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A Short History of Nearly Everything

My Background in Brief:

I was born in Sydney to a non-English speaking immigrant who learned to speak English through books. We always had books in the house – not always the appropriate kind for a young girl, which just made them more desirable. Lost in a world of stories, I was always a dreamer, even when my life became a nightmare. Schooled in Sydney and Tweed Heads, I completed high school at Hornsby Girls High, where I was also Head Prefect – and was not a suck, despite what my sister, Jenny, thinks.

I started my tertiary education at Sydney University, but soon dropped out and tried several different careers. I was an actress for over 18 years, a children’s playwright (only one play) and an Army Officer in the Royal Australian Army Survey Corp (five years) as well as a checkout-‘chick’, an assessment clerk with the NRMA, a waitress, a dress-boutique manager, a theatre director, a wife (twice) and mother (twice over too!). Enrolling at La Trobe University, Bendigo, I finally finished a Humanities degree with Honours and then was awarded a scholarship to complete a Ph.D. at Wollongong University which I gained in 1997.

My Academic Life

Until the centre disbanded, I was an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Queensland. During my full-time academic career which spanned over 20 years – mainly at Sunshine Coast University, Southern Cross University, Wollongong University, University of Queensland and, briefly, University of Tasmania and Teiko University in The Netherlands,- I lectured in the areas of literature, media, youth, sexuality and popular culture using, mainly, a social-psychoanalytical model. There was a time I even had a national and international reputation for the work I did on popular culture, and I was constantly called upon to address seminars and conferences and provide in-service training and advice for educators, parents, and other professionals within Australia – from Melbourne to Townsville – and prepare papers/book chapters for publication overseas. I absolutely loved doing this – it was a real privilege. I loved my job, most of my colleagues and all my students. I still miss teaching to this very day.

In 2002, I was awarded the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Vice-Chancellor’s medal for outstanding teacher and in 2007, was awarded a national Carrick Citation for my contributions to student learning. Both were such an honour. In 2008, I was chosen as the Australian College of Educators “Scholar on the Road” and delivered professional development sessions and addresses to some amazing fellow-educators from Sydney to Darwin. In 2008, I was made an Honorary Senior Fellow of Sunshine Coast University in recognition of my contribution to the university and region – a position I am very proud to hold.

In November 2004 I travelled to Beijing, China as the first Australian writer-in-residence at the Western Academy and in 2005 and 2007 I spent a couple of months at Teiko University in The Netherlands where I taught international students from diverse cultural backgrounds about culture and the media. That was fantastic. 

In late 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo a series of life-saving operations and treatment (some of which continues to this day). Ongoing issues with my health forced me to retire from my full-time academic career, my last position being at Southern Cross University as Deputy Head of the School of Arts and Social Sciences. Frankly, it broke my heart. But, all’s well that end’s well. I am now a full-time writer and part-time brewer… but that’s another story.

The Social Commentator

I was also a columnist for The Courier Mail for 18 years (simultaneously while being an academic) and was regularly called upon by Channel 7’s Sunrise and Today/Tonight, and other commercial stations to provide ‘expert’ opinion on everything from the impact of the Twilight series to young people, politics, feminism, and the internet. I also appeared on ABC’s The Einstein Factor as part of the “Brains’ Trust” for four years (which was such fun) and appeared on 60 Minutes. I also wrote for Copeland publishing, which produced the “Child” series of magazines offering advice on parenting and education from tots to teens, throughout every capital city in Australia and which attracted over one million readers. For many years, I was also a regular contributor on national, state, and local radio – ABC and commercial as well as having my opinions (hopefully, informed!), quoted in newspapers and magazines in Australia, the USA and UK.

The Writer

My first novel has never seen (and never will) the light of the day! It was actually my second attempt at a novel, a young adult fantasy, It’s Time, Cassandra Klein, that was published by Lothian in July 2001. My second, The Gaze of the Gorgon was released August 2002, followed by The Book of Night in 2003, and The Kurs of Atlantis in 2004. One reviewer in Melbourne, Ray Sherriff, going so far as to describe Kurs as being “technically superior to any contemporary text I have read in the past few years. The research, experience, planning and prudence throughout its preparation have allowed the progression of the narrative and plot to incorporate its complexities organically. The result is a very entertaining, speedy, atmospherically lucid and enjoyable story.” And I didn’t pay him a cent for that! ☺ My next novel, The Rifts of Quentaris, was part of the highly successful Quentaris shared world series of Michael Pryor and Paul Collins was published in February 2005.

My non-fiction book: Consuming Innocence: Popular Culture and Our Children was published to critical acclaim by UQP in February 2008. This book deals with the sexualisation and corporatisation of childhood and the complex relationship kids, parents and all adults have with the culture they love to loathe.

In 2009, the first book in my The Curse of the Bond Riders fantasy trilogy, Tallow, set in Renaissance Venice, was published by Woolshed Press, an Imprint of Random House and was described as ‘world class’ and ‘quite breathtaking.’ The rest of the trilogy was published to rave reviews in 2011 and 2012.

In 2014, my first historical fiction, The Brewer’s Tale, was published by the wonderful Harlequin, under their MIRA imprint to outstanding reviews. Set in medieval England, it tells the story of Anneke Sheldrake, a female brewer and the tragedies and triumphs she faces in order to succeed in a world pitted against her.

Contracted to write more books for what’s now HQ/Harper Collins, in 2016, my next book, The Locksmith’s Daughter, a Renaissance spy story was published to positive critical and popular acclaim. It was released in the USA in 2018 by William Morrow publishing and received terrific reviews. In 2018, my next book, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife, which is set during the Restoration of Charles II, was published in Australia and New Zealand, and came out in the US and UK in 2019.

The Darkest Shore was next, a book set in Scotland during the early 1700s and which is based on the true and terrible story of the heinous witch hunt that happened in the small fishing village of Pittenweem and the women who suffered and survived. Published just as the world closed down with Covid, the timing was terrible…

Next was The Good Wife of Bath in 2021 – my second Covid book! – which tells the story of one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s most beloved characters from The Canterbury Tales, the indominable, Wife of Bath. It was longlisted for several awards and the audio version (done by the magnificent Frances Burgoyne) won International Audible Earphones award. It was published in the USA and UK in 2022.

My latest book is The Escapades of Tribulation Johnson, a rollicking story set in the late Restoration theatre. It features the real-life figure, Aphra Behn, plays a-plenty, the lush, hedonistic world of that era, as well as spies, plots, intrigue and terrible danger.

My next book sees me return to Scotland, this time the Highlands in the late 1700s – a dangerous, tragic, and fraught time – and tells the tale of a village of whisky smugglers and the “incomer” (outsider) who, through a series of quite shocking circumstances, arrives and helps save them from themselves. It’s called Kindred Spirits, and is based on real history (as all my books are), was fabulous to write and research and involved consuming a great deal of whisky – all in the name of research, of course!

Family Life

Some very sad circumstances (my best friend was dying) brought me to Hobart, Tasmania for one year many years ago. My beloved partner, Stephen, and I fell in love with the place and stayed. Best decision ever. I live in a beautiful, convict built, sandstone Georgian house that whispers and chatters all the time (my sister swears it’s haunted – hope so – but if it is, the ghosties are lovely and benign and share the house with us!). I live here with Stephen, our little old bichon, Dante, and a black Labradoodle, the irrepressible, Bounty (the brew dog). My wonderful children – son, Adam, and daughter, Caragh – both of whom I’m very proud – as well as my fabulous friends visit often, and I adore it when they’re here. When they’re not, I write, read, review books, bake, watch too much TV, travel – when I can – and dream. I never stop dreaming…

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