Best selling author Di Morrissey shares the inspiration behind her new book with Laura Brodnik.
Since the age of seven, Di Morrissey dreamed of becoming an author.
In a tale that reads like it’s been lifted straight from one of her best selling novels, the dream came true. However, just like any true heroine she’s had to deal with adventurous twists and turns along the way. In her early days Morrissey started out as copy girl but quickly talked her way into a journalism cadetship and after four years of cutting her teeth in the media industry she set out for England.
“At that time to make a name for yourself you had to work overseas, so I moved to London and worked there as a journalist for four years,” she says. “On the way home to Australia I met my first husband who was an American Peace Corps worker. Two weeks after we met in Singapore we were married, and in the following 12 years we lived in places like Washington DC, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Guyana.”
Despite this exotic lifestyle her need to pen a novel was still overwhelming and she found herself missing Australia.So she made the move back home and with a touch of ‘great timing and good luck’ saw her first novel, Heart of the Dreaming, published in 1991. Her latest novel, The Winter Sea, has recently been released into the eager hands of waiting bookworms and despite the fact she has written more than 20 best sellers Morrissey admits she still gets a thrill when she holds that first copy in her hands.
“It’s just as hard writing the tenth or twentieth book as it was to write that first one,” Morrissey says. “I think to myself, ‘can I really do this again?’. I only read non-fiction books about the subject or place I’m writing about when I’m working (although when I’m on holidays I take 7kg of books on the plane with me to catch up). I spend a few months each year traveling to and researching the location for my next project and the remainder of the year writing it. When I’m at home writing it’s seven days a week, all day. That’s what it takes.”
The Winter Sea tells the story of Cassie Holloway, who escapes an unhappy marriage and a stressful job when she moves to the New South Wales coastal town of Whitby Point. Here she meets the Aquino family, whose fishing business was founded by their ancestor, Giuseppe, an immigrant Italian, some ninety years earlier. The book follows Cassie as she sets up a restaurant, falls in love with Giuseppe’s great-grandson Michael and discovers a family secret that threatens her new world.
“I spent a few months in that part of the NSW coast and I could just image a young woman with a problem escaping to that peaceful location and the story just came from there,” Morrissey says. “When I sit down to write a book I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. The plot just comes together organically while I’m writing.
“I don’t see myself in Cassie, but there are many women in their thirties at my publishing house who read the book and really related to her. In this book I also really wanted to capture the history of the Australian fishing industry.
“The places I write about in my books are very dear to me and I become very protective of them. I’ve had people come up to me after reading one of my books and say ‘I traveled there because of you’ or ‘I’ll never get to visit this place but now I feel like I have’.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, Morrissey is already hard at work on her next book, while finding time to found her charity The Golden Land Education Foundation and mentor aspiring writers.
“Writers email me for advice all the time and I encourage them to keep going,” she says. “I’ve had one man emailing me with questions for over 15 years and although I’ve never met him in person I was thrilled when he told me he was going to be published.
“You don’t leave school and suddenly become a successful author; it takes time, training and a lot of perseverance. Being a journalist was an excellent training ground, it’s how I learned how to get to the heart of a story.”
The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey is out now.