Fleur McDonald, author Blue Skies and Red Dust, stops to chat.

by |July 8, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru chats with

Fleur McDonald

author Blue Skies and Red Dust


1. Congratulations on the success of both Red Dust and Blue Skies. What is next for Fleur McDonald?

Thank you! I’ve just handed in Purple Roads, so I’m waiting for (and hiding from) the edits! But I must admit I love the editing process. All the hard work of the storyline is done and it’s just a matter of tweaking everything. There’s always heaps of modifications and adjusting, which means when I get the MS back, there’s loads of red pen…

I don’t like red pen.

Other than that, I’m thinking about Silver Gums, which is due out in 2013. As my ten year old son said to me a few days ago, ‘you can’t write it unless you’ve got main characters and ideas, Mum!’ Very true, so I best get my thinking cap on!

2. Your novels have been compared with the work of Rachael Treasure and Fiona Palmer who are associated with the booming Rural Lit, or Outback Romance genre – yet, your books aren’t straight romance, are they? How do you describe them?credit Marni Topping

No, I don’t think there is much romance in them at all. I find it hard to understand how one kiss can be tagged like that, but hey! If that’s what my readers take away with them, that’s great.

I hope there is enough mystery and intrigue in my books, that the relationships between the main characters are only part of the sub-plot not the main story. You see, I love crime and mystery books and that’s what I want to write.

3. You live and work on the land. Between bouts of writing you’re out and about on the farm. Needless to say the land plays a big part in your work. What is one thing the land has taught you that you’d never have learnt living in the city?

That’s a really hard question, because there are many things I love about the city, that I can’t get in the country – musicals, theatre and all those sorts of things.

When Anthony and I first bought our farm, we moved into a little hut that didn’t have a septic or power. I think we were able to afford a loo eight months after we moved in, but the power didn’t come until about five years later. I guess that taught me the value of money, because we didn’t have any and maybe the value of believing in your ultimate goal. Anthony and I were going to farm no matter what was thrown at us, so we put up with anything that was slightly uncomfortable to get where we wanted to be.

4. Your novels have an engaging ring of truth to them. How much of yourself, do you put into your novels?

Most things my characters feel or see, I have, when it comes to the physical aspect of farming or the landscape. If I describe a fire, it’s because I’ve seen and been there, so I hope there is a lot of truth in settings of my books.

However, we haven’t ever (hopefully never) experienced stock stealing, (although with sheep prices as high as they are now, there is heaps going on in WA) nor have I had a relative I didn’t know I had, appear. That’s not to say it can’t happen!

5. Juggling your duties on the farm and the deadlines of the writing life must be difficult. How do you manage? Are you a writer who farms or a farmer who writes?

I am a farmer who has a family, a farm and writes! Mostly in that order. I have spent most of my time, leading up to the deadline of Purple Roads, standing in the sheep yards, when I should have been editing or reading it. There were a few moments that I panicked and I didn’t think I would make the deadline, because the farm and family has to come first, but all it meant was I had to juggle things a bit more to get finished.

6. Has writing brought anything unexpected into your life?

The pleasure and self confidence it’s brought me has been incredible. I said in your Ten Terrifying Questions that I never had a lot of belief in myself, although I still get petrified someone won’t like what I do, I have enough strength these days to shrug and say, okay, that’s fine.

The people I’ve met throughout the whole process, whether it’s been through Allen and Unwin, other authors or readers, has just been brilliant and I treasure all the new friendships I’ve made.

7. Where do you think (or hope) your writing will take you in the future?

I have no idea. I wonder how long the Rural Lit bubble can go along for! But you know, if it bursts tomorrow, I’ll be thankful that I had a ride.

But I also hope that I can tailor my writing to what might be ‘timeless books’ like the Rachael Treasure’s of the world.

Fleur, it’s been lovely chatting. Thank you.

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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.

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  • July 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Great interview Fleur, very inspirational (can’t believe you’re onto your fourth book already).

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