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April 1st Author Stalker with Sandie Docker!

A magical cake created by the amazing Bre Parsons (who also happens to be my daughter) to celebrate the launch of Sandie's beautiful new novel, The Banksia Bay Beach Shack.

I am lucky to call author Sandie Docker not only a dear friend, but also a mentor and inspiration to my own writing journey. I first met Sandie in 2016 at a course run by another of my mentors, Dianne Blacklock at Writing NSW in Rozelle.

As luck would have it, I found myself seated next to the lovely Sandie, who came to the course with two fully completed & polished manuscripts (unlike my own mere twenty thousand words). She had been edited by one of the best in the industry, submitted to the major publishers and was still chasing that elusive publishing contract. She had come to the course to see what else she could possibly do to get her manuscripts over the line, to see her stories finally in print.

During the course we had to read and critique each other's work. I must admit, this was a deeply troubling process for me as when I read ten pages of Sandie's manuscript I had only two questions: 1) How on earth had this wonderful writing not been snapped up by the publishers and 2) If Sandie hadn't been offered a publishing deal, what hope was there for me??

But she was persistent. And determined. And with the help of her own mentor, Dianne Blacklock, Sandie's manuscripts found their way into the loving arms of publisher Kimberley Atkins and a two book deal with publishing juggernaut Penguin Random House Australia. Kimberley had worked with the amazing Jojo Moyes and our own Liane Moriarty so Sandie was in some good company!!

Sandie was the first writer whose journey I had followed from pre-publishing deal to currently watching her working on her fourth novel, whilst promoting her beautiful new novel The Banksia Bay Beach Shack

I was so honoured a few years back when Sandie asked me to be a beta reader for her novel The Cottage at Rosella Cove I fell so in love with that story, her heartfelt characters, vivid settings and dual time lines entwined within such an exquisite narrative.

And then in late August last year, I was even more honoured when Sandie asked me to join the committee of her 'baby', the Northern Beaches Readers Festival Sandie is passionate about the amazing commercial fiction talent we have in Australia, and their loyal readers, so she set about creating a festival that would bring the two groups together.

It is scheduled to be held this September 25 - 27 in Sydney's northern beach suburb of Avalon. We have secured an OUTSTANDING line-up of Australian authors including Michael Robotham, Rachael Johns, Christian White, Sally Hepworth, Candice Fox...and so many more of Australia's writing finest (click the link then the author tab to see all of the fab authors who are on board!)

Of course with the awful situation we currently find the world in, the Covid-19 outbreak, our festival is under review (we will be making a final decision over the next month of two). Yet don't despair. If the worst happens, have no doubt that we will proceed with it in 2021. We are so grateful to all the phenomenal authors who have gotten behind our brand new festival <3

A couple of months ago I was talking to my darling Auntie Naureen, who is eighty-three, and she asked me if I had ever heard of a writer called Sandie Docker. What followed was ten minutes of her gushing over Sandie's wonderful stories and she melted my heart when she said that she savoured every word. My aunt has very limited vision so my lovely cousin Jo organises audio CD's for her to listen to.

Auntie Naur said that she was on the final disc of The House at Rosella Cove so she had to ration it, as she didn't want it to end. So she would attend to her chores, potter in her garden and then at 3pm sharp she would sit down with a cuppa and listen to an hour of Sandie's book, no more, no less, as she wanted to make it last as long as possible. She was counting down the weeks until the release of Banksia Bay and is probably listening to it as we speak.

I was very blessed to be given my very own copy of Banksia Bay a few weeks prior to its release. As soon as I arrived home I dived within the pages and the next night I sent the message in the pic below to Sandie...which she later shared on her Facebook page!

Buy this book. I adored it. And my favourite pastry chef, who has just re-discovered the joy of reading via Audible (while she bakes), downloaded it too and said 'Oh my. I didn't realise Sandie was such a beautiful writer.'

So without further ado, it is my huge pleasure to introduce you to my uber-talented friend Sandie Docker.xx

Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?

A: Not to allow too many voices in your head. Not your characters’ voice – they’re allowed. External, advice giving, ‘expert’ opinion voices. I wasted a lot of time and energy early on, on a lot of writing forums and twitter and Facebook groups, desperate to gather all the advice I could. Unfortunately a lot of these places are full of mis-information and bad advice, and I’ve seen some friends burned from them (and nearly got burned myself). Most of them aren’t malicious in intent, but simply don’t have the knowledge or experience needed to be giving the right advice. Make sure you are ‘advice savvy’, and the information you’re getting is from someone who genuinely knows what they’re talking about. This goes for information about how the industry works (there is A LOT of mis-information here, holy cow if only we had more time!) and when looking for feedback on your manuscript.

I adore this beautiful quote Sandie has in her writing room. It is such fabulous advice to all aspiring writers.

Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?

A: This is a hard one, because of course, if I wrote the book I’m about to name, it wouldn’t be nearly as good!! I’m a huge admirer of historical fiction writers – the research they do!!!! and then they turn it into a compelling novel!!! I would love to have written The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It’s a brilliantly crafted work of historical fiction and I still remember the opening pages (and many of the book’s scenes) vividly, despite reading it twenty-odd years ago. The descriptions, the writing, the world building, taking a little known historical figure and giving her an amazing voice….It’s a true masterpiece.

Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?

A: I’m not a big crier when it comes to books. Absolute sobbing mess in movies (even Marvels’ Endgame – a superhero film of all things!!!), but not usually with books. The one I can remember crying in is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. And then the movie came out, and despite knowing how it ends, I cried like a baby again!

Q4: Coffee, tea or ? (what is your favourite drink?)

A: I’m going to go ‘or’. I don’t mind a herbal tea every now and then, but my go to if I’m ‘out for coffee’ with friends is hot chocolate. Made with milk, not water. With marshmallows. Two of them preferably; one white, one pink.

Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?

A: I’m about to get stuck into Cassie Hamer’s new book, The End of Cuthbert Close. I can’t wait! Cassie is a beautiful soul and she writes so intelligently. Really looking forward to this one.

I think we will all have serious bookshelf envy looking at Sandie's fabulous writing space! So many beautiful books on display.

Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?

A: I think Jack Thompson would do a wonderful job playing Charlie from The Cottage At Rosella Cove. He’d have the acting chops to pull of the gruff but kind, tormented yet calming soul of Charlie, I think. In my new novel, The Banksia Bay Beach Shack, I’d love Noni Hazlehurst to play Virginia. She’d have the right amount of sass, know how to be protective of her family, and would encapsulate the inner turmoil and guilt Virginia lives with after “that” incident sixty years before. Mind you, if either one said they wanted to play any of my characters, I certainly wouldn’t say no.

Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?

A: You mean, apart from my family because that’s a given. Books. I’m surrounded by them. I look at them, smell them, read them, write them. I’d have a hard time giving up chocolate (I’m trying – it’s not going well), but I could never give up my books (much to my hubby’s distress).

Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?

A: I’m fortunate enough to have travelled a fair bit of the world already, having lived in Germany when I was 18 and in London for a few years when I was in my twenties. But there are two places I haven’t been that I would love to go – safari in Africa and across the breadth of Canada, maybe by train. Hubby and I were supposed to go to Canada for our 40th birthdays/20th relationship anniversary, but we didn’t make it. Maybe we’ll get there for our 50th/30th?

Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?

A: I’m assuming here talent is no obstacle?? If it is, we’re in deep trouble. But if it’s not, then I’d be a musical leading lady. I can’t sing or dance to save my life but in this imaginary world I could and I would be Maria (Sound of Music and Westside Story) and Christine (Phantom of the Opera) and, without doubt I’d make a brilliant Fantine (Les Miserables). And this will come as a massive surprise to you, Shell (not)…I’d choose Hugh Jackman to play opposite me in each of the roles.

Q10: What's the hardest scene you have ever written and why was it so hard?

A: There are two that have been particularly hard. The aftermath of the bush fire scene in The Kookaburra Creek Café and a particular scene (no spoilers) in my 2021 book, The Wattle Island Book Club. Both are very emotional scenes and I felt a great responsibility to get them right as they could be triggers for readers. They are also very personal to me, and delving so deep into your own emotions is never an easy thing. One thing that helped me was a wonderful quote by Richard Price. “The bigger the issue, the smaller you write…”. I have the whole quote printed and framed and on a shelf near my desk, and it is just a brilliant reminder of how to handle those emotional scenes.

The heartwarming new family saga from the bestselling author of

The Kookaburra Creek Café.

A year is a long time in the memory of a small town. Stories get twisted, truths become warped, history is rewritten. MYSTERIES When Laura discovers an old photo of her grandmother, Lillian, with an intriguing inscription on the back, she heads to the sleepy seaside town of Banksia Bay to learn the truth of Lillian’s past. But when she arrives, Laura finds a community where everyone seems to be hiding something. SECRETS Virginia, owner of the iconic Beach Shack café, has kept her past buried for sixty years. As Laura slowly uncovers the tragic fragments of that summer so long ago, Virginia must decide whether to hold on to her secrets or set the truth free. LIES Young Gigi and Lily come from different worlds but forge an unbreakable bond – the ‘Sisters of Summer’. But in 1961 a chain of events is set off that reaches far into the future. One lie told. One lie to set someone free. One lie that changes the course of so many lives. Welcome to the Banksia Bay Beach Shack, where first love is found and last chances are taken.

A moving and heartfelt story by the bestselling author of The Kookaburra Creek Café and The Cottage At Rosella Cove.

Thank you Sandie for being my April 1st Author Stalker victim. xx

The Banksia Bay Beach Shack is available through all leading bookstores and online.

If you would like to find out more about Sandie, you can find her here:

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