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Former Home and Away actress sets novel in canefields

Judy Nunn will be in Mackay on November 27 for a book launch and author talk on her latest novel Elianne, set in Queensland’s canefields.
Judy Nunn will be in Mackay on November 27 for a book launch and author talk on her latest novel Elianne, set in Queensland’s canefields. Contributed

JUDY Nunn played the role of Ailsa Stewart on Home & Away for 13 years and her breakout role was the bisexual reporter Vicky Stafford on the show The Box.

After a life on screen, she turned to prose in the '90s. Her first three novels were set in the worlds of television, theatre and film, before developing a love for writing Australian historically-based fiction.

On November 27 she will present an author talk at Mackay City Library as part of the program Get Reading.

Q: Your latest book Elianne explores the sugar industry. Why did you set the story with the canefields as the backdrop?

A: I have been waiting to base a book in Queensland. Every time I go to the Sunshine State I get a fantastic reception. Queensland has so many stories.

When I was driving through I saw all these canefields and that is what got me hooked. The book is set in the '60s and I had to do a lot of research on the sugar industry.

During that time cane cutters were being replaced by mechanical harvesters on farms. It was also a time of change; the Vietnam War; the controversy of conscription and the abolishment of the White Australia Policy.

I got really excited writing this novel which I hope is passed on to the reader. Historical fiction is so exciting to me.

Q: It must be fun to write about unravelling family secrets and see where the plot takes you?

A: All of my books are character-driven. As a reader I am not bothered by a weak storyline, but a strong character can drag me through. I guess being an actor I have always been character-driven and love when a script or plot creates a character.

Q: Have you always been a storyteller?

A: Yes, I started writing a book when I was nine. I would act and write all the time and I was very fortunate that I always knew what I wanted to do.

My first story was Dirk the Runway Orphan and it was after I read R.M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island. Looking back, I plagiarised my story based on that book, but I had seven chapters written in three months.

Q: As a writer, do you think society still has an appreciation for literacy and literacy skills?

A: It is a fact that good handwriting and spelling are not as important these days. We are seeing more SMS language in writing and that is a big worry.

But I think people will always want stories and we will always have them. I write big stories, ones that people can sink their teeth into and take time to digest.

Q: Growing up as a kid on the banks of the Swan River in Perth did you have a vivid imagination?

A: I had a little boyfriend Michael when I was about 10 or 11 and we used to put on puppet shows.

We would charge threepence and the money would go to charity. We would also pretend we were in the jungle making tracks as Tarzan and Jane.

We made a horrible underground cubby, and my uncle fell in and hurt his ankle.

Topics:  books home and away judy nunn novel reading



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