The multi-talented Fiona Higgins, author and philanthropy advisor.
I first came to discover Fiona Higgins' latest release via a recommendation from a mutual friend, writer Benison O'Reilly www.benisonanneoreilly.com/
An Unusual Boy https://www.booktopia.com.au/an-unusual-boy-fiona-higgins/book/9781800485426.html was a truly compelling read, like nothing I have ever read before.
The novel is thought-provoking and gives an eloquent voice to often forgotten members of our society, addressing stereotypes, judgements and a societal bias that is frequently placed upon people who don't fit the archetype of what is defined as 'normal.' Fiona's narrative handles a complex and confronting situation with sensitivity and insight.
You will fall in love with her beautiful character Jackson, who is 'a very unusual boy in a world that prefers "normal".' The story is heart-wrenching at times, but leaves you with a sense of hope and an understanding that we all don't have to see things in the same way.
His mother Julia, who struggles to balance work, two other children and an often absent husband, finds parenting Jackson challenging but as the story evolves she sees that we are all blessed with special gifts, as well as our struggles.
This is one of those stories that will stay with you long after you turn the last page, and will hopefully open up a dialogue to impart change and acceptance of people who may not fit into the little box we like to put them in.
So without further ado, I will hand you over to the lovely Fiona.xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: Don’t worry - the final product will look nothing like this.
(Oh my goodness, this made me laugh out loud! Shelley.xx)
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: Christos Tsolkias’ The Slap https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/The-Slap-Christos-Tsiolkas-9781741758207 or Malcolm Knox’s The Life https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/literary-fiction/The-Life-Malcolm-Knox-9781743310779 – and preferably both! (NB. I’m not suggesting I could have written these masterpieces, but if I was the author of either, I’d die happy.)
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: Heidi by Johanna Spyri. The relationship between Heidi and her grandpa is heart-warming ("I would a thousand times rather be with grandfather on the mountain than anywhere else in the world.”) The book also stimulated my lifelong obsession with the Swiss Alps.
'A photo of my writing space – it’s controlled chaos!
This is a shot on a ‘neat’ day.’
Q4: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…
A: Coffee, preferably in the form of an affogato or espresso martini.
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781250316776/ It’s a YA novel in which the protagonist – the charismatic son of the first American female (and Latino) President – falls in love with a surprisingly unstuffy English prince. I’m planning to read it before my tween daughter does!
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: Playing Jackson, my 11-year-old neurodivergent protagonist, would be Coby Bird (or a younger version of him, yet to be discovered perhaps!). For Julia, Jackson’s mum who is in her mid-forties, I’d love to see her played by Rose Byrne.
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: Love. It’s really everything. But it appears in many forms, not necessarily romantic.
'My ‘something special’ is my mum.
This photo is of mum and me on launch day of An Unusual Boy. She’s special to me as only a mum can be – and I think as I’ve grown older, and as a mother of three myself now, I understand much better all the sacrifices she made for me and my siblings as we grew up.'
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: Nepal. Trekking in the Himalayan foothills is definitely on my post-pandemic bucket list.
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: I have a career besides being a writer! I work as a philanthropy advisor at Australian Philanthropic Services, a not-for-profit organisation which supports more effective giving in Australia, and I love it. I’ve been working in the sector for twenty years now - it’s incredibly rewarding.
Q10: What's the hardest scene you have ever written and why was it so hard?
A: There’s a sex scene in my second novel, Wife on the Run, https://www.fionahiggins.com.au/wife-on-the-run/ in which the protagonist (a middle-aged mother of two) has a sexual encounter inside a hollow tree in the Darwin Botanic Gardens. It was my first ever sex scene, so I felt self-conscious (‘Mum’s going to end up reading this!’) and I didn’t want to win the ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award either (it’s actually a thing). Even to this day, readers comment about the ‘Darwin tree scene’ - so despite my concerns, the scene was clearly memorable.
(This made me laugh Fiona. Especially the bit about your mum. I remember seeing an interview with Christos Tsolkias where he was talking about taking his mum to see the movie premiere of Head On, and her reaching over him and giving him a slap!' - Shelley.xx)
Meet Jackson – a very unusual boy in a world that prefers “normal”.
Julia Curtis is a busy mother of three, with a husband frequently away for work, an ever-present mother-in-law, a career, and a house that needs doing up. Her fourteen-year-old daughter, Milla, has fallen in love for the first time, and her youngest, Ruby, is a nine-year-old fashionista who can out- negotiate anyone.
But Julia’s eleven-year-old son, Jackson, is different. Different to his sisters. Different to his classmates. In fact, Jackson is different from everyone. And bringing up a child who is different isn’t always easy.
Then, one Monday morning, Jackson follows his new friend Digby into the school toilets. What happens inside changes everything; not only for Jackson, but for every member of his family. Julia faces the fight of her life to save her unusual boy from a world set up for ‘normal’.
An extraordinary boy. The mother who loves him. The fight of their lives.
An Unusual Boy is a heart-stopping, devastating, but ultimately uplifting story about loyalty, love and forgiveness.
Thank you Fiona for being my February 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
An Unusual Boy is available through all leading bookstores and online via Booktopia.
If you would like to find out more about Fiona, you can find her here: