The Writing Life

I have been writing from a very young age and, like most writers, often preferred reading to any other activity. Apparently, my mother has a collection of novels I put together as a child, with covers and numbered pages, but I don’t remember what any of those were about. I do remember reading one of my short stories out to my primary school class. It was about a birthday picnic on the moon and I remember having that first rush when you are able to captivate an audience with something that is entirely made up.

Perhaps I’ve been trying to re-create that experience ever since, because I love reading, and writing, work that is fast-paced, slightly edgy and gives me a real insight into how other people’s brains work. I am impatient with too much flowery description and am always hungry for contemporary Australian work that describes the world I have lived in. Not to say I don’t read the classics or international writers but I often get the biggest thrill from recognising a time, place or feeling that I have actually experienced myself.

I began writing THE QUAKERS because I suddenly realised that my own teenage and university years – growing up in the 1980s – were rarely depicted in fiction in Australia. Not long after the publication of my novel a random “review” appeared on a random website (I found it after Googling myself, I admit). It read: “At last a novel that captures the themes of Australian youth and the trauma of adolescents. I could not put down The Quakers until I finished it – a must read.” Whoever you are, Mark Jones, thank you! This is exactly what I wanted to do.

The other story behind the novel is the one of sitting next to a particular girl in high school. She went on to be involved in a horrific crime, which I used as the springboard for my fiction. While a great deal of the reviews – and the publicity – have focussed on this side of things, I believe the book is better judged on its own terms. So many readers have told me that it is compelling, not because of its relation to a real-life case but because it is written, and structured, in a way that is interesting and deceptively simple.

Currently, I am writing my third novel, as well as dipping into short stories, plays and films, and waiting to hear about whether my second novel will be published. Publication of my first novel was just another step on the long road of creativity. If you are reading this site, I hope you either enjoyed THE QUAKERS, plan to go buy it now or are generally enjoying your own time inside your unique brain.



Welcome to the The Heaven I Swallowed Book Coverwebsite of  Australian author, Rachel Hennessy. Rachel’s second novel THE HEAVEN I SWALLOWED was named Runner Up in the 2008 Australian/Vogel Award and was published by Wakefield Press in June 2013. It tells the story of Grace, a World War II widow who decides to “save” a young Aboriginal girl, Mary, by adopting her into her home, believing she will be able to redeem the child by giving her all the benefits of white society.

Her first novel THE QUAKERS was also published by Wakefield Press. The book won the Adelaide Festival Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript and was described by John Birmingham (author of HE DIED WITH A FELAFEL IN HIS HAND) as “unputdownable”.  THE QUAKERS is a love story with a twist, where friendship turns to obsession and addictions lead to murder.

Rachel is currently working on her third novel, KEEP ME CLOSE, the fictionalised re-telling of the writing of her first novel in the hothouse of a Creative Writing workshop.