Fiona McArthur, a rural midwife on the mid-north coast of NSW, has been a published fiction author for fifteen years. I met Fiona when she appeared as a rural-medical romance author on a panel at Newcastle Writers’ Festival, so I was surprised to discover that her work in healthcare also inspires non-fiction writing. I think Fiona is a great example of how a non-literary career can enhance creative pursuits, and I’m grateful to her for writing this guest post to share the scope of her talents with us!
Fiona on Facebook
Hello, Nicole, and thanks for asking me to WordMothers. I’ve had a lot of fun reading about your guests since the fabulous Newcastle Writers’ Festival and I’ve been tracking their books and journeys with great interest and awe. I’m feeling very chuffed to be here as one of your authors.
As you know, I’m a midwife, and I’ve always loved antenatal classes and talking with parents-to-be. My first foray into non-fiction was the The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth, published in 2010, by Penguin. That grew from my time as co-facilitator and co-founder of the TIMTAMs program (Teenage Information Mornings Teens As Mums) for young mums on the mid-north coast of NSW. It’s all about women having faith in their own bodies. My young mums thought it was great for anyone coming close to the end of pregnancy when we sometimes doubt, “What if I’ve forgotten what to do or I miss the start of labour?” As a huge bonus I still have young mums as good friends more than ten years later!
To account for new ideas and tools for laboring women, I’ve since republished the book myself in electronic format as The Little Book of Birth, with Penguin’s blessing. I’m still getting my head around the fact I can update an e-book, and if a reader’s device is set correctly, every time they open the book it will update to the latest version. How cool is that!
Since then, I’ve just self-published Breech Baby – A Guide For Parents. This book was written with the encouragement of the fabulous Dr Andrew Bisits, Australia’s leading Breech Birth expert, and my favourite midwife, Professor Caroline Homer. We all wanted to create a quick book for parents who might be baffled by the sudden change in their birth choices when the diagnosis of a breech baby is given late in pregnancy. As a mother of five sons, I understand about having babies from the other side too, and I want new mums to have the most empowering birth experience possible.
Written in a “conversation with a midwife” style, Breech Baby is designed to be easy for mums and dads to understand because if your baby is lying in the breech position late in pregnancy, you need information that is quick to access and unbiased. The book includes quotes from mums who’ve been in this situation. The drawings came from a chance illustration from a visiting midwifery student; we both fell in love with “Frank”, and he appears throughout the book.
My next non-fiction is a wonderful change-up, an anthology of True Australian Midwives Stories, due out next year again for Penguin.
With fiction, I find joy in illustrating that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, especially in the Australian outback. Red Sand Sunrise was published by Penguin Australia last year to exciting reviews. Set in western Queensland, it is the story of three half-sisters setting up a medical outpost for pregnant women and the way the challenges of the outback bring them together.
My next contemporary fiction release appears 24th June, again from Penguin. The Homestead Girls has five diverse women living together on a drought-stricken sheep station. With two of the women working for the flying doctor there are moments of high medical drama, of course, and my requisite illustrations of the strength in women.
So how does a housewife from Kempsey with five boys, working 28 hours a week as a midwifery educator, get all this done? It’s writing between 4am and 6am—a practice I started when the boys were young and even though they’ve all left home, it’s still my quiet and most productive time. Then I go off to work and feel that I have my writing done for the day.
As for my most admired female author, that’s Diana Gabaldon—Cross Stitch is definitely a book I wish I’d written. I love Anne Gracie’s Regency novels. (See Anne at Newcastle Writers’ Festival here and read her WordMothers interview here.) And I’d love to see Kelly Hunter’s or Trish Morey featured next!
Thank you, Fiona McArthur!
— Nicole Melanson
NB: Infant in photo appears with parental consent
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