I absolutely loved reading ‘The Greatest Gift’ when it arrived on my doorstep, and was super excited to get the opportunity for a Q&A with Rachael Johns. With unexpected twists and really relateable characters, ‘The Greatest Gift’ was probably one of my favourite reads lately!
The Greatest Gift is such a sensitively written story of a deeply emotive topic – what inspired you to write it?
I’d had an idea for a book involving two babies, a mum and a dad floating around in my head for a few years but it wasn’t quite working for me, so I put it aside. Then just over a year ago I got a message on Facebook from a lady who was writing a memoir about her experiences as a surrogate and an egg donor – she was asking me for some publishing advice. I tried to help her as much as I could but when she told me about her story, I was fascinated. And suddenly the final seed for that story that had been mulling about in my mind for years fell into place. I asked her if she would mind if I wrote a fiction story about egg donation and she was very enthusiastic, happy for me to highlight this emotional issue. I also have had lots of friends who have struggled with infertility and I feel like it is something that touches many of us in some way or another.
Having recently completed a cycle as an egg donor myself, I was in awe of the sheer brilliance of the science involved. How on earth did you manage to get to grips with the ins and outs of the whole process?
Thankfully there is a lot of information available on pretty much anything on the internet these days so I did a lot of reading around the topic – medical sites but also blogs and forums written by people who have been through the experience themselves. I was also lucky enough to read bits of my friend’s memoir and she was very open about discussing her own experience with me and answering questions. The hard part was working out what wonderful information to leave out – I didn’t want it to be a ‘’medical” book but I wanted to give enough of the physical/medical process to make the book realistic.
So…the hot air balloon-obsessed family – how did that come about?.
I wanted to write about two very different couples – one a high-powered, career-driven duo and the other people who are equally as passionate about their career but do something a little more unusual/quirky. I road-tested a number of possibilities in my head but nothing felt quite right until I was flicking through a magazine and saw an article about two people who had met through their love of hot air ballooning and then started a business around it. I knew the moment I read their stories that ballooning was IT! Of course I’d never been hot air ballooning so I quickly rectified that and absolutely fell in love with the experience during my first trip up in the air.
The concept of having children (choosing to have children/choosing not to have them/not being able to have them) is such a loaded subject, and one that we all have a connection to in one form or another. Did you find this difficult to write about?
This is something that fascinates me – why or why not people want to have children. From an early age I knew I wanted to be a mum, so much so that I didn’t really think much about it and had my children young and relatively easily. But in hindsight, I think I should have given much more thought to this decision. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my kids and wouldn’t lose them for the world, but I think so many people simply have kids because that’s what is expected of us. I’m also now at an age (37) where I have friends who had always thought they didn’t want kids but are being told by doctors that it’s now or never. And this is making them question whether they will regret not having them down the track.
Again, I don’t think this is a reason to decide to have children and I think it is something no one should be pressured into one way or another. As for difficult to write – not really, because I think being a writer has trained me to put aside my own feelings and step into the head (as best I can) of someone else, so I often wonder/think about why people think the way they do and I like to consider all angles of any issue.
My holy trinity is books, wine and makeup – what’s yours?
Ooh great question – mine would have to be books, wine and/or Diet Coke (depending on the time of day) and cats!