Behind the Pen with Tanya Heaslip

Today I warmly welcome Tanya Heaslip to Behind the Pen, sharing insight with us on her latest memoir, An Alice Girl.

How are you feeling about releasing a book in this current climate?

I’m feeling excited about the opportunities now available to promote “An Alice Girl” in a different way and grateful that we have so many online options. I think many people are also looking for different content right now, and ways to “escape the current climate”, so I’m hoping my book will provide hours of happy escape to readers!

In two/three sentences, tell us what the book is about?

It is a memoir about growing up on a cattle station in outback Central Australia in the 1960s and 70s. It is told from my perspective as the eldest child, learning school by Correspondence and School of the Air, working hard with my siblings mustering cattle on horseback, and playing our own games like “cattle duffers” on horseback. It’s about the simple joys of isolation during a different time; of silent starlit skies at night, huge blue skies and endless sunshine during the day, red rocky ranges and hundreds of miles of emptiness that we loved.

What makes your story so unique?

There is no one who has written a memoir from the perspective of a girl on a cattle station in Central Australia during the 60s and 70s (the closest is Kim Mahood’s Craft for a dry lake, published in 2002, but that memoir covers her whole life, in different locations, and is a very different style).

Also, during this current climate of fear and ‘unwelcome isolation’ for many, my story offers the chance for readers to dip into a world where isolation was the norm; where it was embraced and we joyously used to enhance creativity, courage and resilience.

Why do you write?

I write because I’m compelled, I have no choice, I love it! I don’t move without a pen, and a day without writing something, even in my journal, is unimaginable. For me, writing is as important as breathing, eating and sleeping! It keeps my heart and soul going.

Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?

It’s a bit random, depending on what I’m writing and how many legal projects I’m also juggling at the same time, but I like to think of my topic in a big picture way, set out a timeframe, themes and general word counts, and then write to that each day if possible. In a perfect world I’d write every morning, in very disciplined fashion, but I often have to squeeze it around legal work, and so more often than not I just write when I can, and that requires me to be very focused.

What tips do you have for aspiring writers?

Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read. In every genre you’re interested in – and in other genres as well to get an idea of different styles and approaches. Write for pleasure and make it fun. And then write some more!

What books have inspired you?

Oh, so many. As a child it, was all the Secret Seven and Famous Five adventures, and as an adult, it was Harry Potter! Those books inspired me to think and write creatively in dream big. From a writing perspective, Julia Cameron’s “The Artist Way” and Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” were brilliant.

What’s something surprising that many don’t know about you?

I love hitting the stage and belting out “All that Jazz” from Chicago!

Last good book, movie or play you’ve read or seen?

“100 Years of Dirt” by Rick Morton. Brilliant. Thought-provoking. Gutsy.

What do you consider beautiful and why?

The early morning sun breaking over the MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia, spilling orange and gold across the dark purple hills. It is breathtaking and it fills my soul. It reminds me that despite all our human angst and endless, desperate endeavours, nature is unchanging, and in that lies perspective, strength and comfort.

What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could?

Live in a gorgeous apartment in the Old Town Square of Prague for six months and write.

Complete this sentence: If I had no fear, I’d…. As above!

Complete this sentence: “An Alice Girl” is… for fans of stories of the outback, adventure, horses and family – it’s a memoir of all of that and more!


About the Book:

An Alice Girl

From the bestselling author of Alice to Prague, for fans of Toni Tapp Coutts’ A Sunburnt Childhood and Mary Groves’ An Outback Life, comes Tanya Heaslip’s extraordinary story of growing up with her sister and brothers in the late 1960s and early 70s on an outback cattle property just north of Alice Springs.

An Alice Girl is Tanya Heaslip’s extraordinary story of growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s on a vast and isolated outback cattle property just north of Alice Springs.

Tanya’s parents, Janice and Grant ‘the Boss’, were pioneers. They developed the cattle station where water was scarce, where all power was dependent on generators and where a trip to town for supplies usually meant a full day’s journey. Grant was determined to teach his children how to survive in this severe and isolated environment and his lessons were often harsh.

Tanya and her siblings led a childhood unimaginable to many Australians. Whether working the mobs of cattle with the stockmen, playing cattle-duffing on horseback or singing and doing lessons at their School of the Air desks, the children were always aware of the demands of the land.

But while her sister and brothers loved riding and working stock, Tanya’s heart longed to be back at the homestead with her books and stories.


About the Author:

Tanya Heaslip was born on a cattle station in outback Australia at the height of the Cold War. She grew up to study and then practice Law. In 1989 she travelled to Europe for the first time and in 1994 she moved to the Czech Republic where she taught English for two and a half years. Tanya’s first memoir, Alice to Prague, was published to acclaim in 2019.

Tanya now lives in the Northern Territory with her husband.


An Alice Girl
Published by Allen & Unwin
Released 19th May 2020

3 thoughts on “Behind the Pen with Tanya Heaslip

  1. Pingback: Diversity Round Up: May 2020 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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