Looking Back At Hello From The Gillespies

It’s Week 11 of my look back at my 12 earlier books in the run-up to my new novel, The Godmothers, coming in October in Aust/NZ and Jan 21 in the UK/Ireland.

My 11th novel is Hello From The Gillespies, first published in 2014. It was published with these very different covers in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Latvia and Lithuania. I’m pictured at home in Dublin in 2014 holding my very first copy of the Australian edition.

The inspiration for it was my long-time fascination with the round robin letters people send at Christmas time, filled with the highlights of their family’s year. What would happen, I wondered, if someone accidentally told the unvarnished truth in one of those letters? Someone whose family was far from perfect – in complete chaos, in fact…

Hello From The Gillespies is set in Australia, Ireland, New York and London, but most of it takes place on a sheep station in outback South Australia, near the small town of Hawker near the Flinders Ranges. I made two research trips to the area in 2013, one with my mum Mary, big brother Paul and niece Ruby. Thank you also to Denni Rose who made us so welcome at the Hawker hotel too.

I’d also like to introduce you all to four wonderful women who are part of the story in different ways:

KERYN HILDER: I was in Dublin in 2013 when I had the idea of writing about a (loving but chaotic) family called the Gillespies, living on an isolated sheep station in outback South Australia. Keryn (a McInerney family friend) became my source of so much helpful and colourful first-hand research detail. We spoke on the phone for hours about her many years on a sheep station. She was always so patient with my many questions about her experiences: the weather extremes; wildlife (especially snakes ); sheep farming; family life and much more. Thank you again, Keryn.

MARGIE ARNOLD: Margie and her husband Mark run the marvellous Meg’s Bookshop in Port Pirie. Since I was first published in 2000, Margie has enthusiastically and generously supported me and my books. We’ve done so many events together over the years and will be doing two more in October (in Port Pirie and Edithburgh), when my new novel The Godmothers is published. In Hello From The Gillespies, several characters travel to Port Pirie, looking for another character. It was my great pleasure to have them go into Margie’s bookshop on Ellen Street and have a conversation with ‘the dark-haired owner’. I don’t name her, or the shop, but anyone who knows Margie and loves her shop – and there are so many – recognised her immediately!

ALI WATTS: For the past 20 years and 13 books, it has been my pleasure and honour to be edited and published by the amazing Ali Watts. Ali lives and breathes books and stories and is a legend in Australian publishing. Her wisdom, expertise, support, constant enthusiasm and friendship mean the world to me.

DYMPNA DOLAN: This novel is dedicated to Dympna, a very dear and much missed friend of mine. When I first moved to County Meath in Ireland with my Irish husband in 1991, Dympna and her family lived nearby on our country road. She immediately took me under her wing and swept me up into her family and circle of friends. Her son and daughters still feel like my Irish brother and sisters. Dympna was one of the warmest, most generous, loving and mischievous people I’ve ever known. She died in 2014, just as I finished writing Hello From The Gillespies. I hope she would have loved having a book dedicated to her (though I’m sure she would have told me off about it.) We all still miss her so much.