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No Relation to Rowan Atkinson: Jesse Blackadder

January 11, 2018

Jesse BlackadderBorn: In Sydney in 1964, the eldest of four sisters and a brother.

Childhood: Jesse Blackadder grew up on the North Shore and as a small girl, enjoyed an idyllic Australian childhood roaming the rocky harbour beaches and playing with friends. People have teased her all her life about her surname. 

Best known for: Sixty Seconds, a haunting, redemptive story about forgiveness and hope, inspired by the author’s own family experience.

How many books published: 7 novels for adults and children.

How she started writing: ‘Writing novels has been my dream since I first learned to read, beginning a lifetime of poring over un-put-downable books in the wee small hours. It’s my passion and I’m delighted that I’ve been published by HarperCollins since 2011.’

Quotable quotes: ‘My new novel 60 Seconds barged in and demanded to be written. I still remember the moment, driving home from Brisbane down the freeway one night. One moment I didn’t have an idea in my head. The next, I knew the subject of the next book I would write. I didn’t know the form, or what the story was – that came later. But I knew it was about a family whose toddler drowned in their pool. As happened to my family, when my sister Lucie drowned in 1976. Returning to that painful experience and creating a piece of writing from it was a terrifying prospect.  Not just because I knew it would stretch me as a writer, but because some forty years down the track, I felt I had enough perspective to return to that experience and learn something new from it.’

Likes: Landscapes, cold climates and adventurous women.

Did you know? Jesse’s second novel, a book about Mary Queen of Scots, was based on one of her own real-life Scottish ancestors, Alison Blackadder. Raven’s Heart went on to win numerous American awards. ‘The usual question people ask is if I’m related to Rowan Atkinson,’ she laughs.

Books that changed her: The Famous Five by Enid Blyton, The Women’s Room by Marilyn French, The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, Motherland by Jesse Blackadder: ‘My own first – and unpublished – book is perhaps the one that changed my life the most. It showed me I was capable of writing an entire, publishable, novel (it was accepted by a major publisher). It warned me of the challenges that would come from writing about those close to me (I withdrew it after realising the level of family pain about its content). And it won the heart of a woman I was wooing, who was unconvinced that I had any emotional depth. She read the manuscript and we got together two days later. Twelve years later we’re still here.


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