Susan Duncan, author of The Briny Café, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |July 29, 2011

 The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Susan Duncan

author of The Briny Café

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

I was born in Albury, on the NSW and Victorian border and raised until the age of ten, at nearby Bonegilla Migrant Camp. Later, I attended Clyde School, a girls’ boarding school at Woodend,  that has now been amalgamated with Geelong Grammar.

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

I can’t remember if I had a specific ambition at the age of twelve. But at eighteen, I wanted to be a journalist and at thirty, I was quite happy as a journalist and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

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

At eighteen, I just wanted to have fun. Now, I want to work hard but doing what I feel passionately about.

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

I’m not sure whether they fit into the ‘art’ category, but the writing that really rocked me when I was young was Raymond Chandler, whoever wrote the Onion Field (bit hazy on the author and title but it was a fiercely powerful book that reeked of truth) and currently, I think Kate Atkinson is a wonderful writer.

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

Delusions of grandeur? Seriously, I wanted to keep writing about the environment where I live but I couldn’t prevail on the kindness of my neighbours once more time in a work of non-fiction.

6. Please tell us about your first novel…

The Briny Café is set in a water-access-only location (no surprises there!) and it’s about the power of strong communities, friendship and finding the courage to have a go. It’s also about learning to recognise miracles when they appear and, of course, the pleasure of food.

(BBGuru: Publisher synopsis – Brimming with warmth and wit, Susan Duncan’s first novel is a delicious tale of friendship and love, and the search for a place to call home…

Ettie Brookbank is the heart and soul of Cook’s Basin, a sleepy offshore community comprising a cluster of dazzling blue bays. But for all the idyllic surroundings, Ettie can’t help wondering where her dreams have disappeared to.

Until fate offers her a lifeline – in the shape of a lopsided little café on the water’s edge.

When Bertie, its cantankerous septuagenarian owner, offers her ‘the Briny’ for a knockdown price, it’s an opportunity too good to miss. But it’s a mammoth task – and she’ll need a partner.

Enter Kate Jackson, the enigmatic new resident of the haunted house on Oyster Bay. Kate is also clearly at a crossroads – running from a life in the city that has left her lonely and lost.

Could a ramshackle cafe and its endearingly eccentric customers deliver the new start both women so desperately crave?)

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

I hope they’re entertained, get a glimpse into a radically different way of life, and that the book inspires people with a  passion to get back in the kitchen to cook up a storm for family and friends.

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

Wouldn’t know where to start – so many wonderful writers…

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

Life comes first, so my main aim is to stay healthy. Then whatever falls into place…

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be unafraid, never give up and read everything you can get your hands on.

Susan, thank you 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, 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


  • Rosemary Durham

    August 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Fascinating area, something to contemplate when one lives sometimes on the very south eastern coast of Western Australia and other times on a beautiful bay amongst the mountains of Turkey.

    A recent ferry ride on Sydney Harbour opened up unknown delights and I look forward to getting back to Australia and reading Susan Duncan.
    I needed encouragement to ‘get stuck into’ art and writing, which seems so elusive, I enjoyed the live interview immensely.

  • October 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm


    I’ve just finished ‘The Briny Cafe’ and absolutely loved it. When do we find out whether Ettie and Marcus and Kate and Sam get together? What happens to Jimmy and Artie?
    More, more, more please!

  • November 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Hi Susan

    You have a real gift of portraying the Ozzie way of life, language and all. I loved this book and was sorry when it was finished. You have my permission to keep writing about those lovely people who we grow to love as we read their stories.
    I have read all your books, loved them all and through this story I feel your love of the Pittwater and its people. As a farmers wife, i can understand the links you form, it is like that in all small communities and your books illuminate the strengths we can find there.
    Well done and please write more novels, for the messages you offer about having a go and trusting your instincts, enjoying hard work and being unafraid to love are important reminders for the many who have forgotten.

    best wishes

  • Julia

    February 29, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I’m a bit confused which order to read these books in. I have
    house at Salvation creek
    Life on Pittwater

  • Maureen

    April 19, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Hi , I’m enjoying The Briny Cafe, but would love a map to help me visualise all the settings around the bay.I can see great scope here for an illustrator… maybe Ettie ?
    Many thanks

  • Jack

    October 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Susan

    Your books are absolutely wonderful. I just keep reading them over and over again. I would love to see another book after ‘The Briny Cafe’ though so we get to find out what happens with Marcus and Ettie, Kate and Sam and the other characters. Also, it’d be great if the discovery of Kate’s long lost brother was included as well.

  • Jack

    October 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Susan

    Your books are absolutely wonderful. I just keep reading them over and over again. I would love to see another book after ‘The Briny Cafe’ though so we get to find out what happens with Marcus and Ettie, Kate and Sam and the other characters. Also, it’d be great if the discovery of Kate’s long lost brother was included as well.

  • Fran sullivan

    February 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Susan would love to find out about your brother I have had the same experience as you……….you have inspired my writing so much
    And writing my autobiography

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