Going back to uni as a mature-age student was daunting for Balgownie's Camille Booker, but the experience ended up being amazing and helped her complete her first novel.
What if you Fly is being released in October in stores and online, nearly a year after Mrs Booker completed a degree in creative writing at the University of Wollongong.
"I enrolled in 2019, because I had entered my novel in the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and it was surprisingly longlisted," she said. "So I decided to dedicate myself to completing the degree because I wanted to learn everything I could about creative writing."
The historical novel is set in the Sutherland Shire during World War II and centres around Frances Davies whose older brother goes missing in action, while the romantic Italian immigrant she fell in love with mysteriously disappears.
"It was inspired by true events, such as the incarceration of Italian 'enemy aliens' in internment camps around Australia during this time," Mrs Booker said, noting it was a dark part of Australia's past often pushed aside. "And it touches on themes such as the idea of a woman's place and xenophobia."
Mrs Booker found creative writing after dabbling with a teaching career at an exclusive Sydney boys school but realised that just wasn't for her.
"I've always loved words, reading, and language - I used to teach high school languages - so writing was sort of a natural progression," she said. "That phrase of 'having a book hangover' and that feeling, I wanted to create that for someone else and want to have written something that powerful that stays with someone."
Upon returning to university she was expecting younger students to be "standoff-ish" and make her feel like she didn't belong, but on the contrary, she felt welcomed. "They were all really open to sharing ideas and helping without being dismissive of me," Mrs Booker said. "I've found that in the writing community overall. You think industries can be quite competitive and hard to break into - which it is - but at the same time when you reach out to individual writers they all want to help you and support you along your journey."
The big challenge now for the author is promotion of her debut novel in a time when in-person book launches are a bit uncertain.
At least Mrs Booker's writing has been given approval by her husband and extended family.
"They were just all surprised, like 'it seems like a book you can buy off the shelves', gees thanks for that," she laughed.
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