance the American War of Independence – and was vilified at home for it. He spread disinformation and co-wrote the declaration of independence. All that while being a useless family man. He loved in the abstract – but I bet he was fun to have a drink with.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To have every person in the world like me. Yeah. I know. See #3
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write. Write badly and edit well. Write well and get an editor. Learn to love editing. Learn to love criticism. Writing is the one time in life where you can go back and say all the great things you thought about afterwards. Rejoice in that wisdom. And write, write, rewrite.
Thank you, Sheridan!
Wish You Were Here
‘In this moment I am perfect. I am free to be whoever I want, and all I want to be is a woman in a red spotty dress, speeding into her future in a shiny red car.’
Raw, sharply funny and heartfelt, Wish You Were Here is a girl’s own adventure with bite, a hilarious rollercoaster ride that will make you itch to escape the everyday and hit the road with this irresponsible and irresistible adventurer...
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.