TEN QUESTIONS WITH DENISE.



Denise Picton's wonderful debut novel "THE FAMILY STRING" is home to my favourite character of the year. Twelve year old Dorcas is a tomboy. With a mischievous streak, she is perpetually in trouble, always putting her foot in her mouth, not intentionally, but unable to stay quiet. In her own words, “often naughty, but not stupid”. Such a lovable character.


Denise very kindly took time out of her busy day to answer ten questions.




1. Ok, Let's get the cliché question out of the way. If you were on a desert island and were only allowed to take three books, what would they be and why?


First, you will never find me on a desert island because there would be no hot showers, avocados or Haig’s chocolate frogs and because I’d have to have been on a boat to end up there and that’s never going to happen. But given I am a writer you might reasonably expect me to use my imagination. So…..


At the moment I think I’d choose "Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A-Z of Literary Persuasion by Louise Willder" who has written literally thousands of blurbs for Penguin. Every time I read one of her chapters I have an idea about how to pitch my next book, and she makes me laugh out loud. Second I would choose all of Elizabeth Strout’s novels because I’d glue them all together as one so you couldn’t make me choose. Third I’d take Robyn Mundy’s Cold Coast because I loved it and would appreciate the time to read it again…and again…

But Neale I am fickle, and if you ask me next week I’d probably have a different list.


I am so glad about Strout's novels I have just started reading them. They are amazing. And I plan on reading Cold Coast as well.


2. Do you prefer writing or reading? You must answer one or the other a gun has been put to your head!


Hmm. This is a bit like asking whether I’d prefer to inhale or exhale. You’re tough! Ok, I’m guessing you don’t mean one of those nice chocolate coated marshmallow guns from the delis of my youth.


(there’s a theme emerging in my answers) I ‘d say write, because I’m at a very exciting time in my life where my second book is soon to be released and I am leaving behind traditional employment to write full time.


Not sure it may be one of the chocolate guns but why take the risk. I am waiting anxiously for your next book.


3. Have you ever considered writing non-fiction and, if so, what would be the topic or subject?


Oh yes. I’ve practiced as a management consultant for over forty years, and I have a sneaky suspicion a book on how to consult might force its way to the front of my writing list one day. In fact I started to write one a little while ago, but it was tough to disguise some of my ‘hypothetical’ examples and I wasn’t ready to be the subject of litigation.


Won't lie to you Denise you started to lose me on that one, but I am sure that the consulting community will love it.


4. You find out that you are allowed to take three authors - they must be authors, alive or dead to the desert island along with the three books from question 1. Who would they be and why? They don’t have to be authors of the books you chose.


I would take Louise Willder and refuse to share the only three coconuts on the island with her unless she wrote the pitch for my next novel. I would take Vita Sackville West because I’d love all the gossip and wisdom she can offer from her membership of the Bloomsbury Set. And I’d take Professor Stephen Greenblatt because I’ve loved all of his books, my favourites being The Swerve- How the World Became Modern, and Adam and Eve, because there would be weeks of questions I could happily ask him about both.


Hmmmm..... very interesting.


5. You are now allowed to take three people from any walk of life, but they must be alive. You cannot resurrect Lee Harvey Oswald and ask was it you? You can't reanimate Marilyn Monroe and ask what happened. Who would you take and why?


I’d take Jamie Oliver in the hope he could make something from the sand and coconuts that approximated a Haig’s chocolate frog. I’d take the person who owns Haig’s in the hope there are frogs on their person when they fall overboard. And I’d take the British comedian Jo Brand because I’m pretty sure we were meant to be best friends.


Hahaha, great answer, but I don't know about the sand and coconuts. How are you even going to crack the coconuts? Jo Brand nice choice.



6. I love music almost as much as literature. Do you like music? Any favourite bands or music?


I do like music. I am the only person in my family with no musical ability. My parents sang as a duet in church. My brother Cliff is a member of the SA Music Hall of Fame as a result of his singing. My sister Anthea has a wine and music bar in Melbourne called Jimmy Hornet and sings there as well. And my sister Jan plans piano. As the old joke goes, I can only play on the linoleum.


I like a mix of music from Elbow, to the cellist Abel Selaocoe, to good old rock and roll. My next novel centres on a dance marathon, and it was fun to choose all the music references for the story. Ultimo Press are making a Spotify list for book clubs to go with it.


A Spotify list, what a great idea. I love the name Anthea as well.


7. Your house is on fire, everybody is safe, but you have time to run in and grab one object. What would you grab and why? You must be able to physically carry this object out, otherwise you will get trapped in the fire.


I would carry out a pair of pearl earrings given to me by my late father-in-law because every time I wear them I think of him and miss him.


That is truly a beautiful answer Denise.


8. I have been dying to ask you where the idea of “The Family String” came from? I mean the actual physical string with the beads, and the idea, how it is basically a rating system for the family. It is such a great idea.


Oh thank you Neale, and allow me to tell your readers about the marvellous picture of the beads on the string you created for me, and which hangs in my writing room. I wish I could tell you where that idea came from. When I sit down to write I often have no idea what my fingers will tap out, and that image just appeared on the screen.


Actually I just asked that hoping you would mention that. Gagging, only gagging. I loved that idea so much I could see the string hanging in the tree house, and then tying it to the name of the novel, love it.


9. Dorcas is such a wonderful character. Is she based on anybody, maybe yourself, or did you just come up with her from scratch?


I have often been asked if Dorcas is a version of me as a child. The answer is no, because I was a boring, girly-swat of a kid. My mum is 86 years old now, and when people ask her about me she still says ‘she didn’t give us a minute’s trouble.’ So perhaps Dorcas is the child I wish I’d been. When I decided to write the book I imagined myself standing in the tree house you read about in The Family String, which is based on one we did have in our garden. And as I looked from the platform in the olive tree, Dorcas just walked up to me, looked me in the eye and folded her arms waiting for me to get the story started. I do love her, and most days she whispers something in my ear, including the all important question about why you can’t buy fritz sandwiches in most restaurants.


Dorcas walked up to you, magic. I fell in love with Dorcas after just the first chapter. She truly is my favourite character of the year. I rank her right up their with Scout from "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD"


10. This is a question that I really want to know the answer to. Have you any plans for Dorcas in the future. I’m sure many readers would hope the answer is yes.


I would love to write a sequel…What Dorcas Does Next…but this is in the lap of the publishing world as a result of reader response.


Don't worry Denise my 10 subscribers and I have got your back, PETITION TIME!!!!!!!



Denise thankyou kindly for taking the time to answer these questions, it has been a pleasure for me, and I look forward to your next book.




A darkly funny and poignant coming of age story by an extraordinary new voice


Meet Dorcas, a spirited 12-year-old struggling to contain her irrepressible humour and naughty streak in a family of Christadelphians in 1960s Adelaide. She is her mother’s least favourite child and always at the bottom of the order on the family’s string of beads that she and her younger siblings Ruthy and Caleb reorder according to their mother’s ever-changing moods.


Dorcas, an aspiring vet, dreams of having a dog, or failing that, a guinea pig named Thruppence. Ruthy wants to attend writing school, and Caleb wants to play footy with the local team. But Christadelphians aren’t allowed to be ‘of the world’ and when their older brother Daniel is exiled to door knock and spread the good word in New South Wales after being caught making out with Esther Dawlish at youth camp, each try their hardest to suppress their dreams for a bigger life. But for a girl like Dorcas, dreams have a habit of surfacing at the most inopportune moments, and as she strives to be the daughter her mother desires, a chain of mishaps lead to a tragedy no one could have foreseen.


​This is a superb coming of age story that explores a fraught mother-daughter dynamic, and the secrets adults keep from their children. It is about resilience, and the loves that sustain us when our most essential bonds are tested, and how to find the way back through hope and forgiveness.



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