Having her hire-car totaled by a B-double on Appin Road was possibly the best thing to happen to Julie Keys in 2014.
"It sent me spinning across four lanes of oncoming traffic, and I got out at the other side ... and I was uninjured," the Gerringong resident said. "I really thought 'this is it, it's over' ... I should have died."
That near death experience was the impetus for Keys to ditch her career in the medical industry and focus her attention on a profession she felt a true calling to.
Hachette Australia was quick to sign the author (a surprise to Keys), with her debut novel The Artist's Portrait released to the public in March.
It's hard to feel unlucky about what happened even though it was pretty traumatic.Julie Keys
Set between 1920s Sydney and the Illawarra during the 1990s, the story centers around Muriel Kemp - a bohemian artist which came to the author in visions.
"I started seeing this image of this woman standing in front of a shack, waving this red cloth above her head," Keys said.
"It was like a daydream, I think that's how stories often come to me, like, by instinct or i'll just see an image.
"Mary Shelley [author of] Frankenstein, she had a dream and woke up and knew she was going to write Frankenstein."
At the same time the author threw herself into her work and began researching who this image may be, she also began researching a PhD in Creative Arts - investigating gender and prestige for Australian writers.
"Everything I researched for that was relevant to the book so they kind of fed into each other," Keys said.
"Because of what had happened to me with the truck, it was a way of absolutely throwing myself into writing the book so I totally absorbed myself into that book and into that world.
"It's hard to feel unlucky about what happened even though it was pretty traumatic."
The 57-year-old said she won't be returning to her old career and already has a second novel underway.
"When I started to write this book, it was a big risk, it wasn't a great financial idea," she said
"It is so competitive and there's lots published, but I remember saying to myself, 'even if you don't get published ... will you stop writing?' And I thought 'no I won't' because I feel compelled to write."
The Artist's Portrait
In 1992, morning sickness drives Jane to pre-dawn walks of her neighbourhood where she meets an unfriendly woman who sprays her with a hose as she passes by.
Driven to find out more about her curmudgeonly neighbour, Jane Cooper begins to investigate the life of Muriel, who claims to be a famous artist from Sydney's bohemian 1920s.
Contemporary critics argue that legend, rather than ability, has secured her position in history. They also claim that the real Muriel Kemp died in 1936. Murderer, narcissist, sexual deviant or artistic genius and a woman before her time: Who really is Muriel Kemp?
The Artists' Portrait is out now, through Hachette Australia RRP $32.99