Egg donation an inspiration
A conversation with a woman who is the unofficial world record holder for donating her own eggs led to the latest page-turner from author Rachael Johns.
The inspiration for Johns' novel, The Greatest Gift, came after a woman writing a memoir about being an egg donor and surrogate contacted Johns for writing tips.
"Seventeen babies have been created from her eggs so it's quite a big number," Johns says.
"I'd heard a lot about IVF, about surrogacy, but I hadn't heard a lot about egg donation."
The author says after talking to the woman her thoughts solidified.
"It wasn't a conscious decision to write about infertility," she says.
The author read the woman's memoir and then talked to other women who had gone through the egg donation experience.
Johns also perused online ads of couples seeking a donor, and egg donors offering their services to people in need.
Two women characters form the backbone of Johns' latest book.
Career woman and media personality Harper Drummond does not want children but wants to give away her eggs to someone in need.
Claire Beggs is a happily married florist turned hot-air balloonist who has settled in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.
She is desperate to add to her family.
The issue of infertility is complex and emotional, and one Johns tackles head on.
A simple definition at the beginning of the book of mother, the "female parent of a child", and mum, "the woman who nurtures, raises and loves a child", gives the reader an initial insight into the central theme.
The author says infertility is a universal subject.
"I think it's a subject that affects everyone, even if it doesn't affect you individually," Johns says. "I got pregnant relatively easily. But I have plenty of friends for who it was a huge issue and I just saw how much it takes up of your life. And it's impossible to think of anything else when you want something so desperately and can't have it."
Johns has three sons of her own, aged 9, 11 and 13.
She says knowing that feeling of gazing upon a child after birth and feeling that amazing love for the first time means she also knows the feeling of not bearing the thought of life without that child.
"My relationship with my sons did influence that, in that I could try and get into Claire's head about how much she yearns (motherhood) and cannot have it," Johns says.
This is the author's 11th book in print but her 21st book in the digital and print world.
"The plot just dropped into my head with this one... I'm not much of a plotter and sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it's a bad thing," the author says.
"It's good because in some ways I experience the book in the same way as a reader would.
"But on the flipside I feel like I might write 80,000 words and not be able to finish."
Johns says she is fascinated by relationships, a personality trait reflected in Harper who is a journalist with her own radio show.
"I don't say I base any characters on me, but of course things about yourself are going to come out in the characters," the author says.
Johns has finished her book tour promoting The Greatest Gift, but will travel to the north of Western Australia for other events and needs to finish her next book by the end of the year. "There's no rest for the wicked," she says with a laugh.
"I'm fuelled on chocolate."
Assuming the next book stays the same, the author says, it is about four women and a wedding dress and how they are linked by the garment. She also explores issues of kidney transplant and adoption.
"I think it's a misconception of women's fiction that it is light and fluffy," Johns says.
"Just because it's an easy read, which is what I always wanted to write... they're also about serious emotional subjects that hopefully get people to think about things.
"That is definitely the case with my books and a lot of other books."