You may notice that normally, at the top of my blog posts, I would have a photo of me stalking the lovely Lisa. Sadly Covid-19 got in the way of her trip to Sydney, and our planned meet-up.
Next time Lisa...and I'll buy the wine!!
Here she is, my Mid-May Author Stalker victim, the gorgeous Lisa Ireland.
I thought I was being very clever with my clues, but quite a few of you guessed who it was. It must be that you're all diehard fans...and perhaps some of you are brushing up on your stalking skills like me!
I first discovered Lisa after reading her wonderful 2018 release, The Art of Friendship https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-art-of-friendship-lisa-ireland/book/9781760552268.html
I LOVED this book so much. It was such an interesting look at how our childhood friendships, and the associated memories we often hold so dear, can often look so different through the lens of adulthood. And her storytelling style really resonated with me.
In fact I loved it SO much, that it kept me up well past midnight as I just couldn't put it down. After turning the last page, I felt compelled to message her to a) tell her how much I enjoyed reading it and b) to tell her that the blame for me falling asleep at work the next day would lie firmly on her shoulders.
Well you could have blown me down with a feather when two minutes later my phone pinged with a message from Lisa! She was at the airport in Hawaii, about to fly home to Melbourne, and my message had made her day.
And from that moment on, my stalking relationship with Lisa Ireland started. But in all seriousness, Lisa is such a warm and friendly person, who is happy to chat to emerging little writers like me, and share her words of wisdom.
And it was through Lisa, that I discovered her partners in crime the fabulous duo that is Rachael Johns https://www.rachaeljohns.com/ and Sally Hepworth https://www.sallyhepworthauthor.com/ and their wonderful novels.
And don't get me started on their hysterically funny and engaging Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1531374363638505/ These girls have SO much fun together, supporting each other, talking books, drinking wine. I wonder if they want to adopt me? We just need Covid to go away so they can bring their group tour to Sydney (hint hint).
So you can just imagine how I was counting down the days until the release of Lisa's new novel, The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-secret-life-of-shirley-sullivan-9781760895594
Oh my. Is there a word stronger than love? Endearing? Enchanting? Delightful? Shirley Sullivan is all this and more. Such a touching story, it will make you laugh and smile and then make your heart break open and cry. It is the perfect book to curl up with in front of the fire.
Reading it reminded me of another book that gave me all the same feelings, Joanna Nell's beautiful The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker https://www.joannanell.com/
I think it is wonderful that both Lisa and Jo are shining a light on characters who are ageing, which is happening to a large percentage of our population, and showing that their lives have value and that they still have many adventures ahead of them.
So without further ado, meet the effervescent Lisa Ireland.xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: To enjoy this pre-published time! Getting a publishing contract is amazing, but once you are published you will never again have the luxury of spending as much time as you like or need on a manuscript. There are deadlines to adhere to and also other people having input into your work. Of course, in some ways this is wonderful, but there is something magical about taking your time with a manuscript that is wholly and completely yours. I wish I’d known how precious that time of writing simply for writing’s sake was, and that I’d appreciated it a little more!
(This is such sage advice Lisa. I am enjoying the process of procrastinating (I believe you are an Olympic Procrastinator so I know you will relate!) oops I mean writing my first novel, so I will savour the journey and take my time...four years and counting...is that a tad too long??? Shelley.xx)
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: So many! Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, A Man called Ove and Olive Kitteridge are all amazing. If I can only choose one, I have to say Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks because it’s my all-time favourite book.
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: Heidi by Johanna Spyri. So sad! I also remember being moved to tears by Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
Lisa hard at work in her divine office...you can see she once worked as a professional organiser, can't you! Just look at those bookshelves!
Q4: Coffee, tea or ? (what is your favourite drink?)
A: I’m an absolute coffee addict! We’ve just invested in a fancy coffee machine to get us through the forced isolation period we’re all going through. My local coffee shop has had to close its doors, which I’m heartbroken about.
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning
I know I am not alone in my envy of the bookshelves in Lisa's office! (And I know, like me, you'll all be zooming in to see what titles she has on there!)
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: I’m cheating here because my book is largely about one character – Shirley Sullivan – so rather than a male and a female, I’m going to give you two female actors – both Shirleys! In the novel, we see young Shirley in the past and 79-year-old Shirley in the present day. When I was writing the book, I pictured Australian actress, Robyn Nevin, as present-day Shirley and Margot Robbie as the young Shirley.
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: Coffee. No one who lives with me, or spends any significant amount time with me, would want me to be without it either!
'Her name is Lulu and she’s my constant companion. She makes sure I get my daily exercise and keeps me company all day in my office. I’d be lost without her! She has the sweetest nature. We rescued her when she was less than a year old and unfortunately, she’d been badly abused. She almost died of starvation and it took me months to nurse her back to full health. Maybe because of this, she is utterly devoted to me!'
(Lisa, I think I may have a massive crush on Lulu...what a darling...
but don't tell my little Flynn. Shelley.xx)
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: New York City. It’s my favourite place in the world. I’ve had some wonderful trips there and can’t wait to go back. Sadly, I think it will be some time before that happens now. Maybe I should set my next book there so at least I can visit in my imagination!
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: Before I was a writer, I was a teacher and I loved my job so I would probably still be doing that if I wasn’t writing. I’m also quite fascinated by politics and I’m interested in making the world a fairer place for everyone. I’m not sure I would want to be an actual member of parliament (I don’t think I could bear all the criticism!) but maybe I could be a political advisor of some sort.
Q10: How long does it take you to complete your first draft?
A: About six months. My books are usually between 90000 and 120000 words and I average 30000 – 40000 words a month. Even so, it still takes me around six months to finish the first draft, because I’m not a great plotter and I often end up writing myself into a corner! When this happens, I sometimes need to delete quite of lot of words and start again from where I went astray.
The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan is a charming, nostalgic and heartwarming story for women of any age – and it all begins when 79-year-old Shirley kidnaps her husband from his nursing home for one final adventure . . .
'Elderly. Is that how the world sees me? A helpless little old lady? If only they knew. I allow myself a small smirk.'
When Shirley Sullivan signs her 83-year-old husband, Frank, out of the Sunset Lodge Nursing Home, she has no intention of bringing him back.
For fifty-seven years the couple has shared love, happiness and heartbreak. And while Frank may not know who his wife is these days, he knows he wants to go home. Back to the beach where they met in the early 1960s . . .
So Shirley enacts an elaborate plan to evade the authorities – and their furious daughter, Fiona – to give Frank the holiday he’d always dreamed of. And, in doing so, perhaps Shirley can make amends for a lifelong guilty secret . . .'
Thank you Lisa for being my Mid-May Author Stalker victim. xx
The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan is available through all leading bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Lisa, you can find her here: