Saturday, 24 October 2020

Author Interview: Fiona Higgins



Today I would like to welcome author Fiona Higgins to The Burgeoning Bookshelf.

Hello Fiona, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how many books you have had published?
Thanks for having me, Veronica!
Well, let's see... I work in the Australian not-for-profit sector and live in Sydney with my stoic husband, three rambunctious children and two aloof goldfish. I’m also the author of a memoir (Love in the Age of Drought, Pan Macmillan) and four fiction titles: The Mothers’ Group, Wife on the Run, Fearless – published by Allen & Unwin – and my latest, An Unusual Boy, published by Boldwood Books.


What is a typical writing day for you?

I wish I could say, ‘Oh, I rise at 4.30am and meditate for ten minutes before consuming a perfect macchiato, which helps me deliver a thousand words on the page by noon.’ Sadly, as a mother of three tweens-and-teens, and with an almost full-time job in philanthropy, I’m rather more consumed with daily lunchboxes, school sport and work deadlines!

In short, there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ writing day for me. I tend to squeeze the words out around my other activities, whenever and wherever that’s possible (sometimes in the Woollies car park – true story!)

Your books are primarily about relationships, parenting and motherhood; What inspired you to write about these topics?


(See above: tweens, teens, lunchboxes.) In all seriousness, relationships, parenting and motherhood are topics which are sometimes dismissed as ‘domestic’ or peripheral to the unfolding of human history – but they’re fundamental to our existence. Everyone has a mother and a father. Most of us define ourselves predominantly in terms of our key relationships (or estrangements). Parenting is a human experience which can deliver unmatched moments of beauty, joy and sadness. All of these topics are endlessly fascinating to me - and ripe for writerly attention.
Your latest book An Unusual Boy was released on 20th October; How did you come up with the idea for An Unusual Boy?
I have a habit of drawing inspiration from real life and weaving it into my fiction (I wrote The Mother's Group, for example, when I was caring for my very sleepless second child) so An Unusual Boy is inspired partly from lived experience. Over the years, I've encountered many children - and adults, for that matter - who are 'different' in some way (some with diagnosis, others without). It's been simultaneously painful and inspiring to witness their joys and struggles as they navigate the often-unforgiving world around them, and that experience is very much reflected in the novel.

 What would you like your readers to get out of An Unusual Boy and how do you think it will resonate with them?

In terms of resonance, I think most parents – especially mothers – will relate to the character of Julia, who is bearing a significant ‘mental load’. She’s running a household of five, juggling a career as a music therapist, attempting to be available and supportive for her three children – one of whom is very ‘different’ – all the while trying to keep her marriage intact with Andy, who travels a lot for his work.

While Julia does a terrific job generally, she’s weary – and she’s deeply worried about Jackson. But she just keeps going, despite being under-resourced – and when things gets tough and slightly out-of-control, she calls on inner strengths she didn’t even know she had. The character of Julia bears witness to the incredible resilience of parents under pressure; and not just parents - but carers, grandparents and teachers who exhibit incredible levels of patience and love.

While everyone will have their own experience of the book, ideally I’d like to see readers emerge from this story with a renewed commitment to inclusion. One early reviewer of the work sums it up nicely, I think:
If this is a cautionary tale about the dangers to children of unsupervised internet access, then it is equally an admonition to avoid xenophobia of any sort: race, colour, creed or simply a different way of thinking, an alternate perception of the world. The common compulsion to “label” is countered by Julia: “Sometimes labels just put special kids in boxes. Sometimes they just give adults an excuse to stop thinking.” - Marianne (Goodreads)

What were the key challenges you faced when writing An Unusual Boy?

Time. Like Julia, in this hyper-busy time of life, I find myself very time-poor. Consequently it took me almost three years to write this book – yet readers tell me it takes them less than a day to read it. (I almost need therapy when they say that!)

Just for fun…..either or?

Tea or Coffee - Coffee (and bucketloads of it) 
Summer or Winter – Winter (blankies, open fires, blocks of chocolate, good books) 
Dog or Cat – both (seriously, I want one of each… but my husband is unconvinced) 
City or Country – Country (I miss the farm on which we lived a long time ago) 
Morning person or Night owl – morning person (it’s deeply irritating, my teenager tells me) 
Paperback or eBook – paperback (very 1970s, I know) 
Ninjas or Pirates – Ninjas (flexibility, agility and cool weaponry)

Thank you for stopping by and spending some time with us on The Burgeoning Bookshelf.


You can connect with Fiona at the following sites:




An Unusual Boy is out now and should be hitting bookshop shelves all over the country. 
Click on the cover to read my review

About the book

Julia Curtis is a busy mother of three, with a husband often away for work, an ever-present mother-in-law, a career, and a house that needs doing up. Her fourteen-year-old daughter, Milla, has fallen in love for the first time, and her youngest, Ruby, is a nine-year-old fashionista who can out-negotiate anyone.

But Julia’s eleven-year-old son, Jackson, is different. Different to his sisters. Different to his classmates. In fact, Jackson is different from everyone. And bringing up a child who is different isn’t always easy.

Then, one Monday morning, Jackson follows his new friend Digby into the school toilets. What happens inside changes everything; not only for Jackson, but for every member of his family. Julia faces the fight of her life to save her unusual boy from a world set up for ‘normal’.

An extraordinary boy. The mother who loves him. The fight of their lives.

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