Former railways girl Monica McInerney has spun her tales from Clare to Ireland.
Now the author of a dozen books, she captivated a crowd of mostly country readers at an event at Meg’s Bookshop in Port Pirie.
About 70 people, predominantly women, from such places as Gladstone, Jamestown, Wirrabara, Booleroo Centre and Port Germein, heard her describe writing as “climbing deep in my own heart”.
“I send my characters physically and emotionally on journeys around the world,” she said.
The daughter of the late former railway stationmaster at Clare, she said she owed much to the Clare Valley.
“I used to write family comedy dramas. Now I write big books about messy families,” she said.
She said she rewrites her manuscript drafts up to 10 times, looking for the nuances of story and character.
She put the real-life bookshop owner Margie Arnold into a fictional story that featured a sheep station in the Flinders Ranges near Hawker.
As a result of translations of her books, people in Portugal, Brazil and Latvia have read about the “dark-haired” Margie who was involved with her characters in Port Pirie.
The audience hung on every word uttered by the master storyteller.
“You must be curious and interested in real people,” she said.
“My husband has to move me on when I become too interested in other people’s conversations.”
Her husband John Drislane is a former Clare-based reporter with The Flinders News. They now live in Dublin, Ireland, where she writes in an attic.
Ms McInerney recalled her days as a child sitting around the kitchen table with her family in Clare “trying to be funny… all of that goes into my book”.
She paid tribute to Margie Arnold for supporting her as an independent bookseller.
“It has been wonderful fun,” she said.
The event was a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Ms Mcinerney said that Australia’s stories were told in bookshops such as Margie and Mark Arnold’s.
She said she began her writing process while haunted by insomnia and looking at a blank computer screen with “a spark of an idea”.
Strolling around town, having a coffee or wine … that is where she gains her inspiration from everyday people.
“It is ‘walking composting’ – everything comes as raw material and mulches away. That is where I get my characters from,” she said.
“Clare Valley should be the setting of a film of a book. I am here researching my next book.”