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After a 25-year career spanning radio, newspaper and magazine journalism, including editing two of Australia's top selling women's magazines, The Australian Women's Weekly and New Idea, Susan Duncan woke up one morning and chucked in her job. The decision followed the deaths of her husband and brother. After struggling to begin again, she finally found her own patch of paradise on earth only to discover it might already be too late when she was diagnosed with cancer herself.
Today Susan lives with her second husband, Bob, on the shores of Pittwater at Tarrangaua, the beautiful home built for poet Dorothea Mackellar in 1925. She has now turned her hand to fiction, with her first novel THE BRINY CAFE, set in a fictional Pittwater.
Where were you born, raised and schooled?
Born in Albury on the NSW and Victorian border, and spent the first ten years of my life living in nearby Bonegilla Migrant Camp. My father was supply officer there during the huge wave of post war immigration. Later, he bought a country pub about 50 kms outside of Melbourne and I attended Clyde School at Woodend. I went to Monash University to study Arts and Law but dropped out to become a cadet journalist.
What did you want to be when you were 13?
I can’t remember if I had any grand dreams. And if I did, they probably changed day by day.
What did you strongly believe at 20 that you don’t now?
I was very much a black and white person. Now I spend much more time walking the grey middle-line.
What led you to your writing career?
I became a journalist, which was the beginning, but retired quite young (44) after the death of my husband and brother. After I remarried, my husband told me I had to find a hobby beyond cooking because we were growing out of our clothes. He suggested writing and the seed was sown although it took me a while to realise it.
What should a reader expect from The Briny Cafe?
It’s a fictional way of continuing to share Pittwater, it’s quirky characters and dare I say it, our eccentric but rich way of life.
Have you thought about your next story yet?
Oh yes. I’m already typing. I love the process of writing. It’s wonderfully solitary, thoroughly engrossing, often frustrating and infuriating, but I am completely hooked. Not that our waist lines have shrunk as a result…
Was the inspiration behind your book an animal, an experience or a curiosity and what was it?
I met someone who was raised in a boat shed at the water’s edge and I thought he must have had a magical life. The story grew from there.
Which writer or writers have floored or astounded you?
Oh so many…but currently, I’m a huge Kate Atkinson fan. I also loved Deborah Forster’s first book, The Book of Emmet. And I think Liz Bryski writes about women wonderfully.
When writing, what quirky habits do you have?
Before I start a new project, I clean my study like a virago – windows, carpets, cupboards, shelves, computer screen, keyboard – everything. I also toss out all those little bits and pieces we hold onto because we’re not sure what to do with them. When everything is clear of debris and the space sparkles, I sit down to begin. Which is about the moment that I decide the oven has to be cleaned immediately, or the fridge – or anything else that will delay the moment the first few words hit the screen. Because a new project is always utterly terrifying.
What did you intentionally not do when writing your novel, The Briny Cafe?
I resisted giving myself chocolate rewards (well, mostly).
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