AWW Feature: Fiona McCallum – How I came to write fiction.

Please welcome Fiona McCallum

South Australian born Fiona McCallum has always been an avid reader and writer, she decided at the age of nine that she wanted to be the next Enid Blyton. Today at Book’d Out, she shares her journey to publication,  Fiona’s first novel Paycheque was released on April 1 2011 and became an ‘instant bestseller’. Her second novel Nowhere Else was released on Dec 1 2011 and had already outsold Paycheque by early January 2012. Fiona’s third novel, Wattle Creek, has been released this month. Wattle Creek is the story of  Damien McAllister, a man on the brink. Spending long, hard days on a farm he has no affection for, and nights ignoring the criticisms of his mother, Damien can no longer remember what he’s living for. But in a small town like Wattle Creek, there are few people to turn to – and Damien learned long ago to keep his problems to himself. Until Jacqueline Havelock, a young psychologist escaping her own issues, arrives fresh from the city and makes Damien question everything he has known about himself…also igniting a spark in his lonely heart. Soon Damien is daring to ask for more than an ordinary life, and can glimpse the possibility of happiness. Will this accidental farmer dare to fulfil the long-forgotten legacy of his father and find peace in the arms of the doctor? Or will the ghosts of their pasts threaten the fragile new lives they’ve just begun to build? My review of Wattle Creek will appear tomorrow.

Read my review of Wattle Creek here but first read on to learn about this talented Australian woman writer.

The twists and turns of life and the people you meet along the way. How I came to write fiction.

A few years after getting married I left my office job in town to be full-time on the farm with my husband. In addition to keeping the farm books, in 1995 I started studying a ‘Certificate in Freelance Writing’ by correspondence through TAFE. I hadn’t had the opportunity to go to university after school so figured this was the next best thing. I had always had a love of reading and writing — mainly poetry and short stories. Pursuing the arts wasn’t encouraged in my family, so I focussed my writing attention on non-fiction. In my mind it was less ‘arty’ and perhaps one day I could earn a living from doing something I loved.

In early 1996 I was at the Pony Club state eventing championships at Port Lincoln as an observer. I settled myself on the cross country course as a jump judge. It was a nice easy obstacle so it promised to be an uneventful day. Except for the chance meeting that would have a huge impact on my life.

A professional photographer came along and set up for a while to snap away. We got chatting. He told me how he travelled around making a living from photography. I told him I was hoping to do something similar, but as a writer, and told him of my studies. He mentioned he and a friend had just started a state-wide newspaper and that they wanted a correspondent from each area of the state. Did I want to be the one for Eyre Peninsula? Did I ever! I went home thinking it might all be too good to be true. But it wasn’t; I wrote two features for them and was even quite well paid. They kept asking for more articles.

But right in the middle of all this my husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and my world fell apart. I had to phone my newspaper contact and explain that I couldn’t make the next deadline and that I didn’t know when I would be able to get back to writing. I also abandoned my studies.

A few months later I left rural Eyre Peninsula for Adelaide and soon after that met an ambitious corporate fellow who was moving to Melbourne. He encouraged me to apply for university and move with him.

I was accepted into Deakin University’s Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing) as a mature aged student at 26 (1997) thanks to my portfolio of published articles and TAFE assignments. At university I really found my feet.

But for some reason the non-fiction lecturer/tutor took a personal dislike to me and my love for university was seriously dampened in second year. The way the course was structured meant that I would have to spend my entire final year in classes with this obnoxious man. I decided it just wasn’t worth the angst; I loved university and had invested far too much time and money to let this man ruin it. I made a snap decision to change to fiction, based purely on the fact that I had met the woman who took these classes and she was nice and had a kind, gentle manner.

I enjoyed fiction classes and got good grades, but it became very clear that the prevailing view was that literary style fiction (which I didn’t like to read and still don’t) was considered the be all and end all and that commercial fiction was trash.

Far too impressionable, I left university with the view that if what I liked to write wasn’t worth doing, I wouldn’t write anything. And I didn’t. I left writing behind and focussed on getting a job and earning money.

When my partner was offered a promotion to Sydney, it was with great reluctance I moved. With him travelling a lot, I became very lonely. Then one day I stumbled upon a brochure for a writing course being held on the opposite side of the city. I realised it was a good opportunity to meet people.

Not only did I meet some lovely people, I rediscovered my love of creative writing, and began writing a novel — commercial in style. I also joined some of my classmates on a weekend ‘new-age’ self-development course. It was here I experienced a light bulb moment and realised I wanted be a novelist and that no one was going to stand in my way!

I wrote a number of manuscripts and spent eight years being rejected. Then I received a rejection from a publisher who said that my style of writing didn’t have the pace for the sort of fiction I was aiming at and that I should consider writing non-fiction. I was far too mortified to consider the humour in the irony! I decided it was time to stop subjecting myself to the pain of rejection and just write.

How I eventually got published is another story of twists and turns and chance meetings, but one for another day.

Learn more about Fiona McCallum and her books at her website and Facebook

Watch this video chat from Harlequin about Wattle Creek

Available to Purchase

@Harlequin Australia I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia

@ Amazon (Kindle)

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret Lynette Sharp
    Apr 24, 2012 @ 21:23:05

    Fascinating! And inspirational, since Fiona remained true to herself: her own style: despite life’s ups and downs, with such a wonderful outcome.



  2. Trackback: Review: Wattle Creek by Fiona McCallum « book'd out

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