top of page
  • Writer's pictureMaya Linnell

Petronella McGovern on secrets, publishing agents and shearing sheds

As well as a perceptive insight into small-town secrets, teenage activism and Australia’s whaling industry, The Liars was a gripping mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. I’m always thrilled when a book is not just entertaining, but teaches me something new, so I especially loved the short snippets about whales sprinkled throughout the story.

As a former rural journalist, I related to the newspaper’s challenge balancing hard news with warm fuzzy features, and shared the concerns and fears of parents throughout the story as they tried to keep their teenagers safe. I think this is McGovern’s best work yet!

Author spotlight with Petronella McGovern

Do you have a good luck charm or a special token that sits on your desk/in your office?

I have three beautiful glass paperweights, one from Mum which she bought in Venice and the others from friends. They’re all blues and greens, and staring into them is like looking underwater in the ocean.

Favourite exercise to counteract all the hours sitting at the keyboard?

My bouncy black Labrador, Oakley, is very insistent about her walks so I take her into the bush near our house every day and down to the beach on weekends. My favourite exercise is bushwalking but I’m also getting back into swimming (an inside pool for the winter months!).

What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish?

I could eat Thai green curry every night but my daughter prefers tacos, so we have those two meals most weeks. In lockdown, my husband was working from home and he loves cooking, so we had lots of delicious dishes. And now, both of our teenagers enjoy cooking, which is great because we’re a family who loves eating!

Which career would you choose if money wasn’t a factor and writing wasn’t an option?

I love hearing about people’s lives so I’d have to choose between being a talk-show host like Oprah or a psychologist or a private investigator. It would depend on how many secrets I want to learn!

Chocolate, potato chips or cheese?

Oops, I’m eating potato chips right now but I love stinky blue cheese and dark chocolate. When I’m editing a book, I need home-cooked popcorn topped with fennel seeds, salt and pepper.

Have you done anything special with any of your advances?

With my advance for Six Minutes, I bought a silver watch. The symbolism made me laugh as it had taken me many years to get published and I kept thinking ‘the clock is ticking’. And of course, the book was called Six Minutes and time is an important factor in the story!

Spot where you seem to get the best bursts of inspiration?

The shower always seems a good place for working out plot issues! I also find inspiration arrives when I’m alone in the car, driving any distance.

Agent or no agent?

While I had two non-fiction books published without an agent, my novels kept getting rejected. After I signed with an agent, he achieved cut-through for me and suddenly, publishers were interested in Six Minutes.

Do you have a writing ‘uniform’ (mine’s big earrings, cardigan and jeans)?

My most creative time is early morning before the rest of the family is awake, so I’m writing in my pyjamas then! Jeans are my favourite uniform for writing and for life generally.

Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to in 2022?

That’s a hard question—there are so many great books coming out all the time! I just enjoyed a preview copy of a delightful debut, Terms of Inheritance, by Michelle Upton which will be published in November. I always love Sally Hepworth’s books and she has a new one this year. And Jane Harper too! And I need to catch up on all the books that I’ve been meaning to read this year.

Best one-line sentence from one of your book reviews?

Such a clever book!! I take my hat off to an author who can draw me in and then shock me halfway through to make me think “hang on – what’s happening?”

I love reading and writing books which take unexpected paths so it’s exciting when my readers feel the same way.

Share a quirky habit or something readers might be surprised to discover about you.

I was married in the shearing shed on my parents’ farm with my sister doing a trapeze act while we signed the registry. My husband’s English family and friends were a little shocked by it all. (And the entrée of kangaroo!) We’d planned to have the ceremony outside under the willow trees but unexpected storms meant a very fast clean-up of the old shed. My city friends said it smelt strongly of sheep—we were having such a wonderful time that we didn’t notice.

Where can people find you online?

Meet the author

Petronella McGovern's books have been described as domestic noir and psychological suspense. With strong characters and gripping storylines, her novels will keep you reading – and guessing – late into the night. Petronella grew up in a large family on a farm in the Central West region of New South Wales. After travelling, then working in Canberra for a number of years, she now lives on Sydney's northern beaches with her husband and their two teenagers. Petronella's bestselling debut novel, Six Minutes, was shortlisted for the Australian Crime Writers' Association's Ned Kelly Awards and longlisted for the Australian Independent Bookseller's Indie Book Awards. Her second novel, The Good Teacher, was longlisted for the Davitt Awards. The Liars is her third novel.

The Liars

A wife burning with resentment. A husband hiding the past. Their teenage daughter crusading for the truth. Who can we trust? The close-knit community of Kinton Bay is shocked when fifteen-year-old Siena Britton makes a grisly discovery near a cave in the national park. Siena believes it's a skull from the town's violent colonial past and posts a video which hits the news headlines. But her parents, Meri and Rollo, think the skull is related to their teenage parties in the Killing Cave back in the 1990s. And a school mate who went missing then. None of them foresees the dangers that the discovery will create for their family. The dangers of past deceits, silences and lies that have never been resolved. The Liars is a heart-stopping cocktail of family secrets, sinister unsolved disappearances and a community at war with itself.


Head to the WIN page for your chance to win a copy of The Liars, thanks to Allen & Unwin. Simply enter the contest HERE by 5pm Sunday September 11. Aussie addresses and newsletter subscribers only, please.


bottom of page