R.W.R. McDonald is a Kiwi living in Melbourne with his two daughters and an extended family of two baby mummas, an estranged cat, Flower, and Stevie Nicks the chicken. Rob realised while studying journalism that writing fiction, rather than reporting facts, was his true bent. The Nancys is his first novel.
Today, Rob answers our 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 South Otago, New Zealand and grew up on a sheep and deer farm. At thirteen I went to boarding school in Dunedin. In 2016 I attended Faber Academy’s Melbourne-based Writing a Novel course under Paddy O’Reilly and Toni Jordan.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
12: I had no idea.
18: Still no idea. But towards the end of my first year university (when it was free-ish) I was invited back to my old high school as part of an alumni talk – I declined when I found out I was to be “the cautionary tale.”
30: Still no idea, but by then I had travelled, lived in four countries and had just moved to number five – Australia.
Over all those years (since I was five) there was one constant, which was my love of writing and story, but it took years to challenge my conditioning around writing as a profession being something I could do.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That writing a novel wasn’t achievable.
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 want to cheat and say everything influences my writing – all the books and paintings and movies and music and plays and TV; that detail you notice on a plane, a sculpture, conversations with friends and family, a work meeting… but these are three works that shook up the way I thought about story at the time;
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – to experience story so intimately through character.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson – the wild, wild freedom.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (original screenplay by Charlie Kaufman) – the layers and non-linear way Charlie Kaufman told this story blew my mind.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Prior to The Nancys, the largest writing projects I had worked on were first drafts of a novella and two film scripts. When the idea for The Nancys came to me I wanted space to explore the story and a novel felt like the right fit and medium to do this, as well as the perfect home for the characters and setting.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Nancys is gripping and glorious, a heart-warming novel for anyone who’s ever felt they were on the outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and how we must summon the courage to face the truth, no matter what the cost may be.
The narrator is Tippy Chan, an eleven year old who loves her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early ones where Nancy’s sixteen and does whatever she wants. Tippy wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery. When her teacher’s body is found beside Riverstone’s only traffic light, Tippy’s moment has arrived. She and her babysitters, Uncle Pike and his new boyfriend Devon, form “The Nancys”, a secret amateur detective club.
But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs into something far more dangerous…
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they enjoy hanging out and getting to know these characters and at the end of the book view them like they would a friend.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Everyone who writes, unpublished and published. All those who keep going, compelled to create a story and follow characters wherever they may take them.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To write a trilogy.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Always follow the truth of your story. You will know when something is right, even when the answer isn’t there straight away. Trust it will come (and usually in the shower).
Thank you for playing!
The Nancys is out now.
A schoolgirl and her uncle and his boyfriend have two weeks to solve a murder in a small town style forgot…
Tippy Chan is eleven and lives in a small town in a very quiet part of the world - the place her Uncle Pike escaped from the first chance he got as a teenager. Now Pike is back with his new boyfriend Devon to look after Tippy while her mum's on a cruise. Tippy is in love with her uncle's old Nancy Drew books, especially the early ones where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery. When her teacher's body is found beside Riverstone's only traffic light, Tippy's moment has arrived. She and her minders form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club...
About the Contributor
Olivia Fricot is the Editor of the Booktopian Blog. After finishing a soul-crushing law degree, she decided that life was much better with one's nose in a book and quickly defected to the world of Austen and Woolf. You can usually find her reading (obviously), baking, writing questionable tweets, and completing a Master's degree in English literature. Just don't ask about her thesis. Olivia is on Twitter and Instagram @livfricot - follow at your own risk.
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