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Di Morrissey on pressure, nerves and penning bestsellers

Di Morrissey with her 20th book, The Opal Desert.
Di Morrissey has 19 best-selling books under her belt and another one on shelves now — but despite her success she still feels nervous about every new release.
Here, Di discusses her fear of failure, her cadetship at The Weekly and why she once wished she wrote sex books instead of novels.
AWW: Did you ever think when you sat down to write your first book that you'd be penning your 20th 20 years later.
Di: Twenty books in 20 years, it's pretty amazing. When you start out you don't think that far ahead. You just think about each book and you just want each book to do well.
AWW: Does it get easier after you've got a few best-sellers under your belt?
Di: No! If anything it gets harder. I've had 19 novels where each one has sold more than the last one. Given the market at the moment, and the closure of bookshops and the economy, it's very scary thinking about trying to do as well with this one.
AWW: Most writers would be happy to publish a book a decade — how do you manage one a year?
Di: The work rate is huge and not many authors can maintain that kind of pace. Lots of people think, 'Oh she's churned out another book', thinking it's done very quickly with no thoroughness, which is far from the case. I can do a book a year because I have a full-time editor that I work with every day. By the time the book is sent to the publisher it's really been redrafted about five times and it's ready to print. Other writers finish their draft, send it to their editor, get it back, write another draft, send it to their editor and the process goes on for months."
AWW: What made you decide to sit down and write that first novel?
Di: I wanted to write a book since I was seven, but it's not something you can just go and do straight out of school. That's why I became a journalist. I was a cadet on the Women's Weekly and that training was the best I could have done. It helped my writing and my researching. It took quite a while to get to the point where I had a contract to write my first book, but I think all the other things that have happened in between have made my life richer and given me more things to draw on.
AWW: Where does your inspiration come from?
Di: Every book is inspired by a particular place. I go and live in that place for up to two months so I get to know the background, the culture, the rhythms of the season and what the people are really like. There is a lot of credibility to my stories, because I've been there.
AWW: What do the locals think of the books you write about their hometowns?
Di: Most of them have been over the moon. I'm always very nervous. Some people feel they recognise themselves, so they get a kick out of imagining who the characters are based on, but mostly they're really thrilled because it puts their place on the map. Everybody goes to the places I write about.
AWW: What has been your biggest challenge over the years?
Di: To get people to take me seriously. I couldn't get any publicity for my first book. Everyone thought, 'Oh, well, she's about to turn 40, she's not on TV anymore — what do they do? They write a book'. People were saying to me, 'Look, if you'd written a diet book or a sex book we might be interested, but a novel? No way.' No one would give me any air time so I dragged myself to every book shop in the country that would have me, talking to anyone who would listen. That word of mouth slowly built up and then everyone started to take notice.
AWW: Have you had an 'I've made it' moment?
Di: It was lovely when I had my 20th anniversary party and old friends and my wonderful daughter made this amazing speech and suddenly I thought, 'Wow, look at what I've done'. You don't often stop and pat yourself on the back, you're too busy running forward and writing the next book. It was a lovely moment.
AWW: Will there be a 21st book or is The Opal Desert your swansong?
Di: No way! I've got about five books standing in the wings. In fact, I set out to research the next one in a few weeks! I've got plenty more in me.
Di Morrissey's 20th book The Opal Desert, published by Macmillan Australia, $32.99, is on sale now.
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