Catching babies, writing novels and parachuting into her 50s with Fiona McArthur
It’s a big call, but I think Fiona McArthur’s new novel – The Bush Telegraph – might just be my favourite romance novel of 2020. The outback Queensland setting, the strong leads, the perfect storm of conflicts and the all-round beautiful small-town vibe had me grinning (and also sobbing) my way through the pages. As a writer, I loved the shades of grey and moral dilemmas Fiona wove through the story and the excitement of a birth in the middle of the story. As a reader I was cheering for the down-at-heel community and adored the lovely nature of Maddy Locke, the rural nurse who returns to Spinifex to hunt down old demons, breathing life into the dusty outback setting with every step. The male lead Connor Fairhall was similarly endearing, and I learned a few new Queensland sayings (happy as a crow with fresh roadkill) and added terms like mesa (a flat outcrop of land in the outback) and bauhinia (a flowering tree) to my vocabulary. Thanks to Penguin for the review copy of this novel, The Bush Telegraph was released on September 1.
Fiona’s 33 years of ‘catching babies’ as a midwife have fuelled her writing, and with loads of experience in a small country hospital under her belt, readers know to expect a medical theme or two in her novels for Harlequin, Penguin and Tule. A proud grandmother of nine, Fiona also describes herself as a travel tragic in waiting, and social butterfly (also in waiting). She also has a soft spot for photography and nail art, and over 50 published books including non-fiction. Fiona can be found on social media and at www.fionamcarthurauthor.com
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table: The Memory Illusion by Dr Julia Shaw – I heard her speak at last year’s Byron Bay Writers Festival and loving the science of false memory.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I write in the mornings before the sun comes up, so I sneak out of our bedroom in the dark and shut the door. My recliner rocker sits beside the loungeroom window that looks out over the paddocks to the west. I write with laptop on a stable table on my lap, sipping green tea and morning light builds a misty picture outside. On deadline, I write in my office which has the same view but is a place where I know I can be undisturbed.
Favourite Australian holiday destination: South West Rocks – I rent a beach flat for three separate weeks a year in the winter and have writer friends drop in and stay a few nights at a time. I love that interaction with different writers and their genres and process. I also make sure I walk EVERY single morning on the beach with my camera before the sun rises.
What’s your preferred drop? For taste? Red Wine. For celebrating? Champagne. For lunch? Sav Blanc.
Guilty pleasure? Nail art – I know – so first world but Kristie is incredible in what she can free draw – have you seen my Penguin penguin?
Pet peeve: Moaning about others. It’s a choice I try not to indulge in. Just makes me feel bad.
Favourite fictional couple and why? Has to be Jamie and Claire from Outlander. Sexual tension awesomeness.
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be?
A solar powered computer for writing (my hand writing is terrible). A folding chair. I hate sitting on the ground.
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for: Kaneana May – The One.
Established authors who inspire you? Too many to name - OS - Faith Hunter, Ilona Andrews, Darynda Jones because I love their series. In Oz - Marion Lennox, Rachael Johns and Keri Arthur because I love their work ethic and diversity.
Best thing about being a writer? Getting lost in a fantasy world and doing cool things - in the name of research and networking.
Worst thing about being a writer? I can’t think of anything bad?
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? I’m a ‘silent while writing’ person, but music inspires my writing at other times. Especially country love songs.
Favourite perfume: I have this Violet perfume from a place called Tourrettes-sur-Loup – love it. https://www.france-voyage.com/tourism/tourrettes-loup-11.htm
TV/film crush: A young Clint Eastwood or Brad Pitt – but Geena Davis in Long Kiss Goodnight – I wanted to be her and have her skill set.
The best non-writing related prize I won was… my tennis trophy as I sucked so bad when I first started.
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
Five hundred words a day – a big book in six months or two small ones.
Believe you will make your dream come true.
Keep reading across genres, it’s fun.
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing? The strength in women and kindness is everywhere.
Proudest author moment? First book – how can you beat that first book published? And first Penguin book published because a PRH editor actually flew up to Coffs Harbour to launch it with me.
My favourite thing about writing romance is … it makes readers feel good and leaves them with a smile.
If anything gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them… I’ll always have a happy ending. And a baby. It’s what I write.
Three fun facts about the author:
I parachuted in my 50’s – a present from one of my five sons.
I have a toast rack from Harrods which was all I could afford the first time in London.
When my husband read my first book he said, ‘Imagine if I’d died and not read your books. I would never have known you.’ He’s very proud of me.
Follow Fiona online