Recently, I offered my mailing list subscribers the chance to win a copy of The Gift of Life. All they had to do was tell me in 25 words or less why they wanted to read it. I hadn’t expected to be so delighted by reading their responses, and thought I’d share some with you. Maybe you’ll find a good reason in there to add The Gift of Life to your reading collection when it is released into the world next week on 2 April.
The winner of the competition was April Nisbet, who shared “your books are medicine for my soul. I can always connect to your characters, I feel their passions and their fears from page 1. ”
April also sent me another email telling me how The Tea Chest inspired a total life turnaround for her, fuelling her passion to begin working with tea. She even took her copy of The Tea Chest to Darjeeling for research (see photo), and will be completing her tea blending certificate later this year. April is actually the third person who has shared that The Tea Chest had this affect on her. I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to be a writer and have people not only enjoy my books but actually find meaning in their own life because of them.
Thank you to everyone who entered this competition. There were so many wonderful entries and it was such a joy to read them.
I have had a transplant and hope to see the emotions of the situation of donor & recipient expressed realistically, sensitively & positively. (Karen K)
I have always wondered if there was a spiritual connection between the donor and recipient of a heart transplant (Delores B)
…life is a precious gift (Sue E)
I often replace your books with my daily meditation practice (April N)
I have been involved in many organ donations aka “the gift of life” as a nurse in ICU (Karen J)
Just read “The Chocolate Promise” for the fourth time. Totally LOVE all four novels so far and can’t wait to read “The Gift of Life”!!! (Ainslie H)
Love all your other books and know I will love this one just as much. (Corinna)
…sometimes I need a reminder to appreciate all I have and the people in my life (Liz H)
I am waiting for a heart/lung transplant (Heidi D)
Love, love, love all your books. (Chrissy B)
Josephine is my favourite and she is yet to write a book I don’t adore. (Bryannan K)
If you’re feeling inspired to read The Gift of Life, you’ll be able to get a copy of the book from anywhere good books are sold, Big W, airports, K-Mart, and Target. Or you can buy online at
Research is my happy place. I do extensive research for every book I write and it’s where I learn not just technical information but also start to find my character development, settings and plot points too. I get to travel within Australian and overseas for location research, which is a great gift. I interview people, spend hours on the internet, watch loads of YouTube videos and, inevitably, buy a lot of reference books. It is the phase where anything is still possible, ideas are still forming and excitement takes me back again and again for more.
My forthcoming novel, The Gift of Life, is based around organ donation, specifically, heart transplants. I love anatomy (I studied it for two semesters) and Biology was also my strongest subject at school and I then did another semester of it at uni. As a result, I loved brushing up on all my anatomy and physiology and researching the many causes and treatments of heart failure, some of which lead to the need for an organ donation. I even ended up at the cardiologist myself, as I have a long history of arrhythmias and, as I found out in my research, these can lead to heart failure! (Fortunately for me, the type I have appear to be uncomplicated.) My husband, too, also ended up at the cardiologist, then my mum went… It seemed like every time I turned around, ‘hearts’ were the theme of the day. One thing I learned through all this research was that we are all vulnerable to heart issues, which can come with a long list of complications, which can also lead to a need for a transplant. I really had no idea how common it was.
The amount of personal testimony I came across (both from the point of view of a heart transplant recipient and also from the family of those who had consented to the donation of their loved one’s organs) is significantly higher coming from the USA than it is Australia. This was both tricky–because the USA medical and legal systems are very different to ours–and also an opportunity to hear different experiences and voices from those who’ve gone through the process.
There is a wealth of videos on YouTube and I even came across one that showed a heart transplant operation. That one was a little tough to stomach, to be honest!
I interviewed two Australian heart transplant recipients, which was a fabulous opportunity to hear their stories firsthand. They were both very different people–he a middle-aged man with a wife, children and career–and she a young woman in her twenties with a long life ahead if only she could get the chance. Their experience of the process was vastly different too. The organ transplant process is a gamble at every stage: the illness, the waiting period, the operation, the recovery, the chances of rejection and ongoing complications.
In the end, I had way more information than I could use in the book, which is normal. The Gift of Life starts two years after Gabby McPhee had her heart transplant; therefore much of what I learned about the difficult, emotional waiting stage (and the ongoing physical rehabilitation and care through that period) had to be cut and left out; however, it’s all there in my mind, forming the basis to the background of Gabby’s psyche.
I also became really interested in the more silent half of the story–the experiences of the family members who make the decision to donate. These stories are harder to find, and understandably so, as their experience is rooted in trauma, shock and grief. But as a writer, that ‘silent space’ is the most interesting to me. The possibility of a new, untold story is the one I want to follow. The wealth of information I found on the other side (the recipient’s stories) served to highlight a gap in the narrative that, when voiced through the character of Krystal Arthur, fleshed out the full circle of life.
I loved researching this book. It was utterly fascinating from beginning to end.
Annette Barlow is auctioning herself! She has worked at Allen & Unwin as an editor and a publisher for over 25 years. Annette teaches at Faber Academy at A&U and is in charge of the annual Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award. This is your rare opportunity to win her attention to get invaluable feedback on your work in progress!
PS you also help farmers, with money raised going to Rural Aid.
You can find more information and bidding details on eBay at https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com.au%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F332828513395
This is one of my favourite recipes that I developed while researching and writing Three Gold Coins. Perfect for these cooling nights!
Tuscan White Bean Soup
1 large leek (or 2 small ones)
2 garlic cloves
1 potato (I use Dutch Cream potatoes all the time, just because I love them the best)
Half a head of cauliflower
1 carrot (optional… it will change the colour of your soup, but it’s a good way to use up vegetables in your crisper!)
2 cans of cannellini beans
4 cups stock (I use lamb bone broth)
Salt and pepper to taste
The leaves of a few sprigs of fresh thyme (just pick them, wash them and use your fingers to strip the sprigs)
2 Tbs lemon juice
Chop all your vegetables.
- Fry your leek and garlic in olive oil under fragrant.
- Add the rest of the your chopped vegetables and mix thoroughly, allowing to cook for a few minutes.
- Add water just to the top of the vegetables and simmer for ten minutes.
- Add your stock and cook for ??
- Allow liquid to reduce a little if it seems to watery, otherwise proceed to blending.
- Blend half your soup until creamy then return to the pot. (Or blend three quarters, or even the whole lot. It depends how you like your soup.)
- Add your salt, pepper, thyme and lemon juice and heat through.
- Serve with sprigs of thyme for garnish and a side of crusty bread
Have you pre-ordered your copy of Three Gold Coins? The good news is that I’m heading to Sydney to the wonderful people at Booktopia on 14 March to sign copies, so you could nab yourself one endorsed with love from me!
Three good reasons to pre-order your copy:
- Every pre-order helps the author by contributing to the first week’s sales figures, thereby helping the book rise up the best seller rankings and making it more visible to others.
- The second the book is released, the Booktopia crew will pack it up and post it to you without you even having to drive anywhere.
- No chance of forgetting or missing out!
I can’t wait till you get this book into your hands.
Here’s what some early readers have said about Three Gold Coins: