When it comes to multi-skilling, Fiona McArthur could write a book on it. This successful author, wife, midwife and mother of four young boys has just released her latest book The Baby Doctor set in a small outback town, Julie Houghton reports.
How much of your professional life is midwifery and how much is writing these days?
I’ve been a midwife for 30 years and love my midwifery. So 28 hours a week I’m a midwife and the rest I share between my family and my writing. My passion for midwifery goes into my writing so there’s lots of crossover.
You are obviously a very keen observer of people—are your characters based on people you know, or do you just have a very fertile imagination?
When I write characters, they aren’t based on anyone (it would be so hard to make them do what you want them to do) but they could be parts of many people. My characters are alive in my imagination and I can imagine them speaking to each other and that drives the story forward. I’m always sad when I finish a book because I have to leave my new friends.
What do you hope people get from reading your books?
I want people to close my book feeling uplifted. Smiling. To confirm that kindness can change lives. That ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Good, inspiring, incredible people are right there every day if we look for them. I want to celebrate those traits in people.
How do your medical colleagues view your books?
I’m so fortunate with the people I work with in all the different areas of my work life. My books are always viewed positively and often with smiles and indulgent pride. I know I’m blessed with my friends and family.
Your books are exceptionally well researched—how you go about that?
I started writing about what I knew. I have a passion for helping women help themselves with normal birth and as a midwife. When things get technical I go to the experts and ask for help. I’m constantly surprised with the help people give me, like Dr Andrew Kovendy’s incredible expertise with The Baby Doctor.
My late grandmother was a country publican for most of her life, and your wise old bushwoman Alma reminds me a lot of her—why did you want to include a character like Alma?
I love Alma. Your late grandmother sounds wonderful. There are so many incredible older people who inspire me and I love writing older characters. They have so much to offer.
Tell me about the non-fiction book you have written about mothers and births.
I’ve met many wonderful midwives; the midwives in Aussie Midwives were incredibly generous with their stories and I felt very privileged to have their trust. It’s a book about beautiful souls.
You obviously have a stable personal life—you and husband Ian have been together for 40 years. how does he feel about his successful writer wife?
Ian is proud of me and tells me often. He’s my hero—he has incredible integrity and kindness, which is why he was such a wonderful paramedic, and he’s my rock.
As we are approaching Christmas, what does this season mean to you?
To me, Christmas is pure love, the birth of new hope, and bringing families together. I love Christmas Eve in church and voices soaring into heaven. I sing carols loudly in my car and grin while I do it. As a midwife, being with a family at the birth of their baby born on Christmas morning—now that is being truly blessed.
Read the Warcry review of The Baby Doctor by Fiona Macarthur here.