Welcome to the latest edition of Books Spark Joy where authors talk about the books that make them sparkle and what’s on their shelves. This week’s guest is Barbara Hannay. Barbara has published over 50 books. Many of these have been set in rural and outback Australia and have been enjoyed by readers around the world. Barbara has been nominated five times for Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award which she won in 2007 and she has twice won Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award. Her most recent release is Meet Me in Venice from Penguin Australia.
Over to Barbara …
As we are about to move house for quite possibly the last time (the seventh time during our marriage) and as we are also downsizing to an apartment, the whole question of what to keep and what to cull currently looms large in our household. I’ve been an avid reader all my life and a professional writer for more than twenty years, so books have always been a huge part of my world. As my husband, a former journalist, is a writer, too, there are books in every room in our house – yes, even a few hanging out in the bathrooms.
We’ve already had one huge cull, carting hundreds of books off to secondhand shops, the local library and nursing home, but rather than another reduction, we’re planning as much bookshelf space as possible for our new home. A reality check is quite possible.
I will never forget the first “big”book I read, Seven Little Australians. I was seven or eight years old at the time and although the story had been published more than fifty years earlier, I was utterly enchanted by the seven lively children, their autocratic, widowed, military father and very young step mother. Despite or perhaps because of my huge enjoyment, the impact of Judy’s death in that story has stayed with me forever. Judy was the wildest and most rebellious of the seven, and so of course, the most endearing.
I read the chapter with the falling gumtree and Judy’s gut-wrenching deathbed scene early on a Sunday morning. My parents were still in bed when I came into their room, devastated and in tears. They were very relieved when they learned I was “only bawling over a book”, but I had discovered at that early age that books have enormous power to spark great joy, deep sorrow and every emotion in between. I’ve been an addict ever since.
Just after I had my own first book accepted for publication,I took long service leave from teaching and, while staying in France, I read about Rosamunde Pilcher in a magazine. Subsequently, I found her breakout novel The Shell Seekers in Rome airport, and read it on the trip home. Again, the impact lingered and, many years later, it inspired my series of contemporary stories combined with WW2.
I confess I’m impulsive when it comes to buying books, so there are quite a few in my “to be read” pile, as well as those waiting patiently on my iPad, but I find this rather comforting, like having books in the bank.
My quirkiest bookshelf is a stepped bookcase squeezed into a corner of the dining room. In our new home it will be painted white and will go in a corner of our bedroom, probably housing our favourites. As well as all the fiction books, I have quite a collection of non fiction books on research topics and the craft of writing. I love reading to escape from the real world, but also to connect with it. One of my biggest thrills is that my grandchildren love reading too.
What books have made you laugh, cry and brought you joy?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Connect with Barbara:
website – www.barbarahannay.com