The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Rachael’s Gift
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. We lived in Paddington until we moved to Mackay in North Queensland. When I was eight we moved to a small town in country NSW called Currabubula where I attended the local school. There were forty-eight children from kindergarten to sixth grade and all in one classroom. We then lived in Willoughby, Vaucluse and Randwick. I went to high school in Rose Bay.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was twelve I wanted to be an architect. My father is a builder and we were always living in a house that was being ‘done’ perhaps I wanted to design our house my way. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a film director and decided to study film at university. When I was thirty I was writing.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
When I was eighteen I firmly believed that if you were married and your partner cheated on you then you should leave them immediately. I did not understand the complexities of marriage. Things at eighteen were very black and white.
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?
There were so many books that I have loved over the years and that have stayed with me. So much so that it is only when I come across them again that I think, Oh yes, that book meant a lot to me at the time. Tim Winton’s, The Riders, has always stuck with me because it is fast paced and yet has so much depth and plus it is a tragic story – I could never understand how a mother could abandon her child. I also loved the writing – I hadn’t known colloquial language could be so poetic and beautiful; it was ground breaking to me as an Australian.
My parents’ collection of LPs was limited to say the least but they did have one Simon and Garfunkel record and this is where I first heard the song, America. It’s a catchy song about a guy who escapes on a bus with his girlfriend to look for ‘America’; it starts out light-hearted but then becomes sad when we realise the guy feels so disillusioned with his world he can’t even voice it to his girlfriend. Mostly, I love how one line can paint an entire story. “I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.”
Breakfast At Tiffany’s is probably a film on every girl’s rite of passage. It’s the pinnacle of Hollywood sixties glamour and the dresses, the parties, Holly Golightly’s French idioms, Audrey Hepburn at her most stylish and the sweet love story are captivating. The film barely resembles its novella roots and is much much darker, but I couldn’t help love the candy-coloured version…
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I love the intimacy of a novel. It’s just you and the reader. Everyone takes something different away. As an author you have the space to create an entire world, whereas many other art forms require a team of people (like film etc…) I enjoy the solitary process.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The novel begins when gifted artist, fourteen-year-old Rachael, accuses her teacher of sexual misconduct, but the principal has suspicions that she is lying. Her father, Wolfe, is worried about his daughter’s odd behaviour but her mother, Camille, will not hear a bad word against her. A fraught investigation ensues, culminating in a showdown on the other side of the world in Paris. The story is about ambition, art, talent, truth, how we pass unresolved issues from one generation to the next and a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they enjoy the story and perhaps reflect on their own lives in some way. What would they do if they were in a similar situation as the characters?
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
There are so many! Margaret Atwood is a good one. She is a longstanding brilliant writer with stories ranging from the historical to the bizarre – what an original and clever mind.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Gosh. I hope to always learn more about writing and life and to consistently produce work of a high standard – I guess that is quite ambitious.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
If you have the desire to write then sit down and do it. Everyday.
Alexandra, thank you for playing.
by Alexandra Cameron
Rachael is a child prodigy, a talented artist whose maturity and eloquence is far beyond her fourteen years. She’s also energetic, charming and beautiful, beguiling everyone around her. To her mother, Camille, she is perfect. But perfection requires work, as Camille knows all too well.
For Rachael has another extraordinary gift: a murky one that rears its head from time to time, threatening to unbalance all the family has been working towards. When Rachael accuses her art teacher of sexual misconduct, Wolfe and Camille are drawn into a complex web of secrets and lies that pit husband against wife, and have the power to destroy all their lives.
Set in contrasting worlds of Australia and Paris, told from the perspective of husband and wife, Rachael’s Gift is a detective story of the heart, about a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter and a father’s quest for the truth.