Rae in her office, hard at work on her second novel - The Empty Chair (coming March 2022)
It is appropriate that my first Author Stalker victim for 2021 has just released her first novel, and I am totally gobsmacked that this is a debut!
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the vivacious Rae Cairns at Joanna Nell's book launch for the enchanting The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker https://www.hachette.com.au/joanna-nell/the-last-voyage-of-mrs-henry-parker in Avalon back in 2019, and we spoke about writing and the manuscript she was working on.
Rae is a member of a wonderful writing group, filled with amazing talent, called The Inkwells. Their members members include Joanna Nell https://www.joannanell.com/ Pamela Cook https://www.pamelacook.com.au/
Penelope Janu https://www.penelopejanu.com/ Michelle Barraclough https://www.michellebarraclough.com/ Laura Boon https://lauraboon.com/tag/australian-author/ Terri-anne Green https://www.instagram.com/greenterrianne/ and Angella Whittonhttps://angellawhitton.com/about-angella-whitton/#:~:text=Angella%20Whitton's%20stories%20have%20been,Manuscript%20Development%20Program%20in%202015.
At the time Rae's debut novel was still in the making but two years on, oh my goodness was it worth the wait! I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this fabulous novel and I have to say that it was the most breathtakingly packaged ARC I have ever received, the book and photographs tied together with barbed wire, and a hand-written note inside. I know that you are all trying to picture it now, so here are some photos I took when it arrived (how striking is the cover too!)
How stunning is the presentation of this ARC!
With a story that travels between Sydney and Northern Ireland, she has truly evoked the essence and darkness of conflict, and woven a complex and compelling narrative throughout the novel which shows how human frailty and great strength can sit side by side.
Rae's background as a youth worker, mentoring disadvantaged children of the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland during the final years of ‘The Troubles’ and later working with street children in Sydney’s inner west, gives this novel an authenticity that makes its reading a visceral experience.
With a degree in Performing Arts and stints as an actor, if this fabulous book is ever optioned for a movie Rae could be a true double threat...writer of, and actor in, her own story.
I could not put this book down. It is a five star read. As I read her words, it was like I was watching the movie version in my head.
Rae is currently working on her second novel, The Empty Chair (LOVE the title and premise Rae) which is due for release in March 2022 https://www.raecairns.com/the-empty-chair
So without further ado, I will hand you over to the lovely Rae. xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: You’re going to have to be brave! Things won’t always work, or go the way you hoped or expected (haven’t we all learnt that through this crazy year) but if you don’t take chances, you won’t learn, grow or be in the running for good things to happen. This applies to all things writing – the research, meeting other writers, attending events, competitions, submissions, publication and even the writing process itself. You’ll need to take risks and venture way beyond your comfort zone, but the rewards and sense of satisfaction are worth the tougher times. I promise!
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: Just one book? But there are so many! I wish I’d written the prologue in The Dry, I think it is one of the best prologues I’ve ever read. I loved Big Little Lies because Lianne Moriarty did such a brilliant job of ripping off the veneer of suburbia, and Rebecca because of the beautiful writing, the hauntingly gothic setting and the cleverly crafted sense of menace Du Maurier wove into every page of the novel.
(Rae, I agree that The Dry has the BEST prologue ever written! Shelley.xx)
Rae's lovely writing space in her Sydney home
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: I’m hopeless, I cry at movies, books and have even been known to blubber through a TV commercial. My kids rib me about it constantly. I couldn’t tell you it was my first but I definitely cried when I read The Diary of Anne Frank. I was a similar age and had to perform a passage from the book as a monologue. The story stayed with me ever since and led to us visiting Anne Frank House in Amsterdam as a family three years ago. Standing in the annex where the Frank family hid for years was sobering and also an amazing testament to the human spirit.
Q4: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…
A: English or Melbourne Breakfast tea is my go to, but if it’s 5pm and I fancy something stronger I might have a Green Ant Gin and tonic.
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: I always have more than one book on the go at any given time. The next book TBR on my downstairs pile is The Good Teacher by Petronella McGovern https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/The-Good-Teacher-Petronella-McGovern-9781760875299 the next upstairs night time book is an ARC of Penelope Janu’s Starting from Scratch https://www.penelopejanu.com/starting-from-scratch and for non-fiction I am about to start Missing Persons, a writer’s guide to finding the lost abducted and the escaped, by Fay Faron https://www.amazon.com.au/Missing-Persons-Writers-Finding-Abducted/dp/089879790X
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: I’d love to see Jessica Chastain play Sarah as I think she can convey both the vulnerability and grit of the character. And Daniel Craig would be perfect as Alec the dark, brooding policeman.
(Ooh...love your casting choices Rae. With your acting skills you could get a role in it too! This would make a FABULOUS movie. Shelley.xx)
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: I know it’s unoriginal but I truly couldn’t live without my family – my husband Peter, daughter Amy, son Ben and dog Alfie. They are the heart of who I am, challenge me constantly, keep me laughing and always have my back.
'Here are three photos of something special to me.
My crazy, funny, wonderful family on holidays. I live for these times we spend as a family exploring the world. The first photo is in Borneo, on top of the boat, going through the jungle. The third photo is of us waking up after sleeping on a bed of ice at the Ice Hotel in Sweden.
I couldn’t resist including a photo of my writing buddy Alfie. He is always at my feet or on my lap when I write.'
(Wow your family holidays look fascinating Rae! Shelley.xx)
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: I’d love to do a safari along the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania or explore the Alaskan Wilderness. Nature and adventure have always been a huge part of our holidays – an absolute highlight was hiring a tiny boat as a family (just us, the driver and a cook) to travel through the jungle in Borneo. We slept on the top deck of the boat under mosquito nets, and were woken each morning by the grunts, screeches and calls of different monkey breeds and birds. Best of all we spotted 42 Orangutans in the wild!
'Hiking through the jungle to see Orangutans in the wild.'
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: Spy or psychologist. I love to try to understand why people do what they do. It has been the focus of the different careers I’ve delved into, from acting and singing to youth work.
Q10: What's the hardest scene you have ever written and why was it so hard?
A: The riot scene in The Good Mother. In 1997 I worked as an aid worker in Northern Ireland and got caught in one particularly terrifying riot. Revisiting that night in my mind, tapping into the emotional and sensory memories, was more confronting than I expected. My heart rate still picks up at the sound of a helicopter flying overhead.
(I cannot imagine how terrifying that would have been Rae but you truly captured the emotion in The Good Mother. Reading it was a truly visceral experience. Shelley.xx)
'She’s protected them from the truth. Can she save them from her past?
Australian soccer mum Sarah Calhoun keeps the terrifying secrets of her time as an overseas aid worker from everyone she loves. Until two men from Northern Ireland hunt her down - one an obsessive policeman with demons of his own, the other a brutal IRA executioner, too closely connected to her past.
She is forced to return to Belfast to testify at a murder trial. But she faces an impossible choice – lie on the stand and allow a vindictive killer to run free, or tell the truth and place her children in the line of fire.
With the lives of her family and thousands of innocent people at risk, Sarah must battle her fears, overcome betrayal, and find the courage to fight for the truth.
But righting the wrongs of the past just might cost her everything.'
“Action, danger, love and sacrifice … it’s all there! The Good Mother is a thrilling read that will have you burning the midnight oil. A compelling and first-hand insight into Northern Ireland through the eyes of the strongest of people - a mother who will do anything to protect her children.” Melissa Doyle AM, journalist, television presenter, radio presenter and author
“The story is brilliant - one of the most original, compelling and thrilling tales I have read in years.” Mark Lamprell, author, screenwriter and director
“If you enjoy fast-paced thrillers with tight, twisty plots - think TAKEN meets THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, with a mother as the hero - then grab your copy of The Good Mother today!” Haylee Nash, literary agent and publisher
Thank you Rae for being my January 5th Author Stalker victim. xx
The Good Mother (paperback and ebook editions) are available online via:
Books2Read link: (including Amazon AU link):
Amazon US link:
If you would like to find out more about Rae, you can find her here: