About Errol

                                    

I have to tell you something about myself because there are bits of me in many of my characters.

My father died before I was born. From his books and what people tell me, I believe he gave me a love of words. I lived the first eight years with my mother in my grandparents’ house, and this closeness with my own grandparents is probably why grandparents and old people feature so strongly in my books.  

 My mother went to work, but read to me every night; Snugglepot and Cuddlepie with the scary, big, bad banksia men, and my favourite Elves and Fairies with beautiful pictures by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. I loved the verses by her sister Annie R Rentoul, especially the one that began:

I have cut my finger, Mother; tie it, Mother, quick!

See, the sticky’s off again; Mother, make it stick!

And the one that ended:

She’s really rather nice, I think.  

 

Errol with her Mum

Errol aged twelve with her dog, Atom. 

 I grew up riding my bicycle under the peppermint trees at Cottesloe, south of Perth , and dodging big, brown, spotted jellyfish in the Swan River . When I was older, I rode across the railway line to swim in the clear, deep water of the Indian Ocean – where there were sometimes sharks. Holidays were spent in the south-west, catching herring off rocks, wandering under giant karri trees and marvelling at the beauty of underground caves.  

I went to St Hilda’s School, where every year a teacher of English kept me interested in the language. I wasn’t good at sport or maths, and always thought that one day I would be a writer.  

When I was eight, I got a wonderful stepfather and later a baby brother. I’ve written about step-families and given them some of the problems that could have arisen, but never did in our family.

 

 After University I joined The West Australian as a cadet journalist and learned to write clearly so everyone could understand. And to stick to the facts. When I decided the time had come to write stories, I was free to make things up, and this was much harder. Writing fiction is like telling a lie. You must remember what you’ve said and carry it on, so people believe you. It’s much easier to stick to the truth – but not nearly as exciting!  

 

My first book, Wrinkles (Collins), was about a cartwheeling grandmother. My latest, Song of the Dove (Walker Books), is a picture book illustrated by Archibald Prize finalist Sonia Kretschmar. Please look at it in the Books section, as I want to tell you about it.

 In between, there have been thirty-something books (I told you I was no good at maths) mostly novels for readers between 7-13 years.

 You’ll find plants and gardens in many of my books. I’ve always loved flowers and growing things. Tending a garden is like turning the pages of a book. You’re full of anticipation, always waiting for something to happen, and sometimes it takes you by surprise. Suddenly, there it is, a smiling face between the leaves. Or a disaster, thanks to snails, possums, birds, rabbits or rats. The garden moves on, but unlike a book there’s no end to it. I must admit it needs rather a lot of attention, and I never have clean fingernails.

 

Errol in her garden

Michael and Errol on their wedding day.

 After I married (on Grand Final Day - would you do that these days?) we moved from Perth to Melbourne, with later spells in Papua New Guinea and Sydney, then back to Melbourne.

 

 Michael and I have three grown-up sons, Nick, Jon and Ben, who all live in Melbourne. Michael died in 2008 and now it’s just me and Muttley, who has a very loud bark.

 

Errol and her family

 

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