Author Interview with Fleur McDonald

TLC Books interviewed the lovely Fleur McDonald this week, author of Red Dust and Blue Skies. Fleur’s books are set in the outback with really vibrant and resourceful women Gemma Sinclair in Red Dust and Amanda Greenfield (Blue Skies). Each of her books drew you in to the characters and storyline like you were there by the women’s sides, battling along with them.

Basically, I am trying to find a nice way of saying that they suck you in and have you staying up way later than you should to finish them.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as we and Fleur did, and I think we should all encourage her to stop playing around on the net and finish her third book! (just kidding Fleur) (kind of).

First, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well, first and foremost I’m a wife to Anthony and Mum to two gorgeous, active kids. Rochelle is eleven and Hayden’s ten. He‘s just been diagnosed with autism, so that presents us with lots of challenges.

Secondly I’m a farmer or at least a farmer’s helper! We live 100km east of Esperance, on 8,000 acres and here I help care for a menagerie of dogs, chooks, sheep, cattle, tractors and all sorts of other farm machinery. Let me tell you, there are times that the machinery is just as needy as the animals!

Thirdly I’m a writer. That just fits in whenever I have the time.


Your novels have strong women characters based in outback settings persisting against adversity, does any of your work draw on personal experience?

I don’t think that anyone, who has been involved with farming hasn’t been affected by some sort of crisis, at some point in their career. So yes, I can write with authority about farms, nature and pretty much anything to do with our environment. I know how soul destroying it is to feed animals in a drought, put up with floods, pests, diseases and whatever else Mother Nature wants to throw at us. To able to share this with people who aren’t in our industry, gives me awesome amounts of pleasure.

However, my characters are much stronger than me – if half of the things I threw at them, I’d experienced in real life, I would have been running for the door.


What’s the biggest obstacle you face when writing? That is, what gives you the most trouble?

The time factor, is my main problem, but in terms of actual writing, everything after about 30,000 words! I start off at a cracking pace, love meeting my new characters, becoming friends with them and thinking of problems for them. I write and write and write… then I stop. And I don’t just stop, I stop for months. It does take me a while to get back into it, but during the break I think and plan a lot. I can often see holes in my story line while I’m not writing and as much as these blocks annoy me, especially if I have a deadline bearing down, they are good for helping me see things clearly and how to make things better.

Conversely, what brings you the most joy?

Everything about it. I love putting words together, knowing that someone, somewhere, will get a smile or a laugh, or maybe cry.

I loose myself, while I’m writing. I get so caught up in it, I often don’t hear if someone is talking to me, or if the phone is ringing. (My Mum said I used to do this as a kid, while I was reading). When I wrote Red Dust, there was a scene in which the two Stock Squad blokes were bringing stolen cattle into the yards, in the rain. I could see everything as it was happening, in my head and my fingers just flew across the keyboard and nothing else mattered. By the time I finished writing it, I had a really sore bum and I wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t until I realised I had been sitting on the edge of the chair, as I was writing it, that I knew how involved I’d been.

Do you have any little quirks when you are writing?

No, I don’t think so – although I’m pretty keen on a good cup of coffee, if I’m writing in the early morning.

Would you ever contemplate writing a book of non-fiction about your life on the farm?

Well, to be honest, I’d never really thought about it. Anthony and I have clawed our way up the farming ladder by sheer hard work. The first hut we lived in didn’t have power or a septic and I lived like that (well, without power) for seven years. As soon as we could afford to, we put in a loo and that was about a year after we moved there.

I guess I think some of stories are interesting to our families, but maybe not so much to the general public.

With your blog and being on twitter @fleurmcdonald, do you get a lot of feedback from your readers?

Yes, I do. I love hearing from people, especially if they’ve enjoyed the book and I always try and respond, even to the negative responses.

And if so, do you let it affect your writing?

Yeah, it can. I have been known to use up all the writing time, I’ve allocated for a day, on the internet. I’ve now started writing in the spare room, on my laptop, that doesn’t have access to the internet and I still write at my accountants office, for two hours every week and the girls there love making sure I’m not anywhere near the social networking sites! They’re always checking on me.

Do you have a favourite character?

Actually I do – an neither of them are main characters! I loved Jess and Dave Burrows, from Red Dust. It seems as I get older, the gorgeous male characters in their forties have an appeal to me! (Never thought I’d be old enough to say that!)

You have a new book in the works, Purple Roads, due out in 2012, what can you let us in on?

Hmm, well, let me think!

Firstly I’ll say that my main characters are a married couple – I’d like to branch out slightly, this time. Secondly, even though there is farming involved, there isn’t actually a farm and there is a Vietnam War aspect to it. Thirdly, Dave Burrows from Red Dust makes a reappearance!

I hope that’s a good enough teaser!

Thanks for having me.

Interview by Tanya Caunce for TLC Books


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