My mother read my sister and me lots of stories. Her favourites were The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. She read them with such love we still think of them as jewels.
My father told us bedtime stories that he made up, and read us Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.
I worked as a nurse and midwife in a remote part of the Solomon Islands, a string of almost 1000 islands between New Guinea and Vanuatu. The hospital had no running water and no telephone. When the generator broke down soon after I arrived it meant no electricity for months. We cooked on a wood stove, the fridge ran on kerosene and at night Tilley lamps that use paraffin oil instead of electricity provided light.
Letters arrived once a week – it was long before emails and mobile phones. There was plenty to write home about: feasts of pigeon and sweet potato on banana leaves, village fights with war clubs, patients arriving in dugout canoes or on stretchers the family had carried through the tropical rainforest, and pet parrots that sometimes came with a sick child and swooped up and down the ward.
After the Solomon Islands I worked in England before coming back to Australia. Newspapers and magazines began accepting my work but it wasn’t until my children had grown up that my first book was published.