Fleur McDonald, author of Red Dust and Blue Skies, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |March 8, 2010

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Fleur McDonald,

author of Red Dust

and Blue Skies,

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Well, I was born in Booleroo Centre, a stone’s throw from where I was raised, in the mid-north of South Australia. Orroroo was my home town for twelve years, until I was sent to boarding school in Adelaide in Year 8. Mum and Dad were fairly entrenched in the Orroroo/Carrieton community and I had a fabulous time growing up.  In a small country town in the eighties, kids could wander anywhere by themselves and we used to spend our afternoons cruising around the creek, down the pool or up trees!

I didn’t like boarding school so much – the teachers at Annesley College were wonderful, but I hated the confines of the boarding house, the city and being in such close contact with other kids.

Fleur McDonald, author of Red Dust and Blue Skies

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At Twelve: a singer! I did! And I studied music and singing for the five years I was at boarding school. (I didn’t make it in that area, but my brother is a professional musician now.) But I think I always knew I would be a farmer. My idea was that I hated maths and I didn’t think you needed maths to be one (I was very wrong and I’m lucky that my husband is very good at it!)

At Eighteen: a farmer, but I was wavering between being a farmer and a professional party animal at the local pub!

At Thirty: a farmer, although my interests had widened. I wanted to be a published author and the best mum I could possibly be.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Mm, this is a difficult one! I’m not sure.

I read this question to a friend, a friend who’s known me since I was nineteen, and she said, You didn’t believe in yourself very much, back then. But, she continued, you’re beginning to believe in yourself now!

Does that count?

I can tell you what I do believe in and what I live my life by – the three ‘F’s’: Faith, Family and Friends. These are the only things that matter.

4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

The Man from Snowy River sound track. Every time I hear it, I get goose-bumps and imagine the gorgeous Tom Burlinson cantering over the hills. The power of that CD is breathtaking.

But I love most music and it’s all had some sort of an effect on my life. Country music is wonderfully inspiring to listen to while I’m writing these days and there is nothing better than a fantastic song belting out of the sound system in the car when I’m sitting behind stock!

Any book by Michael Connelly or Patricia Cornwell – the detective/mystery/forensic science stuff is what I love.

Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure was my turning point. When I read that, I knew there was a spot for my writing. I wanted to include farming, but also crime.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Well, the characters told me to do it! They were swirling around, just waiting to come out and once I started writing Red Dust, I couldn’t stop. The words just flowed.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Buy Red Dust $21.59

Blue Skies is in the same vein as Red Dust, although it is based in a different part of Australia. My main character has to battle through her mother’s death, potential sale of the family farm and a few other dramas. The trouble is, just as she thinks she is finally on top of everything she comes face to face with obstacles from a mysterious source.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope they don’t want to put the book down. I want the reader to get so caught up in the story/plot, that to leave the book is a wrench.  I’d like to think they might like to read it again and again!

On another level, I hope my novels can portray farming in a positive light, help people to understand that this is where their food comes from.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

You know, if I go back to my childhood days, it’s Enid Blyton and James Herriot. I think Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven is where my love of mysteries came from. I love reading them even now – especially to my kids.

James Herriot’s stories are just timeless and they talk about the things I love: country and animals.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Just to write – to be able to find the time to write and to still love what I’m doing in ten years’ time!

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write, write, write. Sometimes it’s not possible to write every day, but you need to try. It’s the only way you’ll get better. Be critical of your work and try and improve every sentence.

Read – and learn from what you’re reading. Why do you like that character, does that setting work for you, why have you loved that chapter so much?

Never give up submitting your manuscripts. Good writing and a bit of luck is all that is needed in getting a contract and every publisher is aiming for different stories at different times. Just because you are rejected today doesn’t mean your manuscript won’t be wanted tomorrow.

Fleur, thank you so much for playing.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • Jane Logan

    March 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Another great interview, thanks!

    • March 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      Thank you for your continued support.
      We hope to present the questions to more great authors over the coming months…
      Pssst…. Tara Moss is rumoured to be answering them now…

  • March 8, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Hi Fleur,
    Great interview/answers. I definitely hope you keep writing. Loved Red Dust. Am looking forward to reading Blue Skies!

  • Tony

    March 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you Fleur for answering the questions so honestly. It really gives me an insight in to you and your books. I really look forward to reading them and telling other people about you. Congrats on your success so far!

    • March 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

      Hi Tony,

      Thank you for your comments! I hope you enjoy both the books, when you get around to reading them. Let me know!


  • Pauline Blake

    March 9, 2010 at 12:36 am

    Great replies, question 7 – I read it in three days whilst on holiday in Port Douglas could not put the book down. Looking forward to Blue Skies and meeting you if possible when I come over to Australia and visit Esperance in April

    • March 9, 2010 at 9:38 am

      Hi Pauline

      Good to know that you couldn’t put Red Dust down. I’ll be away around the time your in Esperance, unfortunately, but I’m sure we’ll sort something out at some stage.


  • Stephen Isabirye

    March 9, 2010 at 3:18 am

    I am exhilarated to learn that your enthusiasm for Enid Blyton’s books such as the Famous Five and The Secret Seven series remains to this day in that you are reading the books to your kids. In fact, I too used to enjoy Enid Blyton’s books, first and foremost amongst her many series, the Famous Five. Thus, this explains why my enthusiasm for Enid Blyton and her books led me into writing a book on her, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.bbotw.com).
    Stephen Isabirye

    • March 9, 2010 at 9:41 am

      Hi Stephen,

      I just finished reading The Adventurous Four, to my daughter on the weekend – it has just rekindled my love for Enid Blytons’ writing! What a star she was. I’ll check out your book.


  • March 9, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Well done on facing the 10 terrifying questions Fleur! Good to learn some more about you and your thoughts on writing.

  • Emily Shumack

    May 26, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Fleur
    I enjoyed reading your honest and down to-earth anwers to the 10 terrifying questions. I loved your definition for how you live your life by the three Fs – I couldn’t agree more!
    Can’t wait for your next book.

    Em Shumack

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