Tell Us Your Backstory with Mary-Anne O’Connor
When you think about my career think ‘Madonna’, i.e. fluoro socks and stilettoes morph to scarily-coned corsets morph to cowgirl slinging American pie etc. Not that I wore such outfits myself (maybe the socks), more that I’ve reinvented my vocation more times than you can poke a top 40 hit at.
By the time I reached my forties I’d been a woefully unfit gym owner, technically clueless website marketer, complementary medicine lecturer, primary school teacher (I thought I’d get to sing songs with the children all day aka Maria from Sound of Music but alas) and an environment teacher for Japanese kids (I can’t speak Japanese). There was even an earlier attempt to actually be the Australian version of Madonna, but the less said about that the better.
Looking back on it, there seems little rhyme nor reason that I ended up being an author except for the simple fact that writing was actually the only logic underpinning it all. ‘Gym owner’ Mary-Anne wrote staff training manuals, ‘clueless website’ Mary-Anne wrote the copy, ‘Maria’ Mary-Anne wrote some pretty inventive lessons (there were puppets!), and, in fairness, there were actual lyrics in my self-titled album.
As it turns out, my inner author had been trying to erupt the entire time, I’d just been too busy running around in confused career circles to stop and listen to her. Until my current company closed down. I was left with nothing to do except compose flamboyant resumes and wait for the job offers to come rolling in.
For the first time in my life I was bored, then, staring at my Anzac grandfather’s war photo, a mad idea began to form. My inner author swelled inside and burst forth in a rush as I typed two words: Gallipoli Street.
Three months later I had a manuscript and I began to approach every single publisher in the land. Surely they would love the ‘Paperback Writer’ Mary-Anne! I even changed my ring tone to the song and started wearing jaunty, authorly hats. But sadly, no. Rejections arrived and I cried, ranted and wallowed in my angst (and a fair bit of red wine), swearing every time that, as God was my witness, I’d never ever, give up! Then, one day, a publisher suggested a professional edit. Hooray- they loved me after all! I shall edit and be published and there would be many more lovely hats purchased.
Three edits and two years later I had the same publisher reject me.
Oh, how I wailed! But fear not readers, for there was a happy ending. Another publisher accepted me the very next day! Then, wait for it…the original publisher came back and wanted me after all! Oh happy joyousness of a bidding war! I signed with the new publisher and Gallipoli Street was released on Anzac Day 2015. I lit a candle in front of my grandfather’s photo. 😊
A year later my second novel Worth Fighting For was released and this month my third, War Flower, will hit the shelves. There’s plenty of emotion in all three, as you can probably gather from my references to being prone to wailing/joyousness etc. but there’s a lot of truth underpinning them too. I’ve filled them with love and heart and humour and every ounce of perseverance and faith I could find during my Madonna-like journey to authordom. They are inspired by Australian heroes and the people who loved them and I like to think we are all heroes really, writing our own story, reinventing as we go. My advice to anyone would be to listen the voice within, the one trying to erupt. And to never, ever give up.
Set against the colourful backdrop of a swinging sixties Sydney and the brutality of the Vietnam War, War Flower follows the journey of six young people through their lives in a turbulent era, and asks – can love still prevail when horror becomes almost too much to bear?
Can love prevail, when horror becomes too much to bear?
The 1960s are beating a fresh pulse of political and cultural upheaval through Sydney. For sheltered convent schoolgirl Poppy Flannery such changes seem irrelevant. But it doesn’t stop her from longing to join in, especially if it means spending time with the popular boy she secretly loves, Ben Williamson. So when the opportunity for a dream escape to Surfers Paradise arrives, Poppy and her twin sister Rosemary seize it and find themselves in the midst of the swinging sixties at last.
Rosemary embraces their secret new life with a vengeance, discovering drugs, boys and radical politics in a haze of parties, music festivals and protest marches. But such freedom is stolen when Rosemary’s great love, Angus, is sent to Vietnam, along with Ben.
Soon a war fought thousands of kilometres away will arrive on the twins’ door in the form of orphaned refugee Thuy. As many more victims begin to appear, including shattered versions of Australian soldiers, they must decide how far they will go for the men they adore, and ask themselves whether love really is all you need.