Fiona McCallum is the South Australian author of The Button Jar series among other stand alone titles, many of which you can find reviewed on Beauty and Lace. We were able to find out a little more about Fiona in this interview.
Hi Fiona and welcome to Beauty and Lace, thanks for your time.
It’s my pleasure!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve dabbled in all sorts of writing for as long as I can remember. And I’ve always been a voracious reader, which is another important part of being a writer. At the age of nine I declared to my parents that I wanted to be the next Enid Blyton. But I wasn’t encouraged. Arts in my family was something that was considered never to be more than a hobby. But the dream of entertaining readers with my down-to-earth stories remained, bubbling below the surface. Though, as a young adult I turned to studying non-fiction via TAFE by correspondence in the hope that one day I could write and also make a living. How I’ve got to where I am now is a bit too much of a long, winding story to cover here. But after my marriage ended I moved to Melbourne and got my first opportunity to go to university. I was twenty-six. I invested my small divorce settlement in putting myself through full-time. It was the most wonderful, enlightening, life-changing experience for me. While there, though, I was put off non-fiction thanks to a lecturer who took a personal dislike to me – one of a long line of men in my life who haven’t appreciated my strength and independence! I changed my focus to fiction purely because the woman who took the class was nice. Soon after finishing my Bachelor of Arts degree (majors in writing, editing and history), the writing itch manifested itself in writing full-length adult popular fiction and insisted I start scratching. It took four manuscripts, nine years, and many rejections to finally be offered a publishing contract. I need to write, but had actually decided to stop trying to get published – all the rejection was destroying my soul. Then one day my planets aligned and quite by accident I met my publisher. (It’s another long story.) And, as they say, the rest is history!
Can you tell us a bit about the first thing you remember writing?
I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories as a child, but can’t remember specific pieces, except a poem I wrote just after losing my dad when I was nineteen. The first piece I had published was in a now defunct South Australian newspaper when I was twenty-five. It was non-fiction and titled The Changing Roles of Rural Women.
The latest release is Meant To Be, can you tell us a little about it?
Meant To Be is the third (and at this stage final) in The Button Jar series. Emily Oliphant has been through some serious ups and downs after finally having the courage to leave her abusive husband and defy her controlling mother. It’s thanks to her best friends Barbara and David, and of course the very gorgeous Jake, that she has got to where she is. In this book, I wanted to wrap Emily’s story up whilst giving her the opportunity to repay her friends their kindness and support and make peace with her community after the negative experience of being the centre of gossip.
What inspired the setting and is Wattle Creek based on a real town?
Wattle Creek is based on the town of Cleve on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. I grew up on a farm nearby and lived in the district until I was twenty-six, so know the area well.
The cottage on Emily’s property played a large role in the story. What is it about these buildings that inspired you to make it such a large part of the story?
I’ve always loved old buildings. When I was married, there was an old run-down stone house near where I lived that, like Emily, I used to visit and sit and dream about doing up. I still dream about it. A lot of truth about my life and experiences end up in my stories.
The Button Jar is another major part of the story, did you see it almost as a character in it’s own right?
I did a bit. I had a wonderful grandmother that I spent a lot of time with growing up. She was very strong and very wise, and meant the absolute world to me. I saw the button jar as a way for Emily to remain connected with her deceased gran and draw on her strength and wisdom.
I found myself very intrigued by why Gran was gifted the diamonds, is this something you have all figured out but kept out of the story?
The purpose of the diamonds in the jar was to show the contrast that was her gran’s life before and after choosing to marry Emily’s farmer grandfather. They are there to remind Emily that she too can choose her own life, tread her own path. They are also there to test Emily, for her to prove that she is not like her mother Enid – that sentimentality will always win over money and material possessions.
Do you know what happens next for David and Barbara, their story broke my heart?
I love David and Barbara! They are beautiful people. I haven’t decided what happens next for them, but they have certainly had quite enough heart ache.
Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now?
I have Leap of Faith coming out April 1. It’s a beautiful horse story about a young woman, Jessica, who learns that help can come from the unlikeliest of sources.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Thankfully I live in a time and country where I can have a free, independent life making my own choices. I was raised to believe I need a man to take care of me, and spent far too much of my life trying to conform. I met far too many men who wanted a strong, independent woman until they actually had one, and have had my heart shattered several times. I spent far too much of my life feeling like a square peg and constantly trying to knock my edges off to fit into the round hole that society and family thought I should be in – in my personal life and career. But not any more. I write heart-warming journeys of self-discovery in the hope that others, especially women, might be inspired to choose to live the life of their dreams, no matter what that entails. In many ways, each story I write is my own.
It’s been fun. Thanks for having me on Beauty and Lace!