Updated: May 15
'Me at home in my green dress. I think I'll have to stop wearing it so much. It's in every publicity photo! I am standing on the verandah at home -
we have deep valley views. Very inspirational.'
My May Author Stalker victim, the vivacious Mary-Anne O'Connor, had a very similar childhood to mine. She grew up in Wahroonga, only two suburbs away from my own family home in Turramurra, and like me spent countless hours exploring the local bush with siblings and the neighbourhood kids.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mary-Anne at the launch for her 2019 release, In a Great Southern Land https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781489295118/in-a-great-southern-land/
One of my writing buddies, the fabulous Benison O'Reilly https://www.benisonanneoreilly.com/ who is Mary-Anne's sister-in-law, introduced me to Mary-Anne and her beautiful novels. With six novels now under her belt, Mary-Anne draws on her own family history and pioneering relatives for inspiration.
Sisters of Freedom weaves the themes of courage, love and the women's rights movement of the early 1900's into a beautiful narrative revolving around the three Merriweather sisters. You easily lose yourself within the pages of Mary-Anne's novels and she blends fact and fiction so seamlessly.
Mary-Anne launched her brand new release this past weekend, in the home the novel was set in. What I think is truly extraordinary is that she used her launch to raise money and awareness for the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women's Shelter. There is a link at the bottom of the page where you can help this wonderful charity by purchasing your very own copy of Sisters of Freedom.
Mary-Anne is also a keynote speaker at a fundraiser breakfast for the charity on May 24th. Tickets are available via this link: https://events.humanitix.com/hkws-inspiring-hope-empowering-with-confidence?fbclid=IwAR29_Wc6kE6zk_5Yvq2pd_a0YGn6EgXUm4x2-Mev0d5rkI6lToa4dzypFvE
But without further ado, I will hand you over to the lovely Mary-Anne, to find out more about her life as a writer.xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: Don’t give up. I used to start novels and quit around Chapter Three, usually because I started doubting myself. Now I just keep going, even when I’m not sure if it is working, because eventually you work it all out as you go.
(I need to take your advice Mary-Anne! Shelley.xx)
'My writing space - it encourages me to remember I am published when in doubt - hence the media on the wall.
That window looks over stunning rainforest. I love it.'
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Jo March was a wonderful character and has inspired millions of women to write and to break the mould that confines our gender. I read it as a child and it remains my most beloved book today.
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: My first ever book was A Child’s Book of Verses and I used to ‘read’ it before I could read. I suspect I cried when I was told to turn the lights out and go to sleep! (Mum often found me sitting in my PJ’s in the empty bathtub, still reading in the wee hours.) Other than that, I couldn’t tell you the first that made me cry, however Little Women certainly made me bawl.
Q4: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…
A: I live on tea. In my family the teapot sat in the middle of the table and was re-filled all day long. I do enjoy a tipple too – I love a cold beer and I love watching football. Not very feminine, I know, but I have a household full of footy-mad men. I blame them.
'On location in Manly with my hubby and sons.
They love coming on writing excursions.'
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: Rachael Johns How To Mend a Broken Heart https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781489276827/how-to-mend-a-broken-heart/ I love Rachael’s writing and am lucky enough to know her. She is a vibrant, encouraging and enthusiastic person. I think that comes through in her writing.
(Agree totally. Rach is such a gem. Shelley.xx)
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: Oh, I do love this question! I think the mother in Sisters of Freedom, Harriet, would be very aptly played by Rachael Griffiths. I could see Abbey Cornish playing Frankie too. (Sorry, that’s two female characters. I cheated.) Liam Hemsworth would make a gorgeous Riley. Sigh. Please make that happen someone…
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: My dog Saxon. I love him to infinite proportions.
'My dog emotionally blackmailing me for more attention. He never leaves my side when I'm writing. He's so sooky - but isn't he the cutest?'
(Those puppy dog eyes...what a total sweetheart. Shelley.xx)
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: Ireland. When Covid ends I so want to go there to write a novel. I’ve only been there once and only for three days, barely tasting the wonders of the place before I had to leave. I would love to take my husband Anthony and our two sons, Jimmy and Jack, and tour around picturesque villages, meeting characters and seeing live music. I adore everything Irish.
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: Musician. I had grand hopes when I was younger of being the new Madonna but alas my ambition outweighed my talent.
'Writing on location - Hawkesbury River.
My spiritual home - the Aussie Bush.'
Q10: Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?
A: Yes. If I am writing a character inspired by one of my relatives who have passed I put their photo in front of me and often light candles. That sounds very woo woo I know but I have always been a spiritual person and I feel they are helping me and guiding me. When I am in the creative zone a different part of me takes over too. The same goes for drawing or playing guitar and piano. It is a transportive state of being and it’s a wonderful high. I drift off somewhere – not sure where that is but it is a place I love.
(Oh how I love your answer to this question Mary-Anne. I too love a bit of woo woo! Shelley.xx)
'A passionate tale of three sisters as they strive for freedom and independence and follow their hearts to unexpected places, from a master storyteller. For readers of Fiona McIntosh, Nicole Alexander and Natasha Lester.
Sydney, Christmas, 1901. Federation has been achieved but Australian women are yet to gain the right to vote in their new nation's elections and have a say in the laws that govern them.
Bolshy, boisterous Frankie Merriweather is a fervent advocate for women's rights, determined to dedicate herself to the cause, never marrying or becoming a mother. She can't understand her artistic sister Ivy, who wants a life of ease and beauty with her soon-to-be fiance, law student Patrick Earle.
Meanwhile, their married sister Aggie volunteers in an orphanage, decrying the inequality of Australia's social classes ... and longing to hold a baby in her arms.
When an accident takes Ivy, wounded and ill, into the violent and lawless zone of the Hawkesbury River, a year of change begins. Ivy's burgeoning friendship with her saviour Riley Logan, a smuggler, and his sister, the poverty-stricken but valiant Fiona, will alter the lives of all three women forever.'
Thank you Mary-Anne for being my May Author Stalker victim. xx
SISTERS OF FREEDOM is a major fundraiser for Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women's Shelter, a charity Mary-Anne has generously chosen to support. To help the shelter, you can purchase the book via the link below: https://shop.hkws.org.au/product/sisters-of-freedom-pre-order/?fbclid=IwAR3OR7SJe9CpDaTya1_eKoRF-iR_Tc0js6Wv6v14TXOY6LxY8nn8-6eAlrE
Sisters of Freedom is also available through all leading bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Mary-Anne, you can find her here: