Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 11, 2016

Meet an Aussie Author: Jenny Ackland


Jenny Ackland is a teacher and writer.   But I didn’t know that when I first met her over lunch at the Melbourne Writers Festival a year or two ago.  We both live in Melbourne and we were just there to meet up and do festival stuff.  While I wouldn’t ever call Jenny ‘shy’, I would say that she is modest about her writing, and a bit ambivalent about promoting it.  It was not until she had signed a deal with Allen & Unwin to publish her first novel The Secret Son in September 2015 that I knew anything about it.   It was not until I came in part way through her interview with Kate Evans on Radio National’s Books and Arts that I thought, hey, I’ve reviewed that book!  and why didn’t I know this interview was going to be on?!

And since Jenny has never mentioned her other writing achievements to me I had to go to the Allen & Unwin author profile to learn that

her short fiction has been listed in prestigious literary prizes and awards, such as the Bridport and Fish Prizes, as well as published in various literary magazines, including Visible Ink, The Big Issue, Kill Your Darlings and the Sleepers Almanac. Her first novel manuscript was listed in the HarperCollins Varuna Awards for Manuscript Development (withdrawn).

Anyway, now that I know how good a writer she is, I am pleased to be able to bring you a minor scoop about the next novel, which, as you can see from Q9 below, looks rather intriguing….

Here are Jenny’s responses for Meet an Aussie Author:

  1. I was born in East Melbourne. My mother said the nurses at the hospital were mean.
  2. When I was a child I wrote a long story about the adventures of a girl like me who went horse-riding on the holidays. I wrote ‘fiction based on fact’ on the cover page. I got A+ and it was the only story the teacher read out during class, all the students were laughing in the right places. It took almost the whole lesson for her to read and I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud. I was twelve.
  3. The person who encouraged me to write was a teacher at uni whose name I can’t remember. I wrote a short story for children, about a rockpool and some fish, and he said maybe it could be published. It wasn’t but someone else saying that to me made me think ‘a-ha’ in a very quiet way.
  4. I write mostly at my desk, sometimes in bed. Or at the kitchen table for a change of scene.
  5. I usually write first thing in the morning if it’s ‘new words’ of a first draft. I write for three or four hours before petering out.
  6. jenny-ackland-workspaceResearch is my oxygen and helps spark ideas.
  7. I keep my published works nowhere special. Just lumped in where they might have been put with other books.
  8. On the day my first book was published, I … can’t remember what I did. I will say there would have been champagne, and I will also say I can’t remember what I wore the day I got married the first time. My grandmother was suitably appalled.
  9. At the moment I’m writing a long ambitious time-jumpy novel set in Australia, about circuses and abortion. I’m terrible at making books sound appealing.
  10. When I’m stuck for an idea, I read, research or hold still and wait while performing the rest of my daily life. I’m never really stuck for ideas, it’s more about solutions to plot problems or something about theme or setting. I’ve learned patience is so important.

I love this picture of Jenny’s writing space.  I do admire neat and tidy authors who have everything just where it ought to be, but Jenny’s desk looks more like mine and I like the glimpses we get of her love of china. And because I know why there’s a picture of Ned Kelly on the wall, I am scouring the photo for clues about the next book!

The Secret SonYou can find out more about Jenny at her blog Seraglio – not a pizza place and follow her on Twitter @JennyAckland

You can buy Jenny’s novel at Fishpond: The Secret Son and good bookshops everywhere.



  1. Thanks for the introduction, Lisa. I missed your review the first time ’round but now I’ve added The Secret Son to my TBR list.


  2. Lovely interview. Must read her book, and must meet her on a trip to Melbourne one day. Why is life so awfully busy that you just can’t do all the things you want to do?

    I was wonderful if she were writing another book. Good to hear there’s one under way. Time-jumpy sounds just the thing; circuses and abortion sound intriguing. Did Ned Kelly run away and join the circus? Is that what you’re thinking? LOL.

    Oh, and I feel right at home with messy desks, and I love china too.


    • *chuckle*, No, Ned Kelly makes an appearance (sort of) in The Secret Son.
      And yes, I am intrigued too, and playing with my own ideas, as if I’d been given a writing exercise to do. I am thinking along the lines of Ruth Park’s Swords and Crowns and Rings with the dwarf who these days with ultrasounds could have been aborted but wasn’t, but the time jumpy thing has me stumped. We shall have to wait and see.
      I collect bone china cup, saucer and plate sets (all different brands and designs), and every now and again, I do high tea for my most special friends. (They know this is a real honour because I can’t chuck the cups and saucers in the dishwasher afterwards).


      • Love your musings Lisa!

        Yes, I have a collection of bone chine tea cup-saucer-and-plate-sets too. They are from my Mum (still alive but she gave it to me from her trousseau when I told them I was engaged), her Mum and aunt, my ma-in-law and now my aunt. One was a 21st gift, also, and a couple were given to me. I guess I have about 14 now. I use them for reading group (once a year) and patchwork group (several times a year). I really rather enjoy hand washing them – they are such a joy to have and hold. (Though I hate washing up usually – Mr Gums says if you can’t dishwash it I don’t want it.)


        • Yes, I’m usually on the same page as Mr Gums.
          But I do love the sheer luxury of drinking a cup of tea from a bone china cup. They feel so wonderful in the hand. Like really good linen sheets…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, I do too. When clearing out my aunt’s house I notice she had a Bone China Mug (I think it’s Royal Albert Memory Lane – too lazy to get up to check). I’ve taken in and have decided it’s going in with the day to day coffee mugs and it’s just going to go in the dishwasher. There’s a limit to my hand washing china joy! But not to my drinking out of china one.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, Jenny is very modest about he achievements :-)

    I have A Secret Son but haven’t yet read it… I’m waiting for a suitable block of time, preferably when I’m offline because Jenny said to me that she didn’t want to know when I was reading it! I can’t even imagine how stressful it would be waiting on people you know to read a novel you’d written.

    Jenny’s comment about making novels sound appealing reminded me of hearing Markus Zusak speak about The Book Thief – he said when he as pitching the idea, he wasn’t surprised that people didn’t see too excited about a “…600 page book about Nazi Germany, narrated by Death…”.


    • It’s very very fine if you don’t read it Kate. I’m a big girl, I can cope! ;)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I will be reading it, of course I will – but will avoid giving page-by-page updates as I progress on Goodreads!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. *chuckle* That is so true about Zusak’s book, I remember seeing the blurb and thinking, oh yuk no!
    You’ve touched on the perennial problem with reviewing in the close-knit Australian writing world. It is very difficult to review when you feel you are friends with an author. I had the problem with Susan Johnson’s My Hundred Lovers because she had been in Melbourne and we’d had long coffees and also some D&M emails. I ended up doing a combined reviews post because I felt too close to her at that time. But by the time The Landing came out, she’d been in Brisbane for ages, and we weren’t in touch in the same way so I felt ok about reviewing it. It’s tricky…


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