She may be a globetrotting, bestselling author but Di Morrissey is really looking forward to coming to Wauchope to sign copies of her new book at the Department Store next month.
“I’m very interested in local businesses, and the Mid North Coast is a big secret that should be promoted,” she said.
Her latest book, ‘A Distant Journey’, is about a young woman who comes from Palm Springs in California to live on a sheep station in Riverina. Inspired by the location, Di lived there for a month to do research.
“I have grazier friends, and the vicissitudes of the wool industry are very interesting, with Australia riding on the sheep’s back up to the collapse of the wool industry in 1991. Then, rich graziers had to go out and shoot their sheep, which is not covered in literature,” she said.
The heroine is a fish out of water, who has married into a very different family with a sinister secret.
“It’s a woman’s journey at the beginning of the feminism movement, where she goes into a very male-dominated family where the patriarch rules the roost over her new husband.
“It’s a new life in a new country. Domestic violence is the shadow beneath the surface that was never talked about then.”
Di has always been a storyteller; reading was very important in her family and books were treasured. She still has her grandfather’s and mother’s books.
Making up her own stories from early childhood, Di thought everyone else did the same.
”I didn’t leave school and become a writer. I did other things first, becoming a journalist,” she explained.
For a while, Australia’s commercial fiction was dominated by overseas writers. Then in 1989, Pan McMillan decided to publish Australian stories.
“They took a punt on me, and my first book came out and I haven’t stopped writing since. Writing is a gift but you can hone your skills,” she said.
Working as a journalist, Di learned to research and get the reader in quickly, to write simply and make it easy to read, which is very hard.
She lives in her chosen location for a month, then sits down and writes for six months, and is very disciplined.
“My day starts early. By 7am, I am at my desk and I work solidly until 6pm, although I do take breaks. I let the characters take me where they want to go.”
Her advice to would-be writers: just sit at your desk and do it. If you get stuck, go for a walk. Don’t get hung up. Sleep on it, and start again next day. For her, writing is an incurable disease.
“It’s unquenchable. I would still be writing down stories if they got published or not.”
Doing a book a year is a tight schedule and requires extreme discipline and hard work. Di says she’s very lucky to have a personal full-time editor who looks after her alone. She edits her work every day as she writes.
“Then I go on a promotional tour, meeting readers and that is the best bit.”
She is still involved in journalism through her own newspaper, the Manning Community News which is also online.
Di had a tough childhood; she was just seven when her father and baby brother drowned. Her mother re-invented herself as a commercial film director.
Di’s son and daughter and four grandchildren live in America and they get together a lot. Gabrielle lives in Texas and works for the Albert Schweitzer Foundation while Nick teaches art history in Georgia.
The writer is also involved in humanitarian work. She went to Burma to research a book, and ended up funding a school which she visits regularly.
She and her husband, Boris Janjic, a retired cameraman, love their rural riverside home in the Manning Valley, near her grandparents’ old house.
And fans will be glad to know that Di is working on her next book.