DESMOND’S TOP TIP FOR ASPIRING WRITERS: Become at home with words, decide on what areas interest you, read widely (not only in your chosen field), and attune yourself to the business aspects of the trade. You might not be able to retire in the south of France!
Professor Desmond O’Connor has had a varied career as a surveyor, civil engineer, senior civil servant and academic in Australia and the United States. He came to these positions from Douglas Park, just outside Sydney, in the Depression, attending Marist Brothers High School at Darlinghurst in Sydney and making his way to the Pentagon in Washington by study and hard work. Between 1973 and 1988 he was Foundation Professor of Environmental Studies at Murdoch University in Perth. Prior to this he was Chief of the Environmental Sciences Office in the Pentagon. His work in Perth has been characterised by service on government boards and various community organisations. He has always had a predisposition for the caring professions. He has been president of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation for the Relief of Suffering, and is a member of Amnesty International, and various government boards connected with the environment. He is well known in civic affairs and as a consultant to the mining industry. He also holds a commercial pilot’s licence.
Why do you write? I have lived an exciting life, and, with a background of collecting boys’ adventure books from an earlier era, I sensed that a gap was not being filled. I felt that I might contribute to filling it. In my earlier academic and professional life I became accustomed to writing technical and scientific papers, so adventure stories were a fairly simple lateral step. Besides, I like writing.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? When I am not writing I am reading history, I listen to a lot of music and read the occasional novel. I do mathematical manipulations to keep my mind in trim.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Finding a suitable publisher from among the bewildering array of offerings on the internet and in journals.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The creativity and the thought that you might be giving pleasure to someone through sharing your experiences.
—the worst? The worst aspects as far as I am concerned would be the confinement indoors and difficulties getting about to obtain material.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would start earlier in life when my experiences were fresh in my mind, and my mobility was better.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I would have appreciated being given a bit of a push to start earlier.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? At the beginning of my academic career (1954) I was advised to develop persistence and perseverance when my contributions to knowledge did not seem to be universally welcomed.
by Desmond O’Connor
This small book, initiating the Australian Adventure Series, will appeal to early teens who like adventure with an Australian flavour. It is set in the harsh Pilbara region of Western Australia, and seen through the eyes of 17-year old twins hoping to enjoy a placid outback holiday with their veteran prospector uncle. Their plans go awry when they unwittingly stumble upon a highly organised smuggling activity involving drugs coming in and native fauna going out. Their attention is drawn to a mysterious mobile laboratory traversing the area, ostensibly looking for gold, but seemingly more intent on trapping small native animals. This seems somehow connected to mysterious midnight flights of an aircraft in and out of the Pilbara. Native fauna are extremely popular on the international market, and the twins play a key role in bringing down what appears to be the first major incursion of organised crime into this field. It exposes the reader to the valiant efforts of modern-day pioneers to overcome the formidable problems involved in accessing the enormous resources of the Pilbara.
The twins emerge from their experience with a greater understanding of the outback ethos which has played such an great role in moulding the Australian character.
The book is available here.