I wrote my first book when I was twelve, a Silver Brumby* fan fiction piece of about one hundred and ten handwritten, foolscap pages. My mother still has it somewhere, ready to embarrass me with it.
For the next twenty years, I wrote about a million words of crap, best used to light campfires on cold days. This is what I like to think of as my writer’s apprenticeship, or as Malcolm Gladwell would say, my 10,000 hours.
Through the 1990s, I happened to go to university, and eventually won scholarships to write long and boring things like a PhD in anthropology and an MA in archaeology. I run a consultancy business in archaeology and anthropology and get paid to basically walk around the bush in super remote places often when it’s very hot.
(No, I don’t dig up dinosaurs (that’s palaeontology), though I have dealt with a few people who should be classed as fossils).
Way back in the early 2000s I won a number of Australian speculative fiction awards, often under pen names, before my first publishing contract came for The Maker of Skulls, part of an anthology published by Magellan Books.
My novel, The Darkest Flame, was subsequently optioned by a major Australian publisher in 2003.
Due to a catastrophic life event I withdrew from the contract negotiations…
…and did not write fiction for a decade.
In the meantime, I turned to travel writing, and accumulated over 200 published travel articles online, in in-flight airline magazines, mainstream travel magazines and in government tourist publications.
At the beginning of 2015, two of my main characters nagged me incessantly, telling me they didn’t wish to die in the dim, dark recesses of my head. So I got my muse back, gathered my mojo bag and hit the keyboard – something I wish I’d done years ago.
For those who interested in more personal things, I have two children, one step-daughter, the world’s best life partner and professional proof reader and two dogs: Wiley, a German Wirehaired Pointer, and Scout, a very naughty Saluki.
I’ve lived in a number of places, including Sydney, Yogyakarta and Alice Springs – the unofficial capital of outback Australia. I now live on 24 bush acres right on the banks of the Murray River in South Australia. I can’t see my neighbours and I love it!
I don’t like vegemite, streetlights or asparagus, but I am partial to red wine, home made pizza and campfires.
*Brumbies are the Australian equivalent of the American mustang, wild horses.
Elyne Mitchell was a much loved Australian author who wrote a highly awarded children’s series of books about brumbies in the Australian alps (colloquially, the high country), the most famous of which is titled The Silver Brumby.
Mitchell’s influence on many Australian authors older than 40 cannot be underestimated: she wrote with a distinctive sense of place that captures the essence of Australia’s bush for those of us who love it. This article sums up up Mitchell’s contribution to Australian literature and her writing style beautifully.
Elyne Mitchell was also the very first author I ever wrote to, and she wrote back to me, and encouraged me to write. I was fourteen years old.
There is now an annual Elyne Mitchell Writing Award. You can learn more about that here.