Bookish Stuff

Q & A with James Roxburgh, author of The Banksia House Breakout

Hello lovely readers! We’ve got something slightly different on this space today. In case you missed it, I reviewed The Banksia House Breakout last week. This book was published earlier this month and is by debut author, James Roxburgh. In normal times, James would’ve been having a book launch, signing books for us at bookstores and well, doing the rounds in person. But in Covid-times, particularly in Sydney where James is based, it’s not possible. James was kind enough to answer a load of questions for me after I read his book.

How did you get the idea for Banksia House? What came first – the plot or the characters?

I was at a writing course and struggling with a young adult novel at the time. A publisher came along and showed us some upcoming books, one of which was ‘The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village’ by Joanna Nell. I realised through my work as an audiologist that this was a population I knew well and loved. My patients had been sharing their lives with me for years, most of whom were elderly women. I remembered witnessing a nursing home resident try to escape out the front door and wondered what would happen if they did! The characters Ruth and Michael were integral to the plot from the beginning, while the other characters evolved or were added in later drafts. Most characters are based on a combination of real people, many being patients I’ve seen in my audiology practice or in the many nursing homes I used to attend.

Did you plot the book or are you more a pantser?

I’m naturally more of a planner than a pantser. With ‘The Banksia House Breakout’, however, I had a rough plot in my head and decided to get it out so I wrote it completely as a pantser! It meant a rougher first draft but it definitely moved the story along. For my next novel, I’ve planned a little more at the start, but not enough to let me procrastinate for months!

I loved the description of place throughout the book. Tell us, have you done the road trip from Sydney to Brisbane yourself?

My childhood holidays were so often road trips up the coast to Queensland. Squashed across the backseat beside my brother and sister, we played ‘I spy’ and looked forward to any opportunity to get out and stretch our legs. A few years ago, I took my own kids on this trip and reminisced about every stop along the way.

How much of your work as an audiologist in aged care influenced your story?

The Banksia House Breakout’ was inspired by the thousands of elderly patients I saw in my ten years as an audiologist. Many of these patients lived in aged-care homes or were moved into them during this time. They had lived such rich lives and shared with me their humorous and emotional stories from their past. They also confided in me about losing their independence, their fears of living in aged-care and their frustrations at not being able to perform tasks that were once easy for them. A number of them were also escorted by family members showing little patience and who were often unwilling to spend money on them.

What was your writing routine with this book?

The first draft of ‘The Banksia House Breakout’ took about six months to write. My routine changed depending on what else was happening in my life at the time – I squeezed the writing in around it! Initially, I was writing for two to three hours after seeing patients and the kids going to bed, but later it became a few hours in the morning after I had seen the kids off on the school bus. I tried to do this five days a week, although at one point I was rewriting a draft within a tight deadline and working on it seven days a week. This is a routine I don’t recommend!

Tell us a bit about your publication journey.

My manuscript went through a couple of rounds with a freelance editor before being pitched to publishers at a writing conference. I initially had a lot of interest from my pitch and a few publishers asked to read the opening chapters. Not long after this, I had two publishers requested the full manuscript while a few others rejected it. It then went quiet for a few months and I assumed no one wanted to publish it. One day I got an email out of the blue from Jane Curry at Ventura Press and she loved the story! She wanted to tweak some of the manuscript and it went through more editing. It needed a new title and she chose ‘The Banksia House Breakout’ from a list I had been brainstorming. She asked for my input for the cover but she made the final decision regarding this. I trusted in her and her industry experience and am happy with the result.

What’s next in store for you?

I’m focussed on promoting ‘The Banksia House Breakout’ for the time being but am also writing my next novel. This will feature new elderly characters but will again be centred around an aged-care home. I’m excited to be writing again and seeing my new characters come to life!

Have you got a memorable road trip?

I love a good road trip! I grew up with road trips every school holidays. We travelled from country Victoria to Sydney along the old Hume Highway, and later from Sydney to Queensland in the summer holidays. More recently, I enjoy our annual road trip to the snowfields and we have our regular stops along the way. In 2019, I was fortunate to travel to Iceland with my family and we had an amazing road trip along the south coast. Driving with studded tyres on sheet ice was an adventure on its own, but the landscape there was breathtaking, and we stopped often to see waterfalls, black pebble beaches and explore the caves under glaciers. Definitely the road trip of a lifetime.

Who is your favourite author/book?

I grew up reading Roald Dahl, Swallows and Amazons and Tolkien. I’ve always enjoyed losing myself in a good science fiction novel but more recently I’ve discovered JoJo Moyes and Michael Robotham. I love how from the beginning they can draw you into the story and can describe a scene vividly in only a couple of sentences. As for my favourite book, it’s hard to go past ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemmingway. It’s such a simple story but so beautifully written.

Thank you, James! I can’t wait to read what you come out with next.

You can find James on Instagram and if you’re interested in buying The Banksia House Breakout, check out your local indie bookstore or these other sources.

***Linking with Denyse for Life this Week***

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  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    28 September 2021 at 9:59 am

    What a cracking interview – thanks to your recommendation, I’ve just started reading this and am loving it so far!
    Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted…Paws on Business: Women Entrepupneurs Part 9My Profile

  • Deborah Cook
    30 September 2021 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for this Sanch, it’s always interesting to read about an author’s processes and inspiration.

    It depresses me a little that James was inspired by Joanna’s book as it doesn’t seem that long ago it was published so he’s written and released a book in that time. (And I have 3-4 half written books from the last decade I’ve done nothing with!) *grimace*
    Deborah Cook recently posted…Book review: Forgotten in Death by JD RobbMy Profile

  • Denyse Whelan
    30 September 2021 at 5:07 pm

    Oh wow, that was cool and so interesting. I am, ahem, somewhat reluctant to read anything much relating to this topic. Yes, I “Know” it’s about my perhaps future life….My 97 yo Dad lives in an independent retirement place and in its 10 years of existence (he’s been there for most of that) it’s the sad stories I hear from him about losses. Nevertheless I am reading non-fiction (listening for now, but have hard copy) of a geriatrician’s book about Ageing. I am a ‘want to be prepared’ person but not so sure I want all the details (yet).

    Thank you for sharing your post for this week’s link up in Life This Week on Denyse Whelan Blogs. It’s a lovely sharing place you’ve visited and added your post. I wish you well and next Monday, the link up is Share Your Snaps…but of course, any post, old or new, on/off prompts is most welcome. Denyse.
    Denyse Whelan recently posted…Women of Courage Series. #74. Ness. 119/2021.My Profile

  • September 2021 Reflections – Sanch Writes
    1 October 2021 at 12:07 pm

    […] from my weekly gratitude posts on the blog, I shared a book review and an interview with the author, James Roxburgh. I also wrote about feeling overwhelmed with some work-related […]