Fiona McArthur sold her first book in 1999 – a short story for Australian Woman’s Weekly about soccer, inspired perhaps by her chaotic life as a mum of five sons. Like a lot of girls from the country she moved to Sydney at seventeen and started her training as a nurse, and later a midwife, so she’s the perfect candidate for writing the gripping, often gritty medical romances we’ve grown to love.
Fiona is the first to admit that writing has always been a form of escapism, but luckily for us, now that her sons have all flown the nest she has a lot more time to put fingers to keyboard. Of course, it takes a lot of discipline to meet her deadlines:
‘I wake up early, at 5 a.m and I’m usually dressed by 6.15, but that’s enough time for me to write 500 – 1000 words, and then I can go about my day feeling good about myself!’
Fiona’s books in the Medical Series are notoriously stuffed with inspiring characters and vivid landscapes, situations and scenery, described so well you can picture yourself in the pages. Her home in NSW Australia is deeply embedded in her pages, but she’s travelled much further afield to bring the hot doctors she writes about to life.
The Orient Express was a particularly inspiring experience for Fiona. She took the famed journey across Italy and then cruised the Mediterranean into Venice with a friend, her laptop and her unusually keen observational skills. Watching life on the train she scribbled note after note in inspiration and wound up writing three books from the notes she took while on the 28-hour journey.
‘I’ll start with one scene that pops into my head and then write around it. I had an idea once for an opener, with a lady in her hospital room. A man comes in and immediately she yells ‘GET OUT!’ I had no idea where that story would go but I wrote that scene and the rest fell into place!’
Fiona tells us (thankfully) that she never wants to leave the Harlequin family, she’d miss the romance too much. And the romance and medical action flows in many forms, from the book set in New Guinea which opens on an unconscious man, to a particularly favourite scene in which an aboriginal girl has a baby.
So what book would Fiona have made into a movie? ‘Definitely Harry St Clair, Doctor or Rogue,’ she says of her secretive high-flying Doctor – one of the best doctors in the southern hemisphere. ‘I think it would star Brad Pitt, he has just the right look for the role!’
When asked what challenges she faces with her writing, Fiona admits that switching from memoir to fiction is sometimes tough. Attention to detail is vital, especially in the medical field.
‘It will take me three to four months to write a book now’ she says of her Medical fiction, although as a midwife in a small hospital in Australia the ideas keep coming. Let’s hope they keep on coming for many more years!