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Esther Campion

ESTHER CAMPION is an Irish poet and novelist who has lived in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and South Australia.

She currently lives in north-west Tasmania with her husband, children, Labrador and two horses. Before becoming a writer, she worked in adult education and has studied environmental science and zoology.

Her debut novel, Leaving Ocean Road, is a heart-warming tale of love and loss that follows Ellen O’Shea as she mourns the death of her beloved husband and is reunited with a former lover. Here Esther tells us about the road trip that inspired the novel, the importance of setting in her writing and her love for Meryl Streep.



Twenty years ago, Ellen O'Shea left her beloved Ireland to make a new life in Australia. Now a popular local in a small coastal town, but struggling to cope with the death of her much-loved Greek husband, Nick, Ellen finds her world turned upside down when an unexpected visitor lands on her doorstep. The arrival of Gerry Clancy, her first love from Ireland, may just be the catalyst that pulls Ellen out of her pit of grief, but it will also trigger a whole new set of complications for her and those she holds dear.

Home is where the heart is - but where exactly is home? Can Ellen and Gerry's rekindled romance withstand the passage of time, family, young adult children with their own lives, and the shock disclosure of a long-held secret that will put all their closest relationships at risk?


What gave you the idea to write Leaving Ocean Road?

I was driving through Keith in South Australia with my family when we got stuck behind a car and trailer pulling a rusty old Chevy truck that took me back to one of my favourite books of all time, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. I began to wish I could write about a woman like Francesca and I remembered the advice of another Australian author, Diane Hester, who said, write the book you’d like to read.

When I got home, I started re-reading letters from my husband from a time long before we were married when he lived in Crete. I also found letters from an old Irish friend and began to wonder what would happen if we made different choices when we’re younger, how differently our lives might pan out. Ellen started to take shape in my head as a driving force for the story.

Leaving Ocean Road is set in Ireland, Greece and small town coastal Australia. How much of your own experience from living in Ireland and Australia has informed these choices in setting?

Setting is very important to me. Although I am no expert on geography, I have come to realise that landscape gets under my skin and I have loved writing about the places in Ireland, Greece and Australia of which I have some knowledge and a great deal of affection. Readers who have never been to South Australia, for example, have commented that it is a place they would love to visit, and for me, that makes me feel I have described it well and put across my own feelings about the place.

Are there any parallels between your move to Australia and Ellen O’Shea’s move from Ireland to Australia?

My move to Australia was very different to Ellen’s in many ways, but again the brightness and the landscape definitely influenced how I perceived her feelings on coming here, not just in the transition from Ireland, but in her move from Sydney to Port Lincoln.

You have previously studied environmental science and zoology. What made you decide that you wanted to write instead? Has this previous experience influenced your writing?

My life as a scientist was a fairly short one. I have moved many times with young children to out of the way places, and in doing so have had to reinvent myself in terms of career. When I look back now, I am sure that all of this was leading to writing, but who knows? I take every day as it comes.

What does your writing process look like?

The writing process, for me, involves lots of distraction, procrastination and far too much chocolate and coffee, but when I get down to it, I can spend hours creating or indeed editing. Luckily, I love the rewriting process as much as the writing. I enjoy the challenge of making my story-telling better in the hope that readers will get where I’m taking them and want to turn the pages.

As well as being a novelist you are also a poet. Do you prefer writing novels or poetry? Which medium do you find more challenging?

I love writing poems, but I’m not sure I’m that good! It might sound strange, but I think it’s easier to write a novel, for me anyway. A poem really has to grab me to make me sit down and write whereas I’d write novels all day (when I’m not raiding the pantry).

Leaving Ocean Road has been compared with works by the following Irish authors: Maeve Binchy, Monica McInerney, Cathy Kelly, Marian Keyes and Kathleen MacMahon. Have any of these authors influenced your writing?

 My word, I am in terrific company with the authors you mention and am still pinching myself at the fact that Cathy Kelly endorsed Leaving Ocean Road. Maeve Binchy would have to be my all-time favourite. There’ll never be anyone like her. She was out on her own. When I read her now as a writer, it is like taking a masterclass. But she was so talented, I quickly forget what writing point I am looking for and get caught up in the joy of her story-telling. There could be no better lesson than that.

What other books, music and movies have influenced your writing?

I love books by Nicholas Sparks, Anita Shrieve, Liane Moriarty, Hannah Kent to give you a short list. Irish music would have to be my favourite; bands like the Saw Doctors and The Waterboys spring to mind. Movies … I can’t go past Out of Africa, but to be honest, anything with Meryl Streep just blows me away. The humanity she brings to every role is something I endeavour to bring to my writing.

Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion is published by Hachette, rrp $29.99.