Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 23, 2016

Meet an Aussie Author: Emma Ashmere

emma-ashmere-1the-floating-gardenAs you know if you read my recent review, Emma Ashmere’s debut novel The Floating Garden was shortlisted for the 2016 MUBA (Most Under-rated Book Award). Set in 1920s Sydney, The Floating Garden is about a woman facing eviction for the building of the Harbour Bridge.  Like the other reviewers I mentioned in my post, I was really impressed by this book and was keen to find out more about the author…

Emma wrote her first ‘real’ short stories for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide in the late 1990s. Since then several have won competitions, and over 20 have appeared in journals, anthologies, and newspapers including: The Age, Review of Australian Fiction, Griffith Review, Sleepers Almanac, and Text online. In 2017 two more stories will be published in the Philippines University Press anthology 100 Love Letters, and Spineless Wonders Landmarks anthology.

Like many authors she has chalked up a wealth of experiences to draw on for her writing, and it shows in the diversity and authenticity of her characterisation in The Floating Garden.  She spent a wandering decade working as a cook on film sets, an isolated cattle station, London pubs, and an art school in the south of France – all useful fodder for writing. She’s worked as a tutor, and research assistant on two Australian gardening history books Green Pens and Reading the Garden, and the Australian instalment of Women and Empire.  After finishing a PhD on the use of history in fiction at La Trobe University, Emma moved to northern NSW for a slower life.

(Those gardening history books sound fascinating.  One of my favourite garden books is Remembered Gardens: Eight Women and Their Visions of an Australian Landscape (2007) by Holly Kerr Forsyth, a book which made me realise that there is more to gardening history than you might think.  I’ve found Reading the Garden at my local library so I’ll be checking it out as soon as my reserve comes in).

Though it’s a bittersweet kind of award to win, I was a bit disappointed that The Floating Garden didn’t win the MUBA, because it deserves more recognition than it’s had, and it’s recognition (and sales!) that encourage authors to write another novel for us to enjoy.  But as you can see from her answers to my interview questions below, Emma is already at work on a new novel which sounds very interesting indeed.

Anyway, without further ado, here are Emma’s answers to my questions:

  1. I was born … in 1960s Adelaide. Our suburban garden was a mini orchard with too many chooks and a fly-in fly-out peahen.
  2. When I was a child I wrote… stories I never finished.
  3. The people who encouraged/inspired/mentored me to write are… the people who work, live, and create in difficult circumstances.
  4. emma-ashmere-dragon-fruit-flowerI write in… the corner of a room, in a country town, with a view to a dragon fruit plant, and the sound of cows, cars, and frogs.
  5. I write… whenever I can get to it. Weeks might pass, but I jot lots of notes, and rework plot lines and characters in my head.
  6. Research is…. endlessly interesting, sometimes confronting, always surprising. I’m drawn to the gaps and silences in history, the people who’ve slipped out of view.
  7. I keep my published works … tucked behind some old favourite postcards.
  8. On the day my first book was published, I… felt relief, disbelief, relief etc.
  9. At the moment, I’m writing … a novel set in 1870s London and Australia about three wayward sisters and their artist aunt.
  10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I … open a random poetry book.

I do like the sound of the new novel, I love books about art and artists:)

I hope I’ve convinced you to get hold of a copy of The Floating Garden – you can buy it from the publisher’s website for $26.95 (where if you are impatient you can do an instant download), from Fishpond: The Floating Garden; or from good bookshops everywhere.

You can find out more about Emma at her website.

Thanks, Emma, for participating in Meet an Aussie Author!



  1. I love that Australia has a ‘most under-rated book’ award because here in Canada absolute gems also go ‘under the radar.’ I’d love to adopt this idea for our bookstore & readers. That said, a beautiful,compelling review so…having searched it out Emma Ashmere’s “The Floating Garden.” It’s available through an independent publisher here in Ontario, Canada. Excellent blog & like our (currently very cold!) country, Australia has a wealth of exceptional writers that I’ve been enjoying for years.Thanks so very much Lisa. I’ll keep you posted. Be well! Kelly of Bibliobroads


    • It’s a terrific initiative: it’s not a prize that’s worth a lot of money, but it’s the exposure and publicity that’s valuable. I’m so glad you can get a copy:)


  2. Oh! Town planning issues in an Art Deco setting? How did I miss The Floating Garden?!


    • That’s the thing, Kate, we do, though we try so hard not to, miss the release of some really, really good books. That’s why I don’t feel guilty any more if I take a while to get to a book, because doing a review after whatever initial publicity has faded, can bring a book back into the spotlight.


  3. […] I missed it and only discovered it when Emma Ashmere, author of The Floating Garden revealed in Meet an Aussie Author that she had been a researcher for the book.  I tracked it down at my local library that day and […]


  4. […] Some years ago the Commonwealth Writers Prize was shelved and replaced by a Short Story Prize.   What follows is from the press release about the 2019 shortlist, which this year includes a story by Australian Emma Ashworth, who wrote The Floating Garden (which I reviewed here) You can find out more about Emma here. […]


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