Q & A with Rose O'Brien

Why did you decide to write your book?

My life has been full of stories, stashed away in my mind as I raised kids and worked as a teacher. For the last five years, I’ve been sending them in the form of monthly columns to the Child magazines in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The Beatles song, When I’m Sixty-four, came out when I was just twenty years old, and it has been in my mind all this time. Now I am sixty-four, I’ve put my columns together in this book.

Who/what inspired you to write?

It might seem fanciful, but to me, we are surrounded by stories. They are in the ground we walk on, whether the shores of Sydney Harbour, the rainforests of the far north or the red, spinifex country of the desert. Our stories link us to the land, and now that the busiest years of my life are over, I want to spend the rest of my life writing them. My grand parenting stories are just part of it.

What was the most rewarding part of the writing process?

It’s sad, and a little frustrating, if we reach the age of wisdom and experience and never have our voices heard. I’m lucky that my writing has been published, and my voice can be heard.

What are your top tips for writing a book?

As a writer mainly of memoir, my favourite tool is a timeline document. I drop into my timeline all ideas, memories and facts as they are discovered or come to mind, even if they seem pointless or trivial at the time. You never know what you might make out of it one day.

Which books/authors have inspired you?

As I mention in my book, Sally Morgan’s Wanamurraganya – the story of Jack McPhee inspired me to write memoir and biography: stories based on life. It was the books of John Steinbeck (Cannery Row) and John Irving (The World According to Garp) that showed me that though life can be full of pain, it is also full of humour.

Why did you decide to self publish?

I sent my book away to many likely publishers before a professional manuscript appraisal showed me just how unready it was. Publishers don’t like manuscripts to be re-submitted once they’ve rejected them, though, so I decided to investigate self-publishing. I found Palmer Higgs on a list of printing companies that offered self-publishing packages, and theirs seemed very reasonable and thorough. And so it has turned out – they have been friendly, helpful and efficient at every step of the process.

What do you hope your readers get out of your book?

I hope that when grandparents and others read my book, they will recognise themselves and their experience there, identify with the issues I write about, and have a quiet chuckle, too.

Would you consider writing another book?

I am currently at work on the biography of a brave, loving and creative woman who lived through many of the crucial times of the twentieth century. It will be called The Patchwork Skirt.