Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 15, 2015

Meet an Aussie Author: Wendy Scarfe

Scarfe, Wendy

It’s barely a month since I finished reading Wendy Scarfe’s terrific novel Hunger Town and here we are with the news that the book has been long-listed for the $30,000 Kibble Award — and in eminent company too! (See my post about the 2015 longlist here).

Hunger Town was the first book I had read by this prolific author, and I was curious to learn more about her.   I dashed off an email to Wakefield Press (who were very excited about the longlisting as well) asking if Wendy could be persuaded to participate in Meet an Aussie Author – and here she is!

1.  I was born at Henley Beach in Adelaide. My father’s family were all South Australian but I grew up in Melbourne, went to school there and to Melbourne University.

2.  When I was a child I wrote poetry, mostly about nature.

3.  The persons who encouraged me to write were my parents, the author Eric Lambert and my husband. I was inspired by the American writers of the 1930s-40s who tackled the great social issues — Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck. I learned my writing skills from the classics.

4.  I write in a spare bedroom with a desk and a view from the window of the river estuary and the sea. In the past when our four children were home I wrote on the kitchen table.

5.  I write in the mornings when I’m fresh and do more boring things like housework when I’m tired. I rarely try to write at night but when ideas come to me I get up and write them down because I’ll have forgotten them by the morning.

6.  Research is essential. I do a great deal but in writing a novel I always integrate the research into the text so it doesn’t seem to be stuck on.

7.  I keep my published work in a separate bookcase in the lounge room.

8.  On the day my first book was published in 1967, my husband and I shared our excitement at our joint publication. It came from London, was entitled A Mouthful of Petals, and concurrently had a lengthy AGE review by Nancy Cato: ‘Hungry Children eat Flowers’.

9.  At the moment I’m relaxing from the past five years of work on my new novel Hunger Town.

10. When I’m stuck for an idea I go for a walk or a swim. When I’m stuck for a word I use my Thesaurus. Initially I write the manuscript by hand in biro in exercise books. On the page opposite my writing I have a collection of synonyms and brief reminders of ideas. I regard computers as a necessary evil.

Wendy has a large body of work in her own right, but she also has co-written a number of books with her husband, Allen Scarfe.  Her work includes:


  • Shadow and Flowers


  • The Lotus Throne
  • Laura, My Alter Ego
  • The Day They Shot Edward
  • Miranda
  • Fishing For Strawberries
  • Jerusha Braddon Painter
  • An Original Talent
  • Hunger Town (see my review)

Non-fiction, with Allan Scarfe

  • A Mouthful of Petals: the story of an Indian village
  • Tiger on a Rein: Report on the Bihar famine
  • JP His Biography
  • All That Grief: Migrant recollections of Greek resistance to fascism 1941-9
  • Taste for Carnage: Alex Sheppard, a portrait 1913-97

And there are more, as you can see at Wikipedia!

Wendy’s career has been built around teaching and writing, but she has also brought up a family of four children.  She has lived in England and India (where she and Allan ran an experimental rural school), and when she retired from teaching she completed a B.Litt. in Classical and Near Eastern Studies.  What an amazing life of achievement, eh?

Find out more about Wendy and Allan at their website.

Buy her book at Fishpond: Hunger Town: A Novel
or direct from Wakefield Press
and good bookstores everywhere.


  1. I am looking through summaries of Wendy Scarfe’s books. They seem very good. I want to read her.

    I love the literary influences, these were indeed great writers.

    Writing manuscripts by hand seems a fascinating way to write these days. It seems so different from what so many of us are used to.


    • Indeed yes, I remember reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and it was a revelation to me, and Steinbeck, well, the man was a genius. I’ve only read Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, but I admired that too. I certainly like the sound of her novels, I’ll have to hunt them out from somewhere…


  2. What an interesting author. I was not familiar with her work. I do love that she enjoyed the American depression writers. I will have to keep an eye out for her. Aaghh so much good to read!!


    • Hehe I’m adding to your wishlist again, I know…
      *not hanging my head in guilt*


  3. […] longlisted for the Kibble Award), and The Day They Shot Edward, (2018) and I featured her in Meet an Aussie Author in 2015, but until I read this updated edition of A Mouthful of Petals: Three Years in an Indian […]


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