My Chat with Jennifer Scoullar

This week I’m chatting with Jennifer Scoullar whose debut novel, “Brumby’s Run” was released by Penguin this month. Sounds like another great Aussie story. I also love hearing about another writer’s journey. Realizing your dream never gets old. Here’s what we talked about…

So where were you born, raised, schooled?

I was born in Melbourne, and went to school there. My family had a house in Gardenvale, but we also had a property in the mountains. That’s where I kept my horses. I was horse mad then, and still am. As a teenager, I escaped town as often as possible. When I married, we went to live on the farm permanently, and I’m still there today.

What got you into writing fiction? Has writing always been a passion?

I’m a late starter at this writing game, in my forties before I became serious about completing a novel. As a child, I was always writing stories and poems. I began my first novel at eleven – some sort of a plagiarised version of The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell.  I knew I’d grow up to write books. But life got in the way. Thirty years later, and I finally heard that annoying, nagging voice … that voice of me as a child, reminding me that I was supposed to be a writer. It had been there all along, but I hadn’t been listening. One day, out of the blue, I picked up a pen. It was like I’d come home. I loved the rhythm of the prose and the pleasure of getting a sentence just right. I loved how everything happened exactly the way I wanted it to, in my imaginary world.

So this is your first published novel, can you tell us about the day, “Brumby’s Run” was accepted for publication? Was it exciting?

I’ve actually had another novel, Wasp Season, (an environmental thriller) published by a small Melbourne press. But my dream was to crack one of the big publishers. I pitched Brumby’s Run to Penguin at the 2011 RWA Conference in Melbourne. Two months later I was offered a contract. It was truly the best feeling in the world. I printed out the Penguin letter of offer and carried it around with me, just to remind myself it was real!

Nothing wrong with that! 🙂 What was the inspiration behind this story?

Brumby’s Run, was inspired by an iconic Banjo Paterson poem of the same name, first published in The Bulletin, December 1895. I’ve always loved this poem, and the story behind it. The term Brumby was just entering the language, based perhaps on an Aboriginal word, baroomby which means wild.  At a trial in the N.S.W. Supreme Court around the time this poem was written, the Judge, hearing of Brumby horses, asked: “Who is this Brumby, and where is his Run?” Banjo Paterson was so amused by the misunderstanding, he wrote his poem. So add Banjo’s poem, to my childhood love of the Silver Brumby books by Elyne Mitchell, and Brumby’s Run was the result.

I never knew that about Banjo’s poem. That is so interesting! One of the themes of this book is the relationship between sisters. I have three sisters myself so that sort of premise particularly resonates with me…  Do you have any sisters? Are you close?

You know what, Loretta? I don’t have any sisters. One, wonderful brother, but no sisters. Growing up, I always fantasised about how great it would be to have sisters. Maybe the premise of Brumby’s Run is partly wishful thinking on my behalf.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

The hardest thing about writing this book was the tight time frame I had in which to finish it. I began it in January 2011 and the RWA conference was in August – eight months. I enjoyed writing it, but it was a tough deadline.

I hear ya! I’ve been struggling with a similar deadline all year. Do you have a favourite character in your novel and why?

I have a soft spot for most of my characters (except Bill!). I must admit though, that I do have a favourite. Charlie. She’s a little wild – untamed like the brumbies. I admire that.

Where do you write? When do write? Do you have a special office/place?

I write wherever and whenever I get the chance. When you’re busy it pays to be flexible. My favourite place to write is in my little office space, just off the lounge room. But with teenage boys, it’s very often too noisy there. Next best is my bedroom, or the stable. Horses don’t interrupt as much, and they don’t mind me reading aloud. The beer garden at the local pub is also pretty good.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

After all these years, my favourite author is still Elyne Mitchell. I know she writes for children, but I still love her work for its beautiful prose, and the way she unashamedly gives animals a voice. I also love Andrea Goldsmith’s books for their fine writing and keen observations of character – and then there’s the plethora of Aussie rural lit writers of course!

And finally when and where can I get a copy of this great new novel!

Brumby’s Run is out now, and is widely available at all the usual places, such as BigW and Booktopia. Thanks very much Loretta, for allowing me this chance to chat to your readers!

It was great having you on my blog! Looking forward to reading your book.

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