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 Sydney to adventurous parents who liked moving houses. A lot. I went to a different school every two years – which filled me with fear and dread each time, but also taught me skills like the ability to make my stone-ground, organic peanut paste, alfalfa sprout sandwiches on pumpernickel bread (mum was a sari skirt-wearing hippy) sound like an enticing swap for a strawberry jam on white (how I longed for a mother in a polyester print dress with no knowledge of the chemical names of every food additive ever created); through to making myself look studious and busy – rather than lonely – by heading straight to the library at recess times (where I also discovered an exciting world of glossy magazines full of fashion, makeup and glamorous advertisements that would have been considered far too ‘commercialised’ to have ever been allowed into our home).
Growing up as the youngest of a large group of female cousins meant most of my clothing came from whopping great garbage bags stuffed with hand-me-down goodies. The fact that things didn’t always fit me held an exciting challenge. With a head full of ideas and dreams (inspired by all those magazine pictures) I always had big plans for these jumbled assortments of cotton-mix-nyloness before me. I snipped and pinned, hitched and twisted old pieces of cloth into masterpieces of wearable art. Thankfully, I was also the oldest of four siblings, so my mother was often too busy to notice me actually leaving the house in some of my more spectacular re-makes. But bless her for allowing me to be so…er…creative!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve, I wanted to be a model. As a gawky, uncoordinated teenager, I never seriously considered I could ever actually be sophisticated or pretty enough – I just dreamed about wearing gorgeous clothes, ridiculous amounts of makeup and shoes I couldn’t walk in properly, while boarding aeroplanes to faraway countries.
At eighteen, I was a model (which I had fallen into quite by accident after a chance meeting a year before) and while boarding aeroplanes to faraway countries and wearing gorgeous shoes I couldn’t walk in properly, I desperately wanted to be a student again and take up all the teenage-only opportunities I felt I had wished away too readily.
By thirty, I was over my first mid-life crisis. I had been primped, preened, photographed, wind-machined, widowed (a whole other long story), and could list ‘mother’ when filling in the ‘occupation’ space on legal forms. After years of living-out-of-a-suitcase – punctuated with occasional folksy bursts of needing to grow herbs and vegetables wherever I stayed – I suddenly wanted to be a suburb-dwelling, house-renovating, dog walking, footy mum (still with a wardrobe full of gorgeous clothes!).
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Everything is good in moderation. (I now believe ‘everything’ may be permissible – but not everything is beneficial.)
Learning to read would have to be the most monumental: in more ways than I could ever express. Books have been my teachers, my comfort and my close friends in the loneliest places all over the globe. What an honour it is to write one.
Becoming a parent was another big influence. Once upon a time, even caring about the environment appeared, to me, to be more suited to the slightly eccentric of the world. That view changed significantly when I became a mother myself as everything within me went into warrior mode to provide and sustain life. Water cleanliness, air pollution, pesticide residues and childhood diseases were no longer something I could justify brushing aside.
Prior to that, my first garbage bag full of hand-me-down clothes is probably what started off my whole career path. I developed such an appreciation for handiwork, detail and truly beautiful things – which in turn led me into the fashion industry, that then provided the opportunity to see parts of the world I may never have had the pleasure of visiting.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
I love all forms of media, journalism and artistic expression. TV and radio provide the soundtrack to life. Newspaper articles inform and update. Images grab attention and sell dreams. Blogs are like windows into other people’s minds – a close companion to my people-watching addiction. But books…
There is something deliciously exciting about opening a book for the first time – knowing you hold an entire adventure in your hands. Books are the gifts I most love to give – and the gift I always love to receive. A book is something portable and personal to place beside your bed as a reward at night, or slip into your bag and take on a journey with you. A book takes you on a journey. Books will never die.
Greenies in Stilettos will switch on your creative side. It will have you excitedly reaching into the back of your wardrobe and seeing all your old clothes in a whole new ‘designer’ light. You will want to make all the luxurious beauty products out of everyday ingredients you already have in the pantry. And the money it will save you! But it’s not all DIY. (I am the laziest DIY’er you’ll ever meet.) It is jam-packed with gorgeously green solutions that, not only make you more beautiful – but will also save the Earth.
I guess the publisher description sums it (and me) up: In an industry famous for having the shelf life of a banana (and some other not so natural practises), model and devoted environmentalist, Carolyn Donovan, has beaten the odds and remained in high demand in the fashion industry for over two decades. In Greenies in Stilettos, Carolyn reveals all the secrets to living an earth-friendly lifestyle while refusing to compromise on style or glamour. Discover 5 easy steps to saving the Earth: In your wardrobe, on your face, in your home and in the world around you. Where else could you learn how to rustle up your own designer gown in minutes – AND make a handbag out of a tank top?
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
We must address our burgeoning waste problem. Urgently! The very basics of what we require – fresh air, clean water, and the ability to grow food – rely on an interconnected web of natural systems all regulating our planet’s climate and making life on Earth possible. When you envision a near future of some eight billion people all seeking a higher standard of living; the elimination of waste, preserving natural resources, dignifying lives and reducing environmental pressure are all essential to our existence.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
My mum was so ahead of her time. Her example taught me how to look at life’s potential hurdles more creatively: from piling her four kids, a temperamental old stroller and her brown vinyl shopping trolley on two buses and a long walk to the nearest library – to memories of her cutting up one of her favourite skirts to make a dress for me. She would travel far and wide to buy fresh produce that was – not only free of pesticides – but supporting the local growers in our area. This was in the midst of the taffeta-clad, spray-everything-that-moves-with-CFCs 80’s. What a woman! I learned, from watching her, when faced with obstacles we either find solutions, or excuses.
To save the world. And show others how easy it is too.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Just start. Get all the words down as they come to you. Don’t worry about editing as you go. If you need to get some discipline in your writing, start a ticking timer next to you – set for twenty minute bursts. There’s nothing quite like a ticking clock to get the words out of your head and onto paper. Read and read, and read some more, for inspiration – but when you write, always be yourself. In fact, regardless of what you do, always be yourself – because everyone else is taken.
You’re welcome. Here – have an indoor plant to take home with you. Every room needs one to clean the air. Seriously!
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.