Briefly tell us about your book.
Sisters Of Freedom is the story of the three Merriweather sisters who strive for independence, the right to vote and to live ‘a life that matters’ in 1902. Yet how can they have love, marriage and motherhood at the same time? Set in Australia in genteel Hornsby and the wild riverlands of the Hawkesbury, the story takes you on an adventure filled with danger, romance, tragedy and triumph, and I hope it keeps you guessing until the end.
What inspired the idea behind this book?
My sister used to own the house in which it is set, Kuranda, a beautiful, turn-of-the-century residence that was the original home of the Tillyard family who inspired this tale. Like the Merriweathers, the mother and daughters were passionate feminists and the father was a professor. I loved the idea of them running down the staircase, clutching their bonnets and placards, off to a rally to defend the rights of womenkind. Very inspirational.
What was the research process like for the book?
Extensive, yet fascinating. I found out so many interesting and shocking facts as I went along, including the fact that women became the ‘property’ of men when they married and could no longer work in a professional role, take out a bank account or have any custodial rights to their children if they left an abusive husband. It made me understand that women didn’t just want the vote, they wanted the power to have a say in the laws that govern them. We’re still fine-tuning that.
Does the creative process get easier for you with each book?
That’s an interesting question. I suppose my answer would be that for me, it was, and is, never hard to be creative. However, it is hard trying to braid ideas together into one cohesive plait, so to speak. Sometimes I physically start drawing in the air saying ‘so if that happens to her and he says that it would mean she didn’t have to do this, which made him feel like that…’ etc. Keeping control of my multiple threads is a big challenge, indeed. That hasn’t changed and I don’t suppose it ever will but it’s so much fun, really. Like solving a crazy riddle of my own making.
What is something that has influenced you as a writer?
Not a something but a someone: my mother, Dorn Best. When I was growing up, she had an extensive library, much of which I have inherited, and she and I loved nothing more than to curl up with a good book. She had wonderful taste and I read most of the classical fairy-tales, Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls as a child. Then Mum introduced me to adult heroines: Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, Anne in her Green Gables and Josephine March, and heroes like Atticus Finch and the brilliant yet tragic Hamlet. We also shared a great love of classic movies and immersed ourselves in wonderful moments on-screen – truly beautiful spoken lines that stay with you forever. My mother gave me the gift of words, teaching me to speak, inspiring me to read then encouraging me to write. She has been my ardent supporter, my avid believer, my friend, my inspiration and yes… my greatest influence.