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  • Writer's pictureMaya Linnell

Music therapy, chocolate and Hugh Jackman with Sandie Docker

I always finish Sandie Docker’s novels feeling uplifted and better informed, and her latest book The Redgum River Retreat is yet another cracker, this time shining a light on music therapy and an overlooked part of Australia’s history. As well soaking up Sandie’s trademark warmth and sensitively explored subplots, I very much enjoyed learning about the Snapshots from Home project, which saw Aussie photographers responding to requests from soldiers on the frontline.

I could almost smell the printing ink as I read the historical thread, with aspects of this storyline bringing back fond memories of my days working as a journalist and photographer at a small town newspaper. As a mother, I was also drawn to the thread from the present-day storyline with Sarah and her daughter Melody. Sandie does an excellent job of tapping into mother’s guilt and the overwhelming urge to protect and nurture at all costs. Brimming with rich characters, The Redgum River Retreat is full of secrets, challenges and a hint of romance, with a guest appearance from a sweet possum called Pineapple. Out now with Penguin Random House.

Five fast minutes with Sandie Docker

Essential writing snacks?

Chocolate, and more chocolate!

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

Exercise? What is that??? I do love a good walk along the beach.

What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish (include link to a recipe if it’s an online recipe!)?

Depends on what’s been happening, and I do love to cook – lasagne, stir fry, surf & turf….But for something quick, easy and yummy, a good plate of nachos goes a long way.

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

Is talent a factor? If talent was no factor, then I’d be a musical theatre star. But I can’t sing or dance, so we really are in fantasy land here. If we need to be realistic – owning a book store with a café, that runs a book club and writing workshops.

Favourite way to spend a Friday night?

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a good movie, snuggled up beside hubby.

Have you done anything special with any of your advances?

I always thought I would, but advances in Australia tend to be on the smaller side, so usually it just gets absorbed into the mortgage. Maybe if I ever get a movie deal, I can buy a piano. Not that I can play, but I’ve always wanted one.

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

Usually when I’m ironing or, more annoyingly, when I’m driving the car and I can’t write things down!

Favourite perfume or scent?

I have a really sensitive nose so I don’t wear perfume, but I love the scent of vanilla, or cakes in the oven.

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

As long as it’s comfy. Tracky-dacks and a t-shirt, type comfy. I try not to work in PJs as I feel more ‘ready to work’ if I’ve got dressed.

Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to in 2023?

Oh gosh, sooooooo many of them. But one I’m excited about is The Secrets of the Huon Wren, by debut author Claire van Ryn, out in June. I’ve read an advance copy and it’s a cracker!

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

I’m not terribly quirky, and I’m a bit light on talent… (scratches head)… I make awesome birthday cakes. You know proper wow ones. I’ve done a Starship Enterprise; a Thanos, a hamburger; a Belle…that sort of thing.

Find Sandie online

FB: @sandiedockerwriter

IG: @sandiedocker

Sandie Docker grew up in Coffs Harbour, and first fell in love with reading when her father introduced her to fantasy books as a teenager. Her love of women’s fiction began when she first read Jane Austen for the HSC, but it wasn't until she was taking a translation course at university that her Mandarin lecturer suggested she might have a knack for writing – a seed of an idea that sat quietly in the back of her mind while she lived overseas and travelled the world. Sandie first decided to put pen to paper (yes, she used to write everything the old-fashioned way before pesky deadlines got in the way) when living in London. Now back in Sydney, Sandie writes about love, loss, family and small country towns. Her debut novel, The Kookaburra Creek Café, was released in 2018, The Cottage At Rosella Cove in 2019 (Better Reading Top 100), the German edition of The Kookaburra Creek Cafe - Das kleine Café der großen Träume, was released in Jan, 2020, The Banksia Bay Beach Shack in 2020 (Better Reading Top 100), The Wattle Island Book Club in 2021 (Better Reading Top 100) and her latest book, The Redgum River Retreat, was released in March, 2023. Sandie is also the founder and director of The Northern Beaches Readers Festival, and she mentors emerging writers.

The Redgum River Retreat


Single mother Sarah is guilt-ridden when an accident leaves her young daughter Melody seriously injured and their once music-filled lives silent. When she discovers her grandmother Rosalie’s war correspondence, she thinks she might have found a way to save her family, but it will require a leap of faith...


In 1945 Rosalie is desperate to forge a career as a journalist, and taking photos for soldiers serving in the war might just lead to the job of her dreams. But when two brothers she’s been corresponding with come home to Redgum River, her life is turned upside down, and she flees, vowing to never return.


Decades on, the hope a music retreat can help Melody lures the three generations of women to Redgum River, where Sarah draws together the threads of Rosalie’s past. A heartbreaking family mystery comes to light, and they discover that the ghosts of the past can lead them to their future, and they might all be more in tune than they first thought.

Welcome to The Redgum River Retreat, where harmony is found when hope is lost.


Head to my WIN page for your chance to win a copy of The Redgum River Retreat thanks to Penguin Random House. Simply enter the contest HERE by 5pm Monday June 12. Aussie addresses and newsletter subscribers only, please.


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