Ten Books That Changed Me – Rachael Johns
The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M Martin – these were the first books I remember obsessing over. I had every single one within days of them coming out and all my friends at school were reading them. They got me addicted to reading and the idea of coming back to the same characters over and over again. As a girl, these strong characters inspired me and my friends to go forth and achieve our own dreams. Of course we all had ambitions about starting our own baby-sitters club as well, but sadly no one in real life (at least in Australia) seemed comfortable leaving their precious offspring with twelve- and thirteen-year-olds.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – pretty much the ONLY book I remember finishing during high school English. I think it was the character of Miss Havisham that particularly intrigued me; she was jilted at the altar and spent the rest of her life wearing her wedding dress. A scene from my first book Jilted was actually inspired by this dynamic character. Until Great Expectations, I pretty much hated anything my teachers told me to read, but this book taught me to give reading a chance again.
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – this is the book that gave me a writing epiphany. Until I read Bridget Jones, I’d been writing what I thought my university lecturers wanted me to write – ghastly attempts at literary fiction – when what I really wanted to be writing was something light-hearted and easy to read, something that made people laugh AND cry but explored universal emotions. I think the best thing about Bridget is how relatable she is – we’ve all been hopeless in love with the wrong guy before, we’ve all done stupid things in the name of love – and I try to remember in my own writing to make my characters as relatable as possible. They don’t have to be perfect, in fact, un-perfect characters are much more interesting, but in the genre I write, characters do need to be easy to relate to.
On Writing by Stephen King – I have a hundred writing-craft books (it’s a bit of an addiction) but this is the only one I come back to. It is an inspiring insight into a master’s mind and King’s advice is so simple yet so thorough. My copy got so tattered that I ended up having to buy another one.
Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure – I read this book not long after I moved to my first rural community and it felt so real. I call myself a converted country girl, having moved from the city to the country in my mid-twenties, and Jillaroo was the first book I read that celebrated the small-town life I’d fallen in love with. I never dreamed when I read and loved Jillaroo that within five or so years, I’d find myself writing in this same genre.
Anything by Lisa Jewell – I read Lisa’s first book Ralph’s Party around the time I was starting to write and finding my voice; I loved it so much and have pretty much read everything by her since (or if I haven’t got to it yet, it’s in my TBR pile). Again it’s her characters that get under my skin – they could be real people, yet they are interesting, fascinating. She’s an author that has never disappointed me and I’ve learnt a lot about character-driven writing from reading her books.
Northern Lights by Nora Roberts – this was the very first Nora book I ever read and I fell in love with the setting (this one is in Alaska) and her easy-to-read style. Nora is a true inspiration for writers – I was lucky enough to hear her speak a few years ago and she was so down to earth! She’s one of the most successful novelists on the planet but as she says, the only secret to her success is hard work – she sits down and she doesn’t procrastinate. I need to channel my Inner Nora a lot more I think. People often quote Nora as saying, ‘You can’t fix a blank page’, and I try to remember this when I’m staring at the computer screen wondering if I can actually do this!
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford – this was one of my uni texts (I did an English degree so we had to read a lot of classics, and this is one of those lesser known books that fit that classification). This is another book I keep meaning to reread because I have such a shocking memory, I can’t even remember what I loved about it, BUT, I know that at the time I thought one day I’d like to write a modern-day retelling of it. The internet tells me it’s a book about two marriages and adultery, themes that still fascinate us all these years later.
About a Boy and A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby – aside from Dickens, Nick has to be my favourite male author. His books are so funny and he mines human emotions so damn well. About a Boy (which was also made into a fantastic movie) is about a single guy who pretends to have a baby to pick up chicks, and A Long Way Down is about a bunch of people who meet on the roof of a building, all of them about to commit suicide. I found him around the time I found Helen Fielding and Lisa Jewell, and these writers I loved back then taught me a lot about the kind of fiction I wanted to write myself.
An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I’ll be honest, I can’t actually remember much about this book aside from the fact that I enjoyed it and that my mum read it to me. I remember one particular day where we went out to a park, sat under a tree and she read it for hours because I was enjoying it so much! I would love to go back and read it again, to see what all the fuss was about…then again, maybe it’s better I don’t. Some books are better left as good memories because what we loved at one stage in our life we might not love always.
The Greatest Gift
Mother: Female parent of a child
Mum: The woman who nurtures, raises and loves a child
Radio host Harper Drummond lives for her career. Every day she meets fascinating people doing extraordinary things, but has begun to wonder whether there could be something more for her out there. She’s financially secure, happily married to Samuel and has a great group of friends — what more could she want? It’s only when she interviews one special couple that she starts to think about whether she could make a different kind of contribution.
Claire and Jasper Lombard are passionate about their thriving hot air balloon business and know they’re lucky to find such joy in their work and in each other. But while Jasper has accepted that he will never be a father, Claire has found it hard to come to terms with her infertility. She doesn’t want Jasper to regret choosing her over a child in the years to come. Is there a way to give themselves a real chance at being a happy family?
Can they find someone who will give them the greatest gift? Or will it come at a greater cost?
The poignant, heartwarming story of two women: one who wants nothing else than to be a mum, and one who never wanted to be a mother, from the bestselling, ABIA award-winning author of The Patterson Girls.