Jacqui Halpin is an Australian children’s author whose stories have won prizes in writing competitions and been published in anthologies. She attributes her love of storytelling to her father, Jack Turner. ‘Listening to the amazing adventures Dad had growing up stirred my imagination and transported me back to his world,’ Jacqui says. Jacqui has co-written her father’s memoir, A LONG WAY FROM MISERY, which is a rollicking journey through the Australia of yesteryear with a true Aussie larrikin who grew up on a farm called Misery.
Jacqui is passionate about preserving the social history of Australia for future generations and is currently writing a series of historical junior fiction novels inspired by her father’s adventures growing up.
June: Can you give us a short synopsis of the book?
Jacqui: A Long Way from Misery takes you on a rollicking journey through the Australia of yesteryear with Jack Turner, the larrikin shearer, as he rescues his brother from being drowned by a kangaroo, rides a wild steer through the house, and leaps off a moving train. But these misadventures are nothing compared to his mother wielding a carving knife.
Born in 1926, Jack lived in a different time, but the way he sees it, they were better days. He loved his childhood growing up with his siblings and mates on a farm called Misery, and retells it with delight.
June: Tell us a bit more about your Dad.
Jacqui: Dad has entertained many friends, family, and acquaintances over his long life with the tales of his younger years. He is a quick-witted larrikin who loves to laugh and make others laugh.
He was born in Rylstone, New South Wales in 1926, and raised on a farm called Misery. He moved to Queensland in 1956 and lives in Brisbane with his wife of 53 years, his three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A former shearer with no education and a rough and ready upbringing, Jack’s ‘that’ll do me’ attitude has stayed with him throughout his long life and seen him through many a scrape. Hard-working, and with the ingenuity born from being raised in the bush, Jack has built and fixed everything from houses to toys.
He has had too many jobs to mention, met too many people to remember, and had too many adventures to record. He has lived an ordinary life full of extraordinary stories.
June: How long have you been working on Long Way from Misery?
Jacqui : It’s 12 years this month since my dad first gave me the audio tapes of the stories he could remember from his childhood and youth and I said I’d turn them into a book.
June: What was it like working with your Dad on writing the book? Highlights? Challenges? Any funny stories?
Jacqui:I don’t regret one minute that I’ve spent with Dad working on ‘the book’. I do regret that I has taken me this long, and now two of his brothers will never get to read it. If I knew back then what I know now it would have been published in half the time. One of the challenges was to put some sort of order to Dad’s stories.
He had a lot of stories (there wasn’t room for them all in the book) but he didn’t remember them in chronological order, if he had it would have made my job a hell of a lot easier.
We had so many laughs creating this book. I can’t remember what about exactly but just sitting round the kitchen table at Mum and Dad’s place laughing at what Dad was saying. Mum, too, has a great sense of humour. She has made countless cups of tea and lunches for me while we were working, and looked up the spelling of many obscure places that Dad shore at. And not with the aid of google, with a map and a magnifying glass.
One of the highlights while putting this book together was that Dad and I went to Rylstone and he guided me out to Misery Farm. It’s not called that now. Only the real old timers remember it as that. But dad found his way out there and I got to have a look around his old hut and take photos and get a better idea of how they lived. It’s falling down, which is a shame.
It was great to see Rylstone and walk with him on the streets that he walked as a child. And visit the pubs and the dance halls and the shearing sheds he had many an adventure in. I even got to meet some of his old mates too.
June: What were your emotions on the launch day? Where did you hold it and why? What was the program?
Jacqui: Launch Day was a lot of work but well worth it. It was a celebration of all the hard work. A rejoicing for what we had accomplished. I could not have done it without the help of my family who were helping out all day.
My daughter, Emily, even had shirts made for the occasion. There was a great turn out of people. It was so uplifting to see so many friends and family there supporting us. Dad had a smile on his face all day.
It was held in Decker Park at Brighton because that’s where Dad and his family camped when they first moved up to Queensland. We had tea and damper and Hard Timer biscuits just like Dad’s mother made whenever visitors turned up at Misery. They were a hit. So many people asked for the recipe. I’ve now put the recipe on our blog.
June: Why was it important for you to publish this book and set up your own press to do so?
Jacqui: I’d tried for several years to get a publisher, and although we had some interest, an agent read the first two chapters in 21/2 hours and asked for more, but no one would commit. Dad will be 90 this year. I couldn’t wait any longer. Besides, as Dad always says, ‘If you want something done, do it yourself.’ So that’s what we did.
June: What role have writing buddies played in assisting you through the journey of writing, editing, and publication?
Jacqui: I have had a tremendous amount of help from my Write Link friends with this project. Their advice in self-publishing has been invaluable. Seeing the success of self-published authors like Karen Tyrrell, Charmaine Clancy and Nickolas and Alison Lochel, showed me that it was possible to do this self-publishing thing and do it well. I went through Book Cover Café and I could not have done it without them either. Anthony and his team were brilliant. I mean, you just have to look at the cover. I love the cover of our book! Anthony designed that.
A Long Way from Misery is available on Amazon or, for signed copies, through the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Jacqui and her writing please visit her website:
Congratulations Jacqui, and thanks so much for your visit to the blog!