Author Interview: Brooke Dunnell

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Brooke Dunnell is the author of Last Best Chance, one of our upcoming book club reads. Get to know the author in this interview:

Tell us about your book

Last Best Chance takes place over three weeks in the lead-up to a worldwide climate change expo being held in a fictional Central European capital city. When forty-two-year-old Rachel arrives in the unnamed country from Australia to undergo IVF treatment, the additional scrutiny that accompanies the expo jeopardises her plans to become a single mother.

Meanwhile, British expat Jess, the other protagonist, hopes to use the upcoming expo to her advantage to leave her dead-end jobs behind and make a name for herself in her new homeland. 

Which of your characters do you most relate to and why?

I relate to both Rachel and Jess in different ways. Initially, the storyline only featured Rachel and her quest to undergo donor-embryo IVF overseas as her own eggs aren’t useable anymore.

This premise arose from my own experience with local IVF and reading online forums where Western clients, usually from the US, travelled to places like the Czech Republic for lower-cost treatment. Though I never left Australia for fertility treatments, I was fascinated by the intricacies involved in doing so. 

At the same time, I definitely empathise with Jess because she’s in her mid-twenties with a floundering career—no career at all, really—and so she gets this idea that she can become a famous journalist with nothing but a communications degree, a few book reviews and a dubious connection to a billionaire who may or may not attend the expo.

The basis for some of those experiences, like the university study and writing focus, came from my own life, though I was never quite as misguided as Jess! (I hope.)

What are three things that we would always find on your desk?

I’m like so many writers in that I need to have coffee at hand, at least when I start writing! If it’s been a long writing session or I’m a few coffees in for the day, I might have water or tea, but coffee is the default.

You’ll also find controlled chaos of notes, coloured pens (filling in my calendar with bright colours makes me feel more in control!) and artsy postcards and photographs that put me in a happier headspace. Finally, below the desk, you’ll find two sleeping Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, at least one of whom is snoring his head off.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, and has that changed over the course of your writing career?

I’ve actually moved a bit closer to the plotter end of the spectrum as I’ve matured as a writer. When I was much younger, I used to start stories with absolutely no idea of where they were headed, and they always went off the rails in some way. That would lead to me abandoning them and never returning. 

Once I grasped how important it is to have events anchoring your narrative, even when writing in genres that don’t prioritise really action-y plots, my typical process become pantsing for a little bit until I have the characters, setting and some of the potential conflicts firmly in my mind. From there I usually jot out a loose path for the rest of the manuscript, just so I have something to aim towards. However, every novel is different, so I try to go with the flow to a certain extent!

When you aren’t researching or writing, what sort of books do you like to read?  Do you have any favourite authors?

My favourite genres are literary and contemporary fiction and short stories. Ideally I’ll read every night, which is much better for my sleep than scrolling my phone, but the lure of the Internet sometimes wins.

My favourite authors include Margaret Atwood, J. M. Coetzee, Rachel Cusk, Anne Enright, Gail Jones, A. M. Homes, Ian McEwan, Otessa Moshfegh, Sigrid Nunez, Ann Patchett and Charlotte Wood. 

You won the Fogarty Literary Award, how did that help your career?

Winning the Fogarty Literary Award in 2021 helped my career in every single way. The prize included publication with Fremantle Press, which meant I got to develop my manuscript, The Glass House, with a really caring, professional not-for-profit team and reap all the benefits of their experience and connections.

There was also a cash prize, which all writers (and non-writers) know is not easy to come by. Winning the award and publishing with Fremantle Press led to me meeting other writers, learning writer-adjacent skills, taking part in writing events and working with young people in connection with the Fogarty Foundation. 

Because of my great experience with Fremantle Press, I submitted my second manuscript, Last Best Chance, to them and was really delighted and grateful that they were so enthusiastic about it and agreed to publish it. Having a second novel out within a couple of years of The Glass House will hopefully cement my career and allow me to continue to write novels into the future.

Where can our readers follow you?

On Instagram @brooky.brooks and at my website www.brookedunnell.com.

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