The international bestselling author behind The Cry has returned to her roots with a new novel set in Victoria's Central Highlands.
Despite now living in Glasgow, Scotland, Helen FitzGerald said she is still fond of Ballarat, and chose the town as the scene for her new novel, Keep Her Sweet, due to her familiarity with the area.
She came up with the idea for the novel during the pandemic when her two children, aged in their 20s, moved back in with FitzGerald and her husband.
FitzGerald was left wondering about households with adult children still living at home during this unprecedented time.
According to The Conversation, in 2019, more than 50 per cent of young Australian adults still lived with their parents.
FitzGerald said she imagined tense relationships that had the potential to boil over in the close quarters of lockdown.
FitzGerald is very close to her sister Ria, who moved to Glasgow eight years ago and influenced the characters in the new novel.
"This relationship inspired two characters in the novel, family therapist Joy and her sister Rosie. I thought of this book as a love story to Ria," FitzGerald said.
FitzGerald says she really started thinking about becoming a writer while she was a boarder at a Victorian high school.
She attended the St Martin's in the Pines, now Damascus College, in Victoria's Central Highlands, for the last two years of her secondary schooling.
FitzGerald and her youngest sister Ria lived in Kilmore, 65 kilometres north of Melbourne, along with their 11 siblings, and they were both boarders at St Martin's in the Pines.
"We were really happy to be at St Martin's in the Pines. We made brilliant friends in Ballarat and we're still friends with them," FitzGerald said.
She said she had always been interested in literacy but it was at St Martin's in the Pines when she really started thinking about becoming a writer.
"It's where I started thinking about writing. I think all of my teachers there motivated me," she said.
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However, FitzGerald said being a novelist was never a career path for her. She worked as a criminal justice social worker for more than 15 years.
"I just started writing in my spare time and it went from there," she said.
Although FitzGerald now lives in Glasgow, Scotland, with her husband, she has been rising in prominence in Australia after the success of the BBC/ABC television adaptation of her novel The Cry.
FitzGerald is still fond of Ballarat and says after moving to Scotland, she realised how interesting Ballarat's gold mining history was.
She said she regularly visited the city to see her late aunty up until a few years ago, while her mother lives in Geelong.
FitzGerald's latest novel Keep Her Sweet is a thriller set in Ballarat, chosen because of her familiarity with the area.
Keep Her Sweet was released on Tuesday.
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