I am 80 years old, now a widow, after 53 years of a very happy marriage. I have two daughters, one of whom is married and has a teen-age son. I live alone in a retirement village, surrounded by other residents of similar age groups. We socialize together, and look after each other. I am a retired botanist. I studied Australia’s native plants for many years, and also taught in universities, secondary schools, and in adult education.
Why I wrote the book The Redgens of Redford
As a child in the 1950s, I grew up on a farm, long before the days of the internet, mobile phones, and most modern appliances. The farming methods my family used would now be considered antiquated. But very little has ever been published about the way we lived then. I wanted to record it, both for my own family members, and also for the wider Australian population. It is a way of life that has vanished, but should never be forgotten.
I have been reading books as long as I can remember. I can’t tell you the very first one, but it was probably one of the classic Australian books about our native animals, koalas, platypus, and kookaburras. There was also a book about little people who dressed in flowers of gum trees, and lived among the animals….’Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’.
Favourite book and author?
Too many books to list them all! But probably ‘Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, would be high on the list.
How long did it take you to write?
The book probably took 40 years to write. I live far from my childhood home, and was often very homesick. I managed by writing down stories of my childhood, and they just sat on my computer hard-disc. It was only in the last 3 or 4 years that I set about pulling them together, adding to them, and getting them ready for publication.
The most difficult part?
I was the youngest of 4 children. My parents both died before 2000, and my 3 siblings have also passed away. So now I have no-one who can check my memories for accuracy. I just acknowledge that my memories may sometimes be faulty.
I used assisted publication. I employed a publishing house to edit my text, and to handle printing and distribution. I over-estimated the number of copies needed, so have quite a few remaining. This was an expensive mistake. However, I am very happy with the presentation of the finished product. The publisher also submitted the eBook to Amazon for me.
When it was finally printed.
The publisher sent me a proof copy of the book, and that was a major step in my life. Holding those pages made me so proud and excited. I was also very nervous to find out what my friends and family would think of my efforts. Thankfully, everyone seems pleased with the result.
Overall, I feel very satisfied that I published this book.
There was not room in my book for all the memories of my childhood and early life. For months, I have been writing blogs about many more aspects, and I then publish them on my website. Maybe there will eventually be enough blogs to pull together into another book. Also on my website, you can buy a paperback copy of the book, direct from the printer. There are also links to Amazon kindle, where you can buy my other books.
My fiction books.
Since the Redgens of Redford was published, I have also begun publishing romance novellas, some linked to the writing of Jane Austen. I self-publish on Amazon Kindle.
My writing space
I have encouraging mottos pinned up over my desk e.g.:
‘I’m not perfect, but I’m enough.’
‘I’m not 80; I’m 16 with 64 years of experience.’
There is also my favorite photo of my late husband, smiling down on me.
How do I celebrate finishing a book?
I start planning the next book (or 2).
I usually have the radio playing classical music, as it makes the house seem less empty.
Where ideas come from
Now I write romances, which I set in Australian country towns. The ideas sometimes come from Jane Austen’s novels, sometimes from my own past experiences.
I develop quite a detailed outline of the plot, so that it makes sense. [using Obsidian, a very helpful online tool.] I make sure I have an introduction section, a problem to be solved, difficulties along the way, a climax, and somewhere a twist, that will surprise both me and the reader.
Then I start writing, and the characters often take me in unexpected directions, so the outline has to rewritten!
Am I Original or follow a path?
A bit of both. The memoir had to tell the story I promised. Romances expect a happy ending, which I have to provide. Not many such books are set in Australia, so I can introduce an Australian flavour, and that is original. Sometimes the expected romances don’t work out.
My fiction stories are set in towns I personally know well, but I also check many details online.
My characters are combinations of people I have known during my long life. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes they develop their own ideas, and take me in directions I did not expect. I check Google for lists of baby’s names in the years my characters would have been born. That gives me a better idea of what to call them.
Favourite part of publication
Getting good reviews. I also had some very bad reviews for my first fiction novel, complaining about the spelling and other editing mistakes. When I checked, I found I had uploaded an earlier, uncorrected version of the text. Of course, I uploaded the corrected version as soon as I could, but the negative comments are still there. Despite that, the book continues to sell well. A lesson learned.
My Happy Marriage
My darling late husband developed dementia when he was in his 70s. We lived with it together for 9 years, but then he went into residential care for more than 5 years. He died in late December 2021.
I contemplated writing a non-fiction book, telling the whole story of our long battle with this disease. But it would have been very traumatic for me, and I doubt I would ever have completed it. I dropped that idea, even though I have many diary records created over the years.
I am currently working on a fiction novel, in which my heroine lives with her father who is developing dementia. I want to show some of the heartache and problems involved, but also show, that life MUST go on for the rest of the family. My heroine will emerge from the experience a wiser person, with the rest of a good life before her. I don’t know yet whether she will have a romance, but I know she will be a great success at whatever she decides to do.
Barbara Randell Media Links