When I interviewed South Australian author Victoria Purman about her most recent novel, The Three Miss Allens, it felt like I was catching up with a friend from my school days, or a former work colleague. We were born in the same year, have many cultural touchstones and memories in common, and each pursued a career in journalism. While I stayed with print journalism, Victoria ventured into broadcast news and, later, moved into government and corporate sectors, including stints as a communications specialist for high profile politicians in SA.
She now combines a part-time communications career with a passion for writing romance novels, having racked up a number of published titles, with several more in the pipeline. The Three Miss Allens (Harlequin) combines contemporary and historical storylines and explores a number of significant social issues from the past and the present, including domestic violence, education and employment for women, and the plight of unmarried mothers. Victoria also gives back to the community through her roles with the SA Writers Centre, Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) and the Carclew Youth Arts Board.
Victoria’s passion for writing and reading, her exuberant personality, and her warmth and wit shone through during our conversation, and are clearly evident in her stories — and in her responses to my questions. I’m certain you’ll enjoy reading about the books and authors she loves, and the titles on her shelves.
Q. Victoria, how would you describe the work that you do and how you do it?
A. I write books for women about women, featuring emotional journeys through loss and love. How do I do that? Lots of typing! Believe me when I say it takes lots of typing, imagining, conversations in my head and what-if scenarios playing out when I’m hanging up the washing.
Q. What is your latest project, and/or what do you have in the pipeline?
A. I’ve just submitted my 11th and 12th books: a full-length family saga to Harlequin MIRA, and a novella about an Aussie firefighter for the US-based Tule Publishing. In a few weeks, I’m going to start working on my 13th book – I hope that’s a lucky number – for Harlequin MIRA.
Q. Where are the main bookcases in your home or office? Do you also keep books in other places at home (or elsewhere)?
A. When we moved house five years ago (because with three then teenaged boys we needed more space) we were lucky enough to find a place with a spare room that is half my study and half the boys TV room. Before we even moved in we installed floor to ceiling bookshelves along one wall to hold books, CDs, DVDs, photo albums and games. But there’s not enough space and from the start we had to double up the books!
Q. How are your books organised/arranged? (ie alphabetically, by theme or genre, using some sort of formal or informal filing system, by colour perhaps?)
A. Nothing so organised! I do have two special shelves – one for all my own books, and another for all the signed books I’ve collected over the years from author friends, book launches I’ve been to and from the authors I’ve interviewed as part of Adelaide Writers’ Week. That’s getting full, too!
Q. What sorts of books predominate?
A. There’s a huge mixture on the family book shelves, from the collection of Wisdens to sports, history, literary novels, Harry Potter, romances, women’s fiction and historical non-fiction, which is my husband’s favourite genre.
Q. Describe your favourite reading place.
A. My bed! I try to read every night when everything in the house is quiet and I’m not too tired.
Q. What book/s are you reading right now? Why did you choose that book/those books and what do you think of it/them so far?
A. I’ve just finished In At The Deep End, by my friend and fellow Harlequin author, Penelope Janu, which I adored. And I’m not just saying that because I know her! She’s written a Norwegian navy commander who’s either wearing a dress uniform or a wetsuit. Say no more! And I’ve just finished Girl Waits With Gun, by the US author Amy Stewart. I heard her speak at Adelaide Writers’ Week and she described a real-life tale of the Kopp sisters in 1914 New Jersey. I loved that too – it’s a little Phryne Fisher-esque, which is fabulous. I also have a whole stack on my TBR pile – including Wayward Heart, by Cathryn Hein, and Break The Rules, by Claire Boston.
Q. What are your favourite books and/or who are your favourite authors?
A. Nora Roberts would have to be right up there. To Kill A Mockingbird was my first true favourite and, of course, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, by Jane Austen. And then there are too many to name!
Q. In the event of an emergency, if you could save just three books from your collection, which books would they be – and why would you choose them?
A. My own! I’ve saved copies to give to my sons when they’re older, so I would grab those first!
Q. If you could sit down for afternoon tea with your three favourite characters or authors, who would they be, what would you serve them, and what would like to talk to them about?
A. Banana Cake because it’s amazing! I’d love to sit down with Nora (hello!), to ask her about her career and ideas and how she writes such snapping dialogue, Jane Austen to ask her about her own love life (such a mystery), and Monica McInerney because I’ve met her and she’s absolutely delightful.
Find out more about Victoria here:
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