Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in outer suburban, deeply bogan Perth. I was asked to leave school by my principal at the beginning of Year 11, and so technically I have never finished high school. I have got a bunch of degrees to compensate, though.
When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was a child, but my first publishing success was writing fake letters to the editor in the early 90s. I was a 63-year-old grandmother, a divorced father of two and a retired lieutenant colonel. When they started checking addresses more thoroughly, I moved on to writing fiction.
How would you describe yourself?
Neurotic yet occasionally sociable.
Who do you admire?
People who manage to make it through life with their spirit intact.
What is the quality in people you most admire?
Kindness. And the gumption to stand up and be counted when it matters.
Where’s your perfect holiday destination?
Anywhere with a view of water.
Did you have a favourite teacher at school?
As I was a neurotic child who wept every morning before school until year three, I was hard work for teachers, but my year two teacher, Mrs James, was firm but extremely kind. In one of those bizarre coincidences that only Perth can produce, I ran into her again when she was a relief teacher at my daughter’s school. She was as lovely then as she was 30 years earlier.
Where do you most like to read?
In bed. Where else would anyone read?
Which childhood books stick in your mind?
The Little House on the Prairie series. Enid Blyton. The Bible (yes, really. I tried to read it all the way through, but was confused by all the smiting, begetting and revenge that was going on. Hence the attraction to Enid Blyton.)
Did you ever fail at anything at school? Or what are you hopeless/worst at?
I failed Management and Family Living, which covered subjects like hosting dinner parties, cutting the crusts off sandwiches and putting your makeup on straight, things I still struggle with today. And I managed to avoid sport by hiding in the equipment room for a whole term, until I was caught one day during a ballroom dancing class, and was made to dance with the smelliest boy in the school in the full view of all of year ten. Phys Ed teachers still make me shudder.
My mother always told me to …
Go for it. I took her advice, sometimes in situations where it would have been better to hold back, but it’s led to an interesting life.
If you could invite anyone (past or present) to dinner, who would it be?
I’d never invite anyone I’d like to meet for dinner, because I know I would spill gravy over my shirt or spray roast potato over them or get spinach stuck in my teeth (see the ‘Did you ever fail at anything?’ question). I’d like to have a drink with John Lennon, though.
What is your career highlight?
Having a girl tell me that reading Skating the Edge saved her life.
What is your career lowlight?
Having a 15-year-old girl and boy apparently doing the do in the corner of a library during one of my talks. Unlike me and the rest of the class, the teacher seemed not to notice.
What’s your quote for today?
A closed mouth gathers no feet.