In only five years Fiona McCallum has sold over 300,000 copies across eight bestselling novels. As one of Australia's top women's fiction authors, Fiona's well-loved for her ability to celebrate characters overcoming adversity in a distinctly rural Australian setting.
Her hotly anticipated ninth novel Finding Hannah follows Hannah Ainsley in a heart-warming journey of self-discovery – but this time, set in suburban Melbourne. Hannah is about to learn that sometimes the biggest step to healing comes from the smallest things…
Hannah Ainsley has the perfect life - an adoring husband, wonderful parents, a great job, amazing friends. Best of all it's Christmas, Hannah's favourite time of the year. A time when family and friends get together, swap gifts and celebrate.
But this Christmas will be like no other.
When tragedy strikes on Christmas morning, Hannah's world is shattered forever. If she's ever going to get through this, she'll need all the strength she can muster.
While those closest to her rally to her side, Hannah wonders whether she'll ever truly be happy, or herself, again.
Fiona McCallum brings us a moving Australian novel about family, grief, the importance of true friends and finding your inner strength when you least expect it - a storyline that parallels parts of Fiona's own journey.
Fiona McCallum has enjoyed a life of contrasts. She was raised on a cereal and wool farm in rural South Australia and then moved to inner-city Melbourne to study at university as a mature age student. She unexpectedly started a writing and editing consultancy which saw her mixing in corporate circles in Melbourne and then Sydney. She returned to Adelaide for a slower paced life and to chase her dream of becoming an author. This took nearly a decade full of rejections from agents and publishers to achieve. Fiona now works as a full-time novelist and really is proof dreams can come true. Fiona writes heart-warming stories of self-discovery, that draw on her life experiences, love of animals and fascination with the power and support that comes from strong friendships. She is the author of eight Australian bestsellers; Paycheque, Nowhere Else, Wattle Creek, Saving Grace, Time Will Tell, Meant To Be, Leap of Faith and Standing Strong. Finding Hannah is Fiona's ninth novel.
Author: Fiona McCallum
Question: What inspired you to write Finding Hannah?
Fiona McCallum: I've had some wonderfully supportive friends see me through some serious difficulties in my life, so I wanted to write a story to celebrate the strength of close friendships between women.
Question: Can you talk us through the importance of the setting?
Fiona McCallum: Four of the best years of my life were spent living in Melbourne and it remains one of my favourite places. I like the contrast of the big city to the small rural communities I've used in previous stories because in the country a tightknit, supportive community is considered a given. The suburbs of large cities don't tend to be considered as quite so obviously community-minded, but the reality is that the sense of community and belonging can be found anywhere.
Question: How important, for you, is it to write stories of finding inner strength, for women?
Fiona McCallum: Hugely important! This is a bit of a soapbox issue for me. I was raised to not have any ambition beyond having a job – regardless of whether it made me happy or not – and finding a man and getting married. I've written in some form or other for as long as I remember, but my writing dreams were also not encouraged. I feel really fortunate that I discovered my true life purpose at the relatively young age of 30 and made the choice to relentlessly pursue it. It's been a seriously tough road at times, but I'm now living my dream of being a full-time novelist, and wouldn't change my journey for the world. I truly believe what doesn't kill us makes us stronger and that most of us are a lot stronger than we realise and are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit. So, when I write a heart-warming journey of self-discovery story, I'm really writing what I know – sending characters on a similar path to what I've been on and experiencing the same emotional highs and lows that I have. Life is both too long and too short to be doing a job or living a life you don't enjoy. I'd love my stories to inspire other women to have the courage to strive for a different, more fulfilling life if they're not content.
Question: What was the best part about creating the character of Hannah?
Fiona McCallum: I especially loved creating a character who had two wonderfully supportive parents, a loving husband and a life that had always been pretty perfect. Many of my previous characters were in a difficult spot emotionally and knew they were looking for something or needed to change from the outset, so I liked that Hannah was so different. I also really enjoyed exploring how vulnerable Hannah was to the harsh realities of life thanks to her cushy upbringing. I was raised on a farm and also witnessed and had to deal with some pretty traumatic and grown-up things from an early age, which has made me a very independent and practical person with capabilities in many areas. I wanted to explore the contrast of someone who really isn't equipped to deal with major upheaval or dramatic changes in circumstance. Doing so has given me a new appreciation for what I've been through and who I've become as a result.
Question: What's next, for you?
Fiona McCallum: I'm working on a sequel to Finding Hannah. Hannah is again at the centre and this time around we'll see her not just surviving, but really thriving. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Hannah and her group of dear friends – they're all such beautiful characters who have become really special to me.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Author: Fiona McCallum