I’m often asked if I always wanted to be a writer. I feel like I was born one. I was the child in class forever in trouble for daydreaming! I was fortunate to grow up in a beautiful part of Sydney, among ancient trees and abundant wildlife, and to have parents, one Russian, one Australian, who gave me the freedom to let my imagination run wild. I conjured up stories in my head as I rode my bicycle around the neighbourhood or lay on my back in the garden and stared at the clouds. Later, as I grew older and travelled overseas, my friends would comment on the detailed letters and emails I wrote them. ‘You should be a writer!’ they all said.
But like most people with a creative dream, I followed the advice to get a ‘real’ job. I met wonderful people and had fun while working in those ‘real’ jobs, but it always felt as if my soul was sad and that I wasn’t fulfilling my true purpose. It was after living in California for a couple of years, where everybody seemed to have a ‘big dream’, that I finally decided to go for mine.
Things did not happen overnight! For the next ten years everything I wrote was rejected. But I persisted. I can’t say that it was because I had incredible confidence in myself and knew that one day I would be published. It was just what I had to do. After one novel was rejected by every publisher in Australia, I went to lick my wounds in New York, where I had accepted a job with a conference company. Writing at 4am on cold winter mornings, on planes, subway trains and in airports, I finished the book that was to change everything: White Gardenia.
Before my return to Australia, I mailed the manuscript to my literary agent, Selwa Anthony. She sent it to the major publishers and it became the subject of an auction. Finally, I was to be a published author. The rest, as they say, is history.
I hear many writers claim that they write to please themselves, but I can’t do that. I’m a born storyteller and I love to entertain people. I picture my readers while I’m writing – as if we were huddled around a campfire together swapping tales. I imagine that the people reading my stories, no matter where they live in the world, are people who love the same things I do – history, drama, family, mystery, romance, nature, animals and triumph over adversity. In that way, I think of my readers as my extended circle of friends.
The setting and historical periods in which I write are very important to me. I research my books almost like an actress preparing to play a part. As well as research about events, characters and the society of the period, I listen to the music, learn as much as I can of the language and culture, read the books that were popular, and pore over the interior design and cookbooks of the time.
I put my heart and soul into creating a rich experience for readers of my novels. It is the best feeling to know my readers enjoy them!