AUTHOR INSIGHT: MEET DEBORAH BURROWS

“It’s a whole new world to me!”

That’s how Perth author Deborah Burrows (A Stranger in my Street) has found her introduction to the busy, competitive world of publishing. Until now, her life as a lawyer and historian has revolved around hearing other people’s stories…and now people want to hear hers. It’s a surprising aspect of becoming a published author, she says.
“You come from being a private person and then all of a sudden they (publishers) want you to get out and publicise yourself. I’ve had to learn Facebook, blogging, Tweeting (my cousin in New York taught me that) … I’d prefer to talk about the history (of the story) but people always want to know about me.”A Stranger in my Street, Deborah’s debut novel was released in May to positive reviews. Since then, she has found herself giving the odd writer’s talk in between her full-time job and writing another novel … and getting used to the addictive nature of writing.“When I did this, I just wanted to see if I could do it,” she said. “People have been lovely. Having people like the book has been really good – they really seem to like the historical aspect of it.”“It’s very interesting but very busy … it’s been difficult trying to fit writing in. I don’t know if you’re a writer, but when you write it just takes you over. It’s like a drug. You get all this amazing sense of joy out of it. The garden’s going to pot, the house is going to pot … when you start, you can’t stop. Sometimes at lunch times I’d be writing at my desk!”

Although she has another book with her publisher and a third under way, Deborah has no plans to give up her day job as a lawyer with the State Solicitor’s Office and remains unconvinced that the life of a full-time writer is for her.

“I’ve got a good job and it’s sometimes very difficult and heartbreaking, but I can’t give it up. Besides, writing is all about people’s stories. If you don’t meet people you don’t hear their stories. Full-time writing sounds like a dream but it could be very lonely,” she said, adding that her busy life required a plenty of multi-tasking.

“But, we’re women – we can do that. It keeps you on your toes, too.”

Deborah is also an historian, with several degrees in history – modern and medieval – including a post-graduate degree in Medical History from the University of Oxford. It should come as no surprise that she loves to talk about the historical aspects of A Stranger in My Street, which is set in war-time Perth. In 1943 Perth was buzzing because of the servicemen stationed in the city for some ‘R&R’.

Deborah said the seed of the story sprang from conversations with her mother about her war-time experiences.

“It was quite an eye-opener really. With A Stranger in My Street, I tried to see Perth as my mother told me it was. How it would have been to be a young woman at that time,” she said.

“I tried to give a snapshot of what it was like – it certainly wasn’t ‘Dullsville’. Things were open all night. Perth was very much an ‘R&R’ place for servicemen. If a girl wanted to she could have a good time.”

She laughed as the implication of her statement sank in. “My mum was a good girl,” she said, adding that the character of Meg was not based on her mother.

“But some of the experiences are hers.”

During her research, Deborah realised that there was a lot more she wanted to say about life in wartime Perth that couldn’t be covered in her first book, especially the impact on younger women.

“I wanted to write about girls who go off the rails – you know, at 14 and 15 they’re still babies, but the next second they’re these girl-women,” she said.

“The new book is not a sequel. It has different people and it’s a bit lighter. It’s about a journalist who is working for a scandal rag and she does the beauty and fashion stories, but then she is sent to cover the last day of a murder case.”

At the time of this interview, Deborah had fingers crossed the book would be accepted for publication. But she’s not waiting around idly.

“I’m trying to write another novel at the moment – I told you it’s addictive,” she said.

“Just do it, that’s all you can do…and see where the journey takes you.”