Guest Blog with Fleur McDonald, author of “Red Dust”

Hi Fleur, welcome to my blog. I’m very excited to have you here chatting with me!

For those who haven’t already discovered her,  I’d like to introduce Australian Author, Fleur McDonald, and her wonderful book  ‘Red Dust.’

red-dust-cover-sm“After the tragic death of husband in a light-plane accident, Gemma Sinclair is left with the daunting task of managing the vast outback station he’s bequeathed her. But she remains haunted by Adam’s dying words, not to mention persistent whispers that Adam’s death was not an accident.”

You can find more details on Fleur’s website

Tell us a bit about yourself, Fleur, and how you came to be an acclaimed author. What was your writing journey?

I’ve always been a reader and loved to write – lots of scrappy things mostly. When I was at school, I wrote poems and short stories. I had never attempted a novel, until I sat down to write Red Dust.

I didn’t realize I could ‘really’ write until I was encouraged to write a novel by my writing mentor, Jeff Toghill. When I had written a few chapters I sent it around to a few friends and asked their opinion, as well as back to Jeff. The response was that I had to keep writing – everyone wanted to know what was going to happen!

Once I’d finished about a third of it, I emailed it to Allen and Unwin’s ‘Friday Pitch Day’ or essentially their slush pile. My first attempt was rejected, but not completely! I was told my writing was strong and commercial, but it wasn’t quite what they were looking for at the time. So after a while, I sent it back in – this time, sending three chapters and a synopsis (I was only supposed to send one chapter.) Within about six weeks I had a signed contract.

Allen and Unwin managed to secure a two book deal with Blanvalet Verlag (Imprint of Random House, Germany) before Red Dust hit the shelves here. I have been very lucky with my journey.

Wow, Fleur, that’s an incredibly inspiring first sale story! (For those aspiring writers, Allen and Unwin still have their Friday Pitch!)

Place is very important in Red Dust and you obviously have a strong connection with the land. What is it about the landscape that captures you so much?

I love the land. It’s as simple as that. I can see beauty in most areas, especially in the northern parts, that some people see as desolate.  My husband can’t understand what I see in the NT or the area that my parents live in, but he’s looking at it as a farmer and therefore at productivity.  I just see beauty! But I also see it in the area that I live in now – Esperance, WA. I love the bird cries, the sheep walking their worn paths, the cattle tearing at knee high green grass!

As a kid, I spent hours roaming around the bush, by myself, exploring. I also spent a lot of time camping with my family and flying across remote parts of northern Australia with my dad. This has all just entrenched a love of the land in me.

Every day brings something new – it might be a fog in the morning or a heavy rain shower that came from nowhere! But, the land is forever changing. I feel at peace on the land and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Admittedly, I don’t like the drought times, but there are still beautiful things to be found then, too, you just have to look a bit harder.

I find the city very hard to be in – the noise, in particular grates at me, but it’s worth a quick visit for my Hungry Jack’s fix and if I can get to any theatre or tennis! We’re nine hours from Perth, so I don’t go very much, anyway.

So describe a typical day out on your wonderful property juggling family, writing and farming.

Anthony often leaves early – 5am or so. That leaves me with a couple of hours to write before it’s time to get the kids up and on the bus. If I don’t have to work on the farm, I then race around and do all the domestic things and then start to write – well that’s the theory! Sometimes I get waylaid by an idea and realize at lunch time, I haven’t cleaned up the breakfast dishes!

I actually don’t sit at my computer for long – I’m always jumping up and doing something else, until I get another idea and then I’m back there again.

During busy times of the year, I don’t get to write much, at home, so on my one day a week that I go into town to get the next weeks supplies, I have an agreement with our accountant, that I can go and write in their office for a couple of hours. I get very itchy fingers during these times!

I always have a note pad and pen with me, wherever I go! Some times I write chapters in long hand, while I’m shifting sheep or waiting in the chaser bin.

For those wondering about a chaser bin check out Fleur’s Blog page where she has some video footage of one.

So Fleur, have you always written the same kind of books or have you written in other genres?

Red Dust was the first book I ever wrote and Blue Skies is in a similar vein.  I think mysteries/crime are my first love – I started early with The Famous Five! I do however, have two projects that I work on when I have time and space, that are nothing like these two books.

I think to be successful, it helps if you write what you know about – how else can you put sincerity into your work, otherwise? With Red Dust, I based it in the mid north of SA, where I grew up. I understood the mentality of the people, the atmosphere, the weather, the land. Then I wove a story of stock stealing into that – that was something I needed to research, but it worked with the setting I was using.

Who do you think your novels appeals to?

Well, the feedback I’ve had is, that a large variety of people – more than I thought! (I hope that doesn’t sound conceited!) I started off thinking it would suit women, but I’ve had a thirteen year old girl, tell me how much she loved it and a fifty year old man! And many others in between, including people who wouldn’t usually read that sort of book – they’ve all said the plot has kept them reading.

There is a hunger for good Australian fiction, which people can relate to. That’s where I aim my books.

I see Blue Skies is due for release in April 2010 (that’s in time for Mother’s Day!). Can you tell us a bit about that story?

Blue Skies, is a play on words. In the book there is ‘blue skies’, but also depression. Rural depression is a real issue and a big one. I’ve tried to tap into that. This is the blurb from the publishers:

Amanda Greenfield must deal with grief at her mother’s recent death and fury with her father for letting the farm get so rundown and debt-ridden that he loses it to the bank.

Armed with an honours degree in Agribusiness – and plenty of determination and grit – Amanda sets out to redeem the sins of her father and save Kyleena in honour of her beloved mother and grandparents … And there’s a lovely romantic subplot along the way!

With an inspirational heroine, terrific evocation of its outback setting, a great plot and believable characters, Blue Skies will be every bit as strong as Red Dust.

What’s next for you from there?

I’m working on my third book, Purple Roads, which is set in the mid north of South Australia again. I have an idea for the fourth in the ‘colour’ series, but I can only work on these two books when we’re not doing anything with Blue Skies. I find it too difficult to work on two books, intensely – I have been known to accidentally write my main character of one book, into the next!

I also have a couple of ‘labour of loves’ that I’m working one – one about a woman’s journey through breast cancer – I have lost two friends, to this terrible disease, this year, so I have first hand experience with the hurt, grief and every other emotion that is entered into (once again, writing what I know, I suppose). My friend Ned, was only forty and had children younger than mine. I really want to somehow make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. (Incidentally, part of the royalties of Blue Skies, will be going to breast cancer research.)

The other one is titled ‘Ripple’ and it’s about a small, country community’s journey when one of their ‘golden’ girls is killed. How it affects the whole town from the family down to the teachers who taught her at school and all in between. Neither one of those books are anywhere near finished and will take me some time and they may never see the light of day, but they are something that I feel, I need to do.

Christmas is just round the corner. Give us an insight into Christmas in the outback and your favourite way to spend the day.


Fleur McDonald

Christmas is at a bad time for farmers! Often, we are still madly trying to get our crop off or we’re shearing and it doesn’t rate much of a mention, until the week before, or we realise that it’s school holidays! (Last year, I tried to get the kids ready for school, in the first week of the school holidays, much to the kids’ horror!) Since both Anthony and I work on the farm, we find it hard to get away to make all the preparations and we’re usually fairly disorganised! Luckily our family love us, no matter what the house looks like or what sort of meal we put on the table!

on the day, first up for me, is Church. If I can’t get to town to go, I spend sometime reading the Bible and reflecting on why we celebrate Christmas. Then, it’s presents and cooking up a huge feast for lunch! We’re all traditional and rather partial to roast pork and chicken, roast vegies and a must is broccoli cheese! (And there is nothing more yummy than roast done in the Webber.) If I do say so myself, I make a pretty mean pavlova, so that’s usually dessert.

In the afternoon, like everyone, we usually sleep off the wine and food and the kids play with their presents!

We are hoping that this year will be slightly different –we’d like to spend it at the beach, with just the four of us (me, hubby and our two kids!) I’m planning the menu already – I do love cooking! And it will be nice to have a change of a cooked meal to salads and light food. Hopefully harvest will be finished.

Fleur, that sounds like a fabulous way to spend Christmas! Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your writing journey with us. The glimpse into your busy life juggling two very different careers has been great. Fleur will be dropping by for the next few days to answer any queries, so feel free to ask!

And at the end of the week we’ll conduct  a random draw and one lucky visitor will receive an autographed copy of ‘Red Dust’. So leave a message to be in the running for this wonderful book!




8 thoughts on “Guest Blog with Fleur McDonald, author of “Red Dust”

  1. Hi Catherine, glad you enjoyed meeting Fleur! I know you’ll enjoy Red Dust, it’s wonderfully Australian.

    And thanks for dropping by!!


  2. Lovely interview Helene and Fleur. Some great questions Helene – thanks! I hope you have a lovely beach Christmas Fleur. I can’t wait to read Red Dust. Thanks, Cath

  3. Hello everyone! So sorry it has taken me so long to get back to Helene’s lovely web site! The power has been down for 18 hours and also took out with the mobile phone tower! As I use Next G wireless, it snookered me for a while! Anyway, we’re back and going.

    Noelene – thank you for your kind comments and welcome to Helene’s website – she has loads of interesting content here.

    Bev, Red Dust isn’t avaiable in Canada, but there are three ways you can get a copyy. One, win today! Two, I have a giveaway on my website, at the moment (there are five copies available and international guests are more than welcome to enter) and three, if you follow this link you can buy one from Allen & Unwin’s website. And I’m very pleased the interview interested you.

    Best wishes, Fleur

  4. Hi Bev, glad you enjoyed reading it. I’m sure Fleur will know exactly where you can buy it overseas so I’ll let her answer that one when she get here. You can find it at the Allen and Unwin site in Australia.


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