Meet the Author: Sallie Muirden

Sally’s top tip for aspiring authors: If you haven’t already, do a creative writing course at a reputable institution. It isn’t just what you learn from a writing teacher. You will receive feedback from your peers in the workshopping setting and you will make writing buddies that will support you on your journey.



Sallie Muirden is a writer who lives in Melbourne. Her first novel, Revelations of a Spanish Infanta, won the 1996 HarperCollins Fiction Prize. Her second novel, We Too Shall Be Mothers, was published in 2001. Her collection of poetry, The Fable of Arachne, was published in 2009. Her third novel, A Woman of Seville, was published in 2009. And her new novel Wedding Puzzle is published this month. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and she taught creative writing for a long time. She has also worked for many years as a teacher of English language to migrants. She grew up in East Malvern and South Yarra but she has lived in the suburb of Northcote for more than 28 years. She loves surf beaches, zumba, swimming, reading, meditation, cats and watching Australian rules footy.


Why do you write? When I started writing at 19 and 20 it was to record my thoughts and understand my feelings in a diary. Nowadays writing is a habit and I almost exclusively write for pleasure and to relieve tension. I always feel much better after a good writing session. It is a mental exercise in make-believe, but it is better than daydreaming because you make an art object with your thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would probably be teaching English to migrants, as this has been my main professional occupation over recent years.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? In the early days it was finding my own voice and writing fiction that didn’t sound like Virginia Woolf. With my last three novels it has been the painful realisation that it is going to take many drafts before a manuscript wins the admiration of publishers.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I have been involved all the way with Transit Lounge, since I first signed the contract. I have been allowed to keep the novel I wanted. With the cover a designer created a number of possibilities and fortunately the publisher and I both liked the same cover the most.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect is when I feel I am breaking new ground in early drafts. Redrafting is also deeply satisfying when I see my novel becoming a cohesive whole.

—the worst? The humiliation of a nasty personal review in a major newspaper can ruin your fragile confidence and stop you taking creative risks.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would spend more time writing and less time teaching and not worry about money as much because in the end the writing is invaluable and I can live on a small income and still be okay.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t listen to the stories of authors who write a novel in six months. It can work for some but for most writers it is a long and painstaking endeavour. Taking time can only improve your novel and bring it closer to perfection and/or publication.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Listen to your editors.

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s absolutely crucial to boost interest and tell people about your work. However, I really admire writers who can get along without it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’d call it ‘writer’s time out’ rather than ‘writer’s block’. I have gone for long periods when I’m not writing because I am prioritising other things such as employment. I end the ‘writer’s time out’ by quitting work and getting up very early and sitting at my desk. When I have the house to myself and my mind is brimming with energy the writing starts to flow again.

How do you deal with rejection? I just remind myself how many attempts it took J K Rowling to get published the first time with Harry Potter.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Musical, intelligent, nostalgic.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I’d like to spend time with Margaret Drabble because I met her at a book launch once and she seemed a lovely person. I’d like her to tell me how she came to write her first three amazing novels. I’d like the honest truth about her own life at that time.


Wedding Puzzle

Sallie Muirden



On the morning of her wedding, 24-year-old Beth Shaw drives
down the peninsula to the Portsea Hotel. She is uneasy and
confused because she has just learnt something devastating about
her fiancé, Jordan, that completely changes her view of him.
As Beth’s old schoolmates and her relatives arrive for the big day
at the bayside idyll, Beth contemplates her childhood in suburbia.
She worshipped the school relay runners, one of whom was Jordan’s
high school sweetheart. Painful memories of earlier disloyalties
and betrayals resurface. Her dreams and wedding threaten to spin
out of control. Will the truth ever be known? And must she make a
fateful decision about more than just her wedding arrangements?
Award-winning author Sallie Muirden deftly evokes the
contradictions of human behaviour, and growing up in the ’70s
and ’80s. With its Austenesque feel, Wedding Puzzle is an astute,
entertaining, and often tense comedy of manners, that considers
our choice of partner and the decision to marry as the key
moment in our lives.

The book is available here.



Meet the Author: Michael Costello

Michael’s top writing tip: Before you start, have a rough idea of the beginning, middle, climax and end. Get the first draft down. Keep going until you do. The craft and joy is in the rewriting. Get your novel in the best shape you can by as many new drafts as necessary, editing and polishing before you send it out. Get a good independent assessment, irrespective of cost. Friends and family won’t/can’t tell you about the smallest of faults. Someone with no fear or favour will. Be kind to yourself. If something isn’t coming, let the world turn a bit then come back to the problem.

Digital StillCamera
Digital StillCamera

Michael Costello is an AWGIE winning playwright, television and screenwriter. His plays have been produced around Australia and New Zealand. Of his award winning play Royal Affair, Chris Mead, the Curator of the Australian National Playwrights’ Conference, stated “… rich, intelligent and seductive, (Michael Costello) writes with sagacity and wit”. He was commissioned by Sue Smith to write an original episode for her Close Ups series for the ABC and has received funding from the NSWFTO for a feature film. He is currently working on a new play and has two other novels in the works.


Why do you write? I used to write as a child, and then gave it away when I joined the Public Service. Then at one stage I said to myself that I wasn’t going to get to 70 and regret not pursuing my writing. I went on part time work, did courses, got my skills up and went for it. I have had some success and no regrets.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Painting. Pictures, not houses!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? To believe in the quality of my writing enough to self-publish rather than send off to various publishers and wait to hear back or be rejected because my novel wasn’t to their taste. I wasn’t prepared to throw away the years put into this novel. I backed myself and self-published.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? It is something pretty wonderful when the right words and ideas align. You come to understand that this is why you write.

—the worst? Having to take out your editor’s scalpel and cut away favourite bits of plot and characters that slow down the narrative. You know you are doing the right thing, but it is hard to let go sometimes. You just have to be tough.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d continue writing from an early age and not waste creative years by letting life and work take over.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Enjoy what you do. Of course there will be ups and downs and a lot of rejection along the way, but it will be worth it.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Have a number of projects going. When you finish a draft or rewrite on one, put it aside to filter through your brain and work on another. When you come back to the first project with fresh eyes, you’ll see the faults with clarity and sometimes the remedy is at hand as well.


Season of Hate cover jpeg Season of Hate

Michael Costello

It’s 1985 and Pat returns to his small wheat town to settle his father’s estate. He recalls the events when he first moved there from Sydney as an eight year old in 1955 with twin brother Doug and his GP father.

Season of Hate explores the friendship between Pat and Doug and Johnny, a mute Aboriginal teenager. In those first two years in their seemingly ideal world, the boys are exposed to the best and worst of human nature as they become aware of the undercurrents of discrimination and racial bigotry that erupt into violence. In particular, that one night where Pat’s own life is challenged. The night where one wanton act places the town’s very livelihood in jeopardy. The book is available here.