Frequently asked questions
Why did you become a writer?
I’ve always been an observer. As a child, I watched the world from far. I was shy and scared to raise my voice. As I got older, I fell in love with books and suddenly my life extended beyond one Melbourne suburb to the rest of the world. Books made me love, laugh, cry and question things. They inspired me to write and create worlds, characters and diverse voices. Writing is my way of being part of something bigger. It is freedom and expression, a way for me to articulate the things that bug me, that make me happy, that fascinate and move me, that confuse and challenge me.
What are you inspired to write and why?
Inspiration is a funny thing. I used to think that I could lure inspiration with a neat desk and incense, and wasted a lot of precious hours staring at an empty page waiting for it to arrive. Turns out, inspiration is not a magic wand but hard work. It’s about sitting in front of a laptop screen, putting one word in front of another and tracking a story like a bloodhound. Words, feelings, events, moments, anything and everything has potential to be a story. I write stories about love, friendship, courage, loneliness, identity and belonging. The human experience, raw, honest and real.
Describe your writing process…
My process has changed so much over the years. I used to be able to light incense, meditate, and then float into writing land high on coffee and chocolate. After having a child, however, finding time is the biggest challenge. I write when Zara is sleeping, watching The Wiggles, when she’s eating...in whatever scrap of time I can find. I write hunched in front of my laptop. I’m not proud of it and often wrestle with the knots on my neck and shoulders but it’s worth it when a blank page starts breathing through a character, a place, a mood, an emotion...
What’s the hardest part of writing?
Rejection. Living on Hope Street is my third novel but the first to receive a publishing contract. My first novel Orayt? was shortlisted for the 2008 Australian Vogel Literary Awards and validated my work as a writer. It wasn’t ready for publication and I didn’t know how to make it better. My second novel Road from Santa Fe was stronger but lacked a solid plot. It took me twelve years of writing to achieve publication for a novel. Each rejection was a stepping-stone to publication. They made me more disciplined, patient, sharpened my skills and taught me to never to take no for an answer.
How did you get your idea for your novel Living on Hope Street?
Living on Hope Street started its life as a short story about two young brothers who live in a violent household. The story gradually grew into a novella and finally a novel that’s told from multiple perspectives. I’ve always been passionate about giving a voice to disenfranchised kids, especially those affected by domestic violence. When I was eight years old I lived in Turkey for a brief time. My grandmother lived next door to a woman who was often abused by her alcoholic husband. Her kids would frequently come over and ask my grandfather for help. I’ve never forgotten those kids or my feeling of helplessness that haunts me still.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a fantasy novel called The Bone Collector (working title) which is about a bunch of marginalised teens who are institutionalised for being ‘different’ and their journey to reclaiming their identities and their freedom. It’s dark but like Hope Street, there’s light and love to shatter the darkness. And some magic too!
What are your favourite books?
The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth’s Children Series) by Jean M. Auel is a prehistoric romantic adventure that inspired me to become a writer. Somewhere in the Ice Age I caught the writing bug.
Loaded by Chritos Tsiolkas is daring, raw and real. It inspired me to write without boundaries.
Animal’s People by Indra Sinha. Animal’s voice is shocking, honest, funny, and real and he teaches the rest of us two-legged species a lesson or two about being human.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho taught me to never lose sight of life’s miracles.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of friendship, hardship and loyalty. It inspired me to be a better person.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a beautifully written story about faith, spirituality and survival that captures the essence of what it means to be human.