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Mid-September Author Stalker with Petronella McGovern!

The fabulous Petronella holding her brilliant new novel, The Good Teacher.

I have a confession to make.

Petronella McGovern's remarkable debut novel Six Minutes, had been sitting in my overflowing tbr pile since I bought it in July 2019. This is the book that has recently been shortlisted in not one but two categories, debut crime and adult crime, in the 2020 Davitt Awards

And now I must utter the words made famous by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman...BIG MISTAKE! HUGE! OMG! How did I not read this book sooner???

Petronella writes absolute page turners.

When I was kindly sent an advance copy of her fabulous new release, The Good Teacher I literally could not put it down. I ignored my housework, left the family to fend for themselves and took up residence on the lounge until I turned the last tantalising page.

And the moment I finished it, I raced to my tbr pile, pulled out Six Minutes, and devoured it. I can see why it was nominated in the Davitt Awards, and I highly expect to see The Good Teacher in the 2021 nominations.

Like her dear friend, former work colleague and fellow writer, Liane Moriarty, Petronella taps into our everyday lives and creates stories that pose the question what if? Her characters will remind you of people you know in your community and that is part of what makes her stories so relatable.

Don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself. But make sure your diary is clear because you won't want to stop once you start it!!

Without further ado, I'll hand you over to the lovely Petronella.xx

Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript? A: I wish someone had told me to make regular writing time a non-negotiable priority. I know it sounds obvious but you need to a lot of time to finish a novel and my writing kept getting pushed to the background by work and family commitments.

It’s hard to put writing first when life is busy. So I started attending writing courses to validate my time – I could tell my kids I had ‘homework’ just like them. (I also wish someone had told me to make it a priority in my early twenties when I had more time. I was writing shorter pieces at that stage and writing for work, but I didn’t have the confidence to tackle a novel. However, those years of socialising, travelling and career did provide experience for creating characters!) (I agree totally! Shelley.xx)

Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be? A: That’s a hard question because there are so many wonderful books. I’ll choose Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – a domestic thriller that really took the world by storm. It’s such a clever book with a clever structure that turns certain stereotypes upside down. And of course, it has an amazing twist!

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

A: Seven Little Australians when I was in primary school – I won’t give away the spoiler but you can probably guess by the end of this paragraph. I grew up on a farm and we had so many old gum trees around the house and creeks. We tied rope swings to them and made cubby houses in their branches. But after reading that book, I’ve been forever aware of the devastating power of a falling tree. (I just googled Seven Little Australians and discovered it was published in 1894; a century later, it was the only book by an Australian author to be continuously in print.)

'These photos are of a headland and beach that feature in The Good Teacher. The surfers also helped with the inspiration for my teenage character.

I grew up inland in the Central West and lived in Canberra for many years, so I’m constantly awestruck by the beauty and power of the ocean.

I love walking on this short coastal path – I’ve spotted whales from here and seen a seal playing on the rocks.'

Q4: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…

A: Earl grey tea, starting first thing in the morning and drinking far too much all day long.

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

A: This year with the pandemic, I’ve bought more books than ever before, all Australian authors. I’ve just finished a wonderful young adult book, Stars Like Us, by Frances Chapman who is in my writers group. It won the Ampersand Prize last year and the tag line says: “Bandmates. Fame. Love. What if you had to choose?”

The next book on my pile is The Spill by Imbi Neeme The back cover calls it “a deeply moving portrait of two sisters falling apart and finding a way to fit back together”.

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

A: Allison is the main character in The Good Teacher – she’s friendly and keen to help others. But she’s also hurt and struggling. I could imagine Rebecca Gibney playing her, with a welcoming smile and the inner depth. Although they have different hair colour and Allison is taller…hmm, this question is also hard to answer! I just asked my son and he says Geena Davis. Perhaps I should leave it up to the reader’s imagination? The main male character, Luke, is a gym instructor with a good body, sad eyes and a tragic past so I’ll go straight for Liam Hemsworth.

(Yes, definitely a Hemsworth for Luke! If I was casting Allison and wanted an Aussie actress, I could imagine Naomi Watts - she has that teacherly vibe about her. If casting an overseas actress, definitely Kate Winslett. Shelley.xx)

'My study is super messy, so I’m only letting you peek at one corner (and you can still see the mess!). My daughter and I painted the picture in lockdown on my birthday. I think it looks like a topographical image of the Earth.'

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

A: This year with the pandemic and in lockdown, I’ve been reminded of the importance of connection – my lovely family and friends, as well as our fabulous online book communities. And of course, novels … and homemade popcorn … and Early Grey tea.

Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?

A: I’m keen to see the extremes of the globe – I’d love to go to either Antarctica or the Arctic Circle and marvel at the Northern Lights. At the moment though, I’d settle for the family trip to Vietnam which we’d planned but is obviously on hold.

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

A: I’d like to be the host of a television chat show which interviews people with interesting stories – think Michael Parkinson or Oprah Winfrey. I love listening to other people and my friends say that I’m very good at finding out the gossip! (When I was actually leaving school, I was trying to decide between a career in writing, teaching or working with animals. All such different jobs!)

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

A: I think the climax is one of the hardest scenes to write for many authors. In The Good Teacher, it actually came fairly smoothly but not so with Six Minutes. I re-wrote the climax of Six Minutes about six times! The difficulty was in deciding which characters should be in that crucial scene and how to bring all the story lines together.

'A good teacher can change lives…

Every evening, Allison watches her husband's new house, desperate to find some answers. Every morning, she puts on a brave face to teach kindergarten. She's a good teacher, everyone says so – this stalking is just a tiny crack in her usual self-control. A late enrolment into her class brings little Gracie. Allison takes the sick girl under her wing, smothering Gracie with the love she can't give her own son. When Gracie has a chance to go to America for treatment, Allison whips up the community into a frenzied fundraising drive. But as others start to question her judgement and the police arrive at her door, Allison wonders if she can trust herself. Has she crossed a line? How far will the good teacher go to change a life? And whose life will that be? An intriguing tale of our times about kindness and betrayal, and the danger of good deeds.'

Thank you Petronella for being my September 15th Author Stalker victim. xx

The Good Teacher is available through all leading bookstores and online.

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

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