Ali Ahearn and Ros Baxter
authors of Sister Pact
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Both of us were born and raised (largely) in Rockhampton in Central Queensland – a nice place to grow up but also one where romantic advice consisted of “don’t sit on the hill at the pool or you’ll get a reputation”.
We went to North Rockhampton High School where all the teachers knew our mother. You can’t get away with anything when all the teachers know your mother. Not even sitting on the hill…
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be a hairdresser because it seemed uber sophisticated. Young women with the latest funky hair fashions, fabulous clothes and beautiful nails. Even now I find going to the hairdresser to be the ultimate in oestrogen replacement therapy. Plus, where else am I going to catch up on all the Kardashian gossip?
At eighteen I wanted to be (and was) a nurse. Twenty-five years later I still absolutely adore being a part of this profession even if the fluro lights on night shifts are supposedly giving me cancer.
At thirty I wanted to be a published author. Why? Because rejection made me bloody-minded.
At twelve, I wanted to be the first girl member of Bon Jovi or go to South Africa and fight to get Nelson Mandela freed. My parents advised neither job had stable prospects (like that was going to stop me).
At eighteen I wanted to be a lawyer and was at university studying to be one. Got high distinctions in sleeping-in, kissing boys and going to rallies.
At 30 wanted to be a mother. 8 years later, I’m cooking up number 4 and wishing I’d worked harder on the Bon Jovi angle.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I had quite a few firmly held beliefs at 18 most of which I don’t have now – the sanctity of a Lady Di cut and shoulder pads being just two. I’ve learned over the years that lines blur and things get grey as time goes by. I used to believe in God. Now I’m an atheist.
That 40 was sooooo old.
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?
Two books were a turning point for me in my development as a writer. Bridget Jones’s Diary – I think it’s fair to say Helen Fielding opened up a whole new world for us all. And Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie, who used snark and sass and wit and humour and opened my eyes to a whole different kind of book.
First, books generally – they were everywhere in our home growing up. Literature, romance, westerns, dodgy spy novels. Our parents were omnivores. We grew up with no snobbery about books. Stories were just good, fullstop.
Possession by AS Byatt was the first book I remember reading and thinking: oh yeah, that’s what I want to do, one day. Hypnotic, clever, moving. High bar, though. Scary high.
The third influence (again, not really a work of art) was my women friends. The way we talk, tell tales (to each other, our kids, ourselves), the way stories help us understand the world. All the women I really love are one part Scheherazade.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I can’t sing, dance, paint, pot, sculpt, act or anything else remotely artistic. And then there were the voices in my head. It was writing or Prozac.
There was never a choice. I wrote from the time I was eight. I just had to get to the point of believing I could actually write a real book and get paid for it. And that life is too short not to do the thing you love.
Sister Pact tells the story of Frances and Joni, two very different sisters, estranged for seven years after an unimaginable betrayal. When their conniving grandmother leaves them a million quid each in her will if they will compete as a team on a Survivor-style reality tv show, they both have their own reasons for needing to say yes.
In the jungle they battle insane contestants, the worst of mother nature, their own inadequacies and the terrible secrets that lie between them to find love, success and the way back to sisterhood. But not before eating a wasabi-dipped scorpion and a deep fried rat drumstick. Because humiliation makes great telly.
(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb: Two very different sisters. Once inseparable, they have long been estranged after an unimaginable betrayal.
Organised and uptight Frances married the only man she’d ever slept with. But no-one told her that seven years later she’d be having sexual fantasies about everyone from the pizza delivery guy to Denis Thatcher. Scatterbrained animal-lover Joni never knew she was so attached to her kneecaps until she thought she might have to say goodbye to them forever.
After their beloved grandmother — a game-show addict — dies, they discover that they have each been left one million pounds in her will. The kicker is that they can only inherit if they participate as a team in a gruelling reality TV program, Endurance Island.
They can survive the jungle.
They can survive the humiliating challenges.
But can they survive each other? )
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A sense of emotional justice.
A burning desire to read the next Frankie and Joni saga.
The aforementioned Jenny Crusie because she writes wonderful heroines and books full of heart and female community, as well as fabulous sex scenes that are funny and organic. She’s also written some of the best “bad sex” scenes I’ve read.
Nora Roberts – for her discipline, versatility and the fact she always delivers.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To have a retreat in Tuscany where we can let the muse run wild.
And drink lots of wine.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Never give up. Be smart. Keep up with the industry. Learn from people who know. Hone your craft. Write what you love.
Ali and Ros, thank you for playing.
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.