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September Author Stalker with Joanna Nell!

Author fan-girling! Meeting Joanna at the inaugural StoryFest Writers Festival in Milton - June 2019

Welcome to the second instalment in my Author Stalker series!

I am so grateful to the wonderful writing community I am a part of here in Australia. I love how supportive writers are of each other, whether you are a published author or an aspiring one like me.

EVERY author I have reached out to for 'The Author Stalker' has immediately said that they would love to be an Author Stalker victim!! I am SO excited about this series and have an AMAZING line up of authors coming up for you!

Writing a book is hard. Getting it published is even harder. And then you have to hope (and pray) that your precious novel finds a readership. It is my wish for this series that not only will it give you wonderful insight into the lives of some of our best authors, but that YOU, the reader, will get behind our talented writers and GO OUT AND BUY THEIR BOOKS, check out their websites and follow them on their social media platforms. If you buy a book and love it, SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS. Word of mouth recommendations have led me to some of the best books I have ever read.

I love reading the author's answers to my Q & A and then taking a peek at their writing space. I also ask each of the authors to share a photo and a few words about something that is special to them <3

My guest for September is the delightful Joanna Nell, the UK-born, Sydney-based GP and author of the bestselling novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village (Hachette - Sept 2018). Her highly anticipated follow-up, The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker, is due for release on September 24th.

The charming characters in Jo's debut instantly wove their way into my heart and the story is a reminder to us all that no matter our age, love and friendship still hold a vital place as we enter the later stages of our lives. It is such an endearing story and whether you are in your 30's, 40's, 50's or beyond, this beautiful novel will resonate.

I loved it so much that I can't wait to dive within the pages of Joanna's new book and learn all about the adventures of her main character Evelyn Parker, the wife of a retired ship's doctor. Joanna's two years working as a cruise ship doctor no doubt will lend an authenticity and unique insight to the novel and I am certain that it will be another un-put-downable book. Roll on September 24th!!

Without further ado, I will hand you over to Jo.xx

Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?

A: Be patient. It’s okay to spend four years working on this manuscript and for no one to publish it. Don’t lose hope. It’s your training book; you’re still honing your craft and finding your unique voice. Go ahead and pack this baby with all your darlings. You’ll kill them all off eventually. Don’t despair; you’ll need to go through this – along with the painful rejections – because your best idea is waiting patiently around the corner. In the meantime, keep writing. Persistence pays.

Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?

A: This is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay, not because of his enviable sales but because he had the courage to speak up and tell the uncomfortable truth about the lives of junior doctors. Told with the perfect balance of comedy and pathos, this memoir is one that every aspiring young doctor, and anyone who has ever been a patient, should read.

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

A: Atonement by Ian McEwan. Poor Robbie and Cecilia. Their wasted lives and missed opportunity for happiness still bring a tear to my eye.

4: Coffee, tea or ? (what is your favourite drink?)

A: You can set a clock by the beverage in my hand: tea, tea, coffee, coffee, coffee, tea, tea, tea, gin.

This is one of my most precious possessions. I would rush into a burning building to rescue this bookmark. My son made it for me many years ago when he was still in primary school, as a Mother’s Day present. He’s not particularly crafty but he is a beautiful soul with great empathy. These are the things he associated with me, his mum. He was spot on. There is giant bamboo growing outside our front door. I love flowers. And wine. On the back of the bookmark are two dogs. I live in constant fear that I’ll return a book to the library or donate it to Lifeline with this gorgeous bookmark inside. In the meantime, it lives cozily between the pages of my latest read, on my bedside table and although my boy is now 17000 km away, he always feels close.

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

A: The One by fellow Australian Writers Centre alumna and social media buddy, Kaneana May. I met Kaneana at a writer’s workshop about three years ago. After all the encouragement and support she’d given me after I published my first book, I was thrilled to see her enjoy huge success with her own debut novel.

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

A: I’ve been asked this several times at author talks and I always struggle to come up with anyone more original than Judy Dench for Peggy Smart and Bill Nighy for Brian Cornell. I have a couple of Aussie actors on my radar, but I’ll have to wait for them to age a decade or two!

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

A: A good night’s sleep. I’m cranky as anything and hopelessly uncreative if I don’t get my full quota. It’s much easier now my kids are older and makes me wonder how I ever coped when they were babies. With hindsight, I’m also extremely grateful that as a doctor, I chose general practice over obstetrics!

Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?

A: A dog-friendly beach house with no phone or internet coverage. As long as the sun is shining and there’s a beautiful breeze blowing off the ocean, I’m happy.

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

A: I’ve always secretly wanted to be an interior designer (although you wouldn’t think so looking at the state of my desk).

I have serious writing room envy Joanna!! And that typewriter <3<3<3

Q10: Name one debut author/novel you would recommend?

A: Mine by Susi Fox (also a GP) was published in 2018 by Penguin Random House. It is a page-turning thriller about a woman who wakes up after a caesarean section and is handed a baby she believes is not hers. No one, including her own husband, takes her seriously. To make matters worse, the woman is a doctor. I wrote to Susi to tell her how much I enjoyed her book.

'As the wife of retired ship's doctor Dr Henry Parker, Evelyn is living out her twilight years aboard the Golden Sunset. Every night she dresses for dinner - gown, tiara, runners - and regales her fellow passengers with stories of a glamorous life travelling the world in luxury as well as showing off her superior knowledge of everything from ships' customs to biographical details of her heroine, Florence Nightingale. The crew treat her with deference. And forbearance.

But when Henry goes missing, Evelyn sets off to search every part of the grand ocean liner to find him, casino, nightclub and off-limits areas included. Misadventures are had, new friends are made, scandalous behaviour noted - all news to Evelyn. If only she could remember the events of the night before as clearly as she can recall the first time she met Henry on a passage from England to Australia in 1953 and fell in love, abandoning her dreams to become a midwife to be a wife instead - and the long-ago painful events that left Evelyn all at sea.

Why is it so hard to remember some things and so hard to forget others? And where is Henry? The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker is a love letter to the memories we make over the course of a lifetime, and how the heart remembers what matters, even when the mind has long forgotten.'

Thank you so much Jo for joining me on the Author Stalker. I can't wait to meet Mrs Henry Parker and see what adventures you have in store for her (and us!)

If you would like to find out more about Joanna and purchase her novels, you can find her at:

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Shelley Gardner
Shelley Gardner
Sep 02, 2019

Thanks Benison. So thrilled you are enjoying it. Xx


Benison O'Reilly
Benison O'Reilly
Sep 02, 2019

This is such a wonderful series. Can't wait for the next instalment!


Shelley Gardner
Shelley Gardner
Sep 01, 2019

Absolutely agree Kay. And yes, a definite for one of our upcoming book club reads!.xx


Kay Hart
Kay Hart
Sep 01, 2019

Fabulous Shell. I have serious writer envy of Joanna’s desk too. What a view!! Amazing to find she’s a doctor. Loved her first book now can’t wait for her second. Perhaps a book club recommendation!! Great job.

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