Meet the Author: Patrick Holland

Patrick’s top tip for aspiring authors: Write about the first time you really hurt someone. That will knock the conviction that you’re a wonderful misunderstood genius out of you. Then you’ll be on your way.


patrick-holland300-image-581x445Patrick Holland is the award-winning author of The Source of the Sound, The Mary Smokes Boys, Riding the Trains in Japan and The Darkest Little Room. He lives in Brisbane, Australia.

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Why do you write? I think if you boiled it back to its essence, the answer would be because there is something healing – restorative – about the creative act. With luck and discipline, you can discover beauty and order in chaos.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would be a farmer and a composer. I still aim to become a composer one day. I’ve composed a few little pieces. And I’d have land and run cattle. Or else I’d be a hairdresser. All the girls at my hairdresser’s seem to have a wonderful, carefree life day to day.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? To be honest I never had any difficulty. The first few things I sent out were recognised by prizes and were published by default. The difficulty isn’t getting published, it’s making your work really worthwhile. Emerging authors being so focused as they are on publication baffles me – with that focus you’re almost certain to become a creature of the market. And the novelty of seeing your name in print will quickly wear off. Write what you most want to read. Then try to shape it even more to your own desires. None of us are all that unique, you’ll still find an audience, and you’ll have your authenticity intact.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? That I get to use my imagination daily, always trying to discover something more strange and beautiful and true than yesterday.

—the worst? The many years of watching your friends buy new cars, houses etc, while you, in the world’s terms, languish.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Pay less attention to what other people thought I was doing, and more about what I thought.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m glad I was never told the truth. If a writer truly knew how hard it was going to be at the outset, I doubt they’d start.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Hemingway’s from the intro the The First Forty-Nine Stories

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you’ll dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it to the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.

Writing isn’t violin playing or calculus. You can’t just practice and study and get good at it. You need first hand experiences of life, and the more, and more varied, the better for a writer.



Patrick Holland

The last bushrangers in Australian history, James and Patrick Kenniff, were at the height at their horse thieving operation at the turn of the 20th century. In One, troops cannot pull the Kenniff Gang out of the ranges and plains of Western Queensland – the brothers know the
terrain too well, and the locals are sympathetic to their escapades. When a policeman and a station manager go out on patrol from tiny Upper Warrego Station and disappear, Sergeant Nixon makes it his mission to pursue the gang, especially, Jim Kenniff, who becomes for him
an emblem of the violence that resides in the heart of the country.

It asks what right one man has to impose his will on another, and whether the written law can ever answer the law of the heart.

One is available here.




Meet the Author: Roslyn Russell

Roslyn’s top tip for aspiring authors: Be critical of your writing and be prepared to knock out sections that are not working – be ruthless, and not self-indulgent. Your writing will benefit from this enormously.

ros-lovely-photo-2Roslyn Russell is a historian and curator who operates a consultancy which undertakes historical and museum projects. Roslyn has written books on Australian history and literature, including Literary Links between Australia and Britain (Allen & Unwin, 1997), Ever, Manning: Selected Letters of Manning Clark 1938-1991 (ed.) (Allen & Unwin, 2008), and The Business of Nature: John Gould and Australia (National Library of Australia, 2011).

Museum exhibition development has taken Roslyn to Barbados, where she has worked on two major exhibitions – the Museum of Parliament and National Heroes Gallery in Bridgetown; and Exchange: A Place of Mystery and Discovery for the Central Bank of Barbados. She collaborated with Alissandra Cummins and Kevin Farmer in compiling Plantation to Nation: Caribbean Museums and National Identity (Common Ground Press, Champaign, Illinois, 2013). Barbados also inspired her novel, Maria Returns: Barbados to Mansfield Park (Bobby Graham Publishers, 2014); and Barbados: More Than A Beach (2011) (free on iTunes).


Why do you write? For two reasons: one prosaic, one not so. I often write books that have been commissioned, for example, High Seas & High Teas: Voyaging to Australia was commissioned by the National Library of Australia, which also published another book of mine, The Business of Nature: John Gould and Australia (2012).

On the other hand, I also write books on subjects for which I have a passion. My first novel, Maria Returns: Barbados to Mansfield Park (Bobby Graham Publishers, 2014) was inspired by my love of the novels of Jane Austen and my experience of working in the Caribbean nation of Barbados, where I gained a much greater understanding of the nature of slavery and its immense contribution to underpinning the wealth of many British families, including the fictional Bertrams of Mansfield Park. I am currently working on a novel about another of my interests – small museums and their collections, and the people who work in them.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Actually, I can’t imagine not writing – everything I do, in my personal and professional life, involves writing, including books, museum exhibition text and reports on museum collections. I would be an entirely different person if I were not a writer.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I have to say that I haven’t had many problems, mainly because I usually write commissioned history books, and have been fortunate enough to have had them published by mainstream publishers such as Allen & Unwin, HarperCollins and the National Library of Australia. My first novel was produced by a small publisher, but I have never tried to break into the mainstream of published fiction. That would be another challenge again.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being caught up in a subject and enjoying planning and visualising how it should be written. I have spent many productive hours plotting the next chapters of my novels or historical works while on long plane flights or during long-distance car travel. It is the best use of this otherwise ‘dead time’ that I know of.

—the worst? I’m sure everyone says this – writing to meet a deadline.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not take on as many writing projects at the one time, and learn to say ‘no’ a bit more. But I am not good at taking my own advice – every project sounds interesting and too good to let go.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? No matter how hard you try to encompass all evidence and viewpoints, and how many disclaimers you make, people will always misinterpret you if they want to, and tell you that you should have written your book differently. Don’t be surprised and upset if and when this happens.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Just start writing – you can always go back and refine it later, but it is important to get those first thoughts down and then it will begin to flow.


High Seas and High TeasHigh Seas & High Teas

Roslyn Russell

National Library of Australia


‘The rats I frighten away by throwing books or anything hard at the spot at which they commence their gnawing,’ wrote emigrant Janet Ronald in her journal kept aboard the Invincible in 1857.

Packed in cheek by jowl with fellow passengers and crew, life on board the ships transporting convicts and free settlers from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the nineteenth century was rigidly defined by social class: lower-class passengers dined on homemade concoctions of mutton fat pudding and preserved potatoes, while those traveling first-class enjoyed elaborate multi-course dinners, including fresh meat, slaughtered on board.

Navigating the social mores on these giant floating microcosms was only half the story. Amid the chronicles of flirtations and hijinks, odours and rats, nineteenth-century diaries capture tales of despotic captains, disease and domestic discord. From those sailing under servitude to emigrants seeking a new life, the people who braved the journey changed Australia.

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Bernice Barry

Bernice’s top tip for aspiring authors: I think it’s important to know from the very beginning what you want to achieve and what you want to get from the process of doing all that writing. Why are you writing, who’s it for and what are your expectations for the outcome? I’d also say that it’s critical to listen to the tiny little voice, the irritating one that whispers to you that something isn’t quite right. In my experience, what it’s trying to tell you always turns out to be important. That voice is the reader in you, so you need to listen.

1-IMG_4208-002Originally from the Atlantic coast of England’s far southwest, Bernice Barry moved to Margaret River in 2001 and has spent the past 14 years creating a native garden in the bush. In 2011, she closed the door on a career in international curriculum innovation, as an adviser on the teaching of literacy, to focus on her lifelong interest in writing, literature and history.

In 2012, her short story Mornings Like This won the first regional writers’ award in the Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival short story competition. In March 2015, after 11 years of research, her biography of botanist and local settler Georgiana Molloy was self-published in Western Australia. In March 2016 the book was published by Pan Macmillan in Australia and New Zealand under the Picador imprint: Georgiana Molloy: the Mind that Shines.

Author website: Facebook:

Twitter:  @MrsBlundstone


Why do you write? I write because when I’m doing it I feel the best I ever feel, as if I’m being really me. It’s not a loud, elated feeling like happiness, more a kind of deep and comfortable contentment.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Probably trying to tell stories in other ways so mostly creative things. I love gardening and would definitely spend a lot more time digging, weeding, planting, feeding. That always feels nearly as good to me as writing and I lose my sense of time passing in just the same way. I love teaching too. You see new learning happening in front of you and that feels so rewarding and exciting.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Lack of confidence was probably the biggest obstacle because until that’s overcome you can’t move forward. Emotional exhaustion has to be on the list too. Battling your fears and insecurities and sticking to your guns can be hard to maintain as the months go by.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? The first edition of my book in 2015 was self-published so I made all the decisions and briefed the artist and designer we chose to do the cover, Lauren Wilhelm. Her beautiful portrait of Georgiana Molloy was included in the amazing design she came up with. It was very popular and when the Picador edition was released in 2016 they kept the front cover virtually the same. I was really pleased with the subtle ways they improved and enhanced the book without really changing the content.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? There are good things about every part of the process. Perhaps that’s why it’s so pleasurable. Facing a blank screen and deciding on the first words of a book or a chapter or even a page can feel like a thrill because so many words are just waiting to be found and chosen. Editing what I wrote the day before and knowing I’ve improved it feels rewarding in a simple way. Sometimes I spend hours searching for the right word to convey what I want a reader to imagine and when I think I’ve got it right, that’s a good feeling too – especially if I still think so the next day!

—the worst? Those times of self-doubt are the worst and I’m learning that most writers experience them so knowing I’m not alone does help. There are times when I suddenly believe that I’m writing absolute rubbish. This happens most often when I’ve been writing more quickly than usual. I’m a very slow writer which is good in some ways because a lot of the editing is done along the way, but when the words flow more quickly I don’t have the confidence to believe it can still be good writing. I suppose if it ever feels too easy, I don’t trust the quality.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start sooner. I always knew I loved writing but I thought I was too busy doing other things. A long lifetime of collecting bits of writing and never finishing anything or sharing them with anyone else feels like a waste now. I could have had so much more fun. More practice might have made me a better writer by now as well. I’d also connect myself with other writers sooner. I’ve found the companionship and support of the writing community to be invaluable but I didn’t really think of myself as a writer for a long time so I didn’t join in at first, probably the time when I most needed it.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Write what you write, the way you write it and don’t try to imitate or write in a way that doesn’t come naturally to you. Don’t pretend to be a writer you’re not. Readers will find you out.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Many years ago a very well-known author read something I’d written and gave me some feedback. She said, ‘Write what you know.’ I understand now what she meant. It doesn’t mean you can’t write well if you have to research a place you’ve never visited or a lifestyle you haven’t lived. It’s about writing what you understand and believe in.


This meticulously researched biography tells the extraordinary story of Georgiana Molloy, one of Australia’s first internationally successful female botanical collectors.

coverFrom the refined beauty of 19th century England and Scotland, to the dramatic landscape of the West Australian coast, Georgiana Molloy: The Mind That Shines gives new insight into the life of this pioneering botanist. Following a swift marriage, Georgiana and Captain John Molloy, a handsome hero with a mysterious past, emigrated to Australia among the first group of European settlers to the remote southwest. Here, despite personal tragedy, Georgiana’s passion for flora was ignited. Entirely self-taught, she gathered specimens of indigenous flora from Augusta and Busselton that are now held in some of the world’s leading herbarium collections.

Using Georgiana’s own writings and notes, accompanied by full-colour pictures of some of the stunning plants mentioned throughout, Bernice Barry reveals a resilient, independent woman of strong values, whose appreciation and wonder of the landscape around her become her salvation, and her legacy.

The book is available from Picador: