Fiona McCallum spent her childhood years on the family cereal and wool farm outside a small town on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. An avid reader and writer, she decided at the age of nine that she wanted to be the next Enid Blyton!
While studying, she found herself drawn to writing fiction where her keen observation of the human condition and everyday situations could be combined with her love of storytelling.
In 2002 Fiona completed her first manuscript soon made the difficult decision to return to Adelaide to develop a career as a novelist. She now enjoys the sharp contrast between her corporate work and creative writing.
Why did you decide to become an author? Is writing something that you have always been passionate about?
It was just after I’d turned thirty that I discovered that my true passion lay in writing full-length fiction, but I’ve had a love of reading and writing for as long as I can remember. I did declare at the age of nine that I wanted to be the next Enid Blyton! But a career in the arts wasn’t encouraged and the dream got lost for many, many years. It’s been an interesting journey full of twists and turns to get me to where I am now - and one I wouldn’t change for the world.
Growing up, which authors do you believe were the most influential on your writing style?
I’m not sure how much their influence shows in my writing style, but as a child I loved anything by Enid Blyton and then later Catherine Cookson, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
What would you say has been the greatest inspiration for your writing?
My own life experiences. I’ve been blessed to have enjoyed some interesting moments and contrasts, such as life on the land in rural South Australia and corporate life in inner-city Melbourne and Sydney.
How did it feel to have your first novel, Paycheque, published?
Exciting, but also a huge relief after spending nine years trying to find a publisher for one of my four manuscripts.
What are you hoping that readers take away from your new novel, Nowhere Else?
I hope readers will enjoy Nowhere Else as an entertaining read, and also perhaps be inspired to go on their own journeys of self-discovery to find where their true passions lie. I think life is both too short and too long to be doing a job that doesn’t make you truly happy.
What was the inspiration behind Nowhere Else?
I wanted to pay a small tribute to friends, Peter and Wendy Olsen, who died in the Whyalla Airlines crash in 2000. And beyond that, Nowhere Else is another journey of self-discovery story set in rural Australia. I love the idiosyncrasies of small country towns. After school I wanted to be a farmer with my father but, because I have a brother, there was no point even mentioning it. I think writing about farm life is therapy for my thwarted ambition, and I’m probably going to need it for a while yet!
Did you find that writing your second novel was easier after your first novel was published?
I am finding it more difficult to write lately, but that’s more around finding the time and headspace to focus with all the new demands that come with being published, such as going to speak at bookstores and libraries, as well as the fact that you tend to be dealing with revisions from your editor while trying to write something new.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences as a writer?
My serendipitous moment of finally finding a publisher - it’s a bit of a long story. Since being published, I would have to say one of the most amazing things is getting emails from random people telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my book. It’s just so lovely.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Hmm, I’m guessing writing propped up in bed might be considered a little quirky. When I started being serious about my writing I was travelling a little with my now ex-partner. I decided that if I made bed my ‘zone’ for writing I’d be able to get in the ‘zone’ no matter where I was. And, no, I’ve never fallen asleep! Perhaps also considered quirky is that I write by hand - in a particular notebook with a Waterman mechanical pencil. It’s a bit of a pain having to then type everything up, but it’s what works for me (I’ve tried other ways). The good thing is that my first draft turns out more like a third draft with the little bit of tweaking I do while putting it into the computer.
Can we expect another novel in the future?
Absolutely! I’ve got way too much to say! I’d like to get a novel out each year for the next 39 years - that would then make me 80. No pressure!
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