Authors 2019


The Heroines Festival is proud to present

Jesse Blackadder

Jesse Blackadder


Jesse Blackadder is an award-winning author of seven novels for adults and kids, an emerging screenwriter, a public speaker, literacy advocate and freelance journalist.

She’s fascinated by adventurous women, extreme landscapes, unusual creatures and chilly places. 

Jesse has twice been awarded the prestigious Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship and she has also been a writer in residence in Alaska, outback Australia, Byron Bay Charles Sturt University and Varuna The Writers’ House.

Jesse’s historical novel Chasing The Light follows the story of the women who were drawn to explore Antarctica; particularly, Norwegian Ingrid Christensen, a 38-year-old mother who left her six children behind and travelled south on a whaling boat in the 1930s.

Her most recent book is Sixty Seconds.

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth


Kate Forsyth’s novels have sold more than a million copies worldwide, and her work has won many awards including the 2015 American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction and the 2017 William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism.

Her most recent books for adults include Beauty in Thorns, a reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the passions and scandals of the Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and poets; Bitter Greens, a reimagining of ‘Rapunzel’; and The Wild Girl, which tells the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm brothers’ famous collection of fairy tales. The Impossible Quest, her fantasy adventure series for children, has been optioned for a film. Kate also has a doctorate in fairy tale studies and is an accredited master storyteller.

Her latest book The Blue Rose moves between Imperial China and France during the “terror” of the French Revolution and is inspired by the true story of the quest for a blood-red rose.

Robyn Cadwaller

Robyn Cadwaller

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Robyn Cadwallader ‘s first novel, The Anchoress (2015), was published in Australia, the UK, the United States and France. It won a Canberra Critics Award and the ACT Book of the Year People’s Choice Award; it was also shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards and the Adelaide Festival Literary Awards, longlisted for the ABIA Awards and Highly Commended in the ACT Book of the Year Award. 

She has also published a non-fiction book about virginity and female agency in the Middle Ages (2008), a poetry collection, i painted unafraid (2010), and an edited collection of essays on asylum-seeker policy, We Are Better Than This (2015).

The Anchoress is the story of a seventeen year old holy woman in the thirteenth century living locked inside a small stone hermitage. Her most recent novel, Book of Colours, set in London in the fourteenth century, follows three people linked by the creation of an illuminated book of prayers.

She lives in the country outside Canberra.

Monica Tan

Monica Tan

Monica Tan is the former deputy culture editor of Guardian Australia and co-host of the Token podcast. 

In mid-2016, Monica left Sydney, unsure of her place in Australia. As a Chinese Australian city slicker, she couldn't have felt more distant from powerful mythologies like the Digger, the Drover's Wife and Clancy of the Overflow. And more importantly, Monica wondered, how could she ever feel she truly belonged to a land that has been the spiritual domain of Indigenous Australians for over 60,000 years? Stranger Country is the riveting account of the six months Monica drove and camped her way through some of Australia's most beautiful and remote landscapes. She shared meals, beers and conversations with miners, greynomads, artists, farmers, community workers and small business owners from across the nation: some Aboriginal, some white, some Asian, and even a few who managed to be all three. The result is an enthralling and entertaining celebration of the spirit of adventure, a thoughtful quest for understanding and a unique portrait of Australia and all it means to those who live here. Stranger Country is her first book.




SHANKARI CHANDRAN is a lawyer in the social justice field. In 2017, she published her first two novels. Her literary fiction debut, Song of the Sun God, was long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award (2019) and short-listed for the Fairway National Literary Prize (2018).

Her speculative fiction novel, The Barrier (Pan Macmillan), was short-listed for the Norma K Hemming Award (2018). In 2018, both books were optioned for television. Her third manuscript, The Phantom Limb, has also just been optioned for television and this project is the first in the proposed, Ellie Ryder series.

Shankari works for an international firm, Ashurst LLP, developing its law reform program which aims to improve laws that affect marginalised people. For ten years, she was the head of pro bono at Allen & Overy LLP, where her work ranged from ensuring representation for detainees in Guantanamo Bay to policy development for the UK government.

She is the Create NSW Writer's Fellow for 2018/2019. She lives in Sydney with her husband, four children and dog.

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Judi Morison

Judi Morison


Judi Morison is a Gamilaroi woman, descendant of a north-west NSW settler family. Her historical manuscript, Crossing The Creek, inspired by her great-grandparents’ stories and exploring issues of social justice, identity and place has been shortlisted for Penguin Book’s Write It Fellowship.

After working as a librarian, antiques dealer, Indigenous project co-ordinator and academic, she is currently studying Creative Writing at UTS and, with the South Coast Writers Centre’s Black Wallaby Writers, is involved with the publication of Dreaming Inside, a series of anthologies of work from creative writing workshops for Aboriginal inmates at Junee Correctional Centre.

Her writing has most recently been published in Infinite Threads, the 33rd collection from the prestigious writing program at the University of Technology Sydney.

Lauren Chater

Lauren Chater

Lauren Chater writes fiction with a particular focus on women's stories. After working for many years in a variety of media roles, she turned her passion for reading and research into a professional pursuit.

In 2014, she was the successful recipient of the Fiona McIntosh Commercial Fiction scholarship. In addition to writing fiction, she established The Well Read Cookie, a blog which celebrates her love of baking and literature.

Her debut novel The Lace Weaver, set in Estonia in the 1940’s against the backdrop of the Russia, then German occupations of the country, takes up the story of the matriarchal legacies knitted into the women’s traditional lace shawls.

Her second novel, Gulliver's Wife is due for release in October.

She lives in Sydney with her husband and two children.



Jo Mackay is Head of Local Fiction for Harlequin, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. Publisher for many bestselling authors, Jo has worked in senior editorial and commissioning roles for more than 20 years, including six years as a Commissioning Editor at ABC Books and three years as an Associate Publisher at HarperCollins Publishers on the nonfiction and illustrated lists. She has been with Harlequin since 2014.

A passionate advocate for her authors, Jo firmly believes good writing can change lives. She loves any story she can’t put down after the first page. 


Karen Brooks

Karen Brooks

Karen Brooks is the author of twelve books, an academic of more than twenty years' experience, a newspaper columnist and a social commentator, and has appeared regularly on national TV and radio.

Before turning to academia she was an army officer for five years, and prior to that dabbled in acting. 

Karen’s first historical fiction, The Brewer’s Tale,  told the story of Anneke Sheldrake, a female brewer in medieval England. Her next book , The Locksmith’s Daughter, was a Renaissance spy story. In her latest novel, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife, she rewrites women back into history in a sweeping tale of 17th Century London. Set against the backdrop of Restoration London, the plague and the Great Fire, it is a tale of cruelty, revenge, redemption, love and hope, and the sweet, sinister temptation of chocolate.

She lives in Hobart, Tasmania.


Tea Cooper

Tea Cooper

Tea Cooper is an established Australian author of contemporary and historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.

She is the bestselling author of The Horse Thief (2015), The Cedar Cutter (2016), The Currency Lass (2017) and The Naturalist's Daughter (2018).

In The Naturalist’s Daughter, two women, a century apart, are drawn into a mystery surrounding the biggest scientific controversy of the nineteenth century, the classification of the platypus.

Tea’s fifth book, The Woman In The Green Dress, is set around Sydney in both 1853 and 1919,. It shows women in business in early colonial times, and features an inheritance, the first Aussie opal, and a deadly mystery.


Jessica White

Jessica White

Jessica White is the author of A Curious Intimacy (Viking, 2007), for which she was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist, and Entitlement (Viking, 2012). Her work has appeared widely in literary journals, including Meanjin, Southerly, Review of Australian Fiction, Overland, Island and Griffith Review, as well as numerous academic publications. She has been shortlisted or longlisted for prizes such as the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the Calibre Prize, the Elizabeth Jolley Prize and the Peter Blazey Award for life writing.

Jessica’s latest novel Hearing Maud is a work of creative non-fiction that details the author’s experiences of deafness after losing most of her hearing at age four. Central to her narrative is the story of Maud Praed, the deaf daughter of 19th century Queensland expatriate novelist Rosa Praed.

She currently researches and lectures at The University of Queensland, where she is writing an ecobiography of Western Australia’s first female scientist, 19th century botanist Georgiana Molloy.


Cat Sparks

Cat Sparks

Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning Australian author, editor and artist.

Her career highlights include attaining a PhD in science fiction and climate fiction, five years as Fiction Editor of Cosmos Magazine, running Agog! Press, working as an archaeological dig photographer in Jordan, studying with Margaret Atwood, 75 published short stories, a collection and a far future novel, Lotus Blue.

Lotus Blue is set in a far future war-and-climate-ravaged Australia, seventeen-year-old Star and a band of mismatched, resilient tankerjacks and refugees are thrown together in a desperate attempt to shut down an ancient, deadly war machine before it wakes and remembers what it’s for.

Cat directed two speculative fiction festivals for WritingNSW and is a regular panellist & speaker at speculative fiction events. She lives in Sydney.


Claire Corbett

Claire Corbett

Claire Corbett 's first novel, When We Have Wings (Allen & Unwin), was shortlisted for the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award and shortlisted for the 2012 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction and published overseas. Watch Over Me, her second novel, was published by A&U in 2017. She is currently writing her third novel, The Aquarium.

She teaches Creative Writing at UTS, is on the Board of Varuna, the national writers’ house, and is the new fiction editor of Overland Journal. Most recently, she has had short stories published by Kill Your Darlings and shortlisted for the Margaret River Press 2019 Short Story Prize and published in the anthology We’ll Stand in That Place.

In When We Have Wings only the rich and powerful can afford the surgery, drugs and gene manipulation to have their own wings. They are the fliers, an elite who are free to explore the soaring city heights where non-fliers dare not tread. Peri, a poor girl from the regions, will sacrifice anything to get her wings and join this elite but the price is higher than she could have imagined.

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Julie Keys

Julie Keys

Julie Keys’ debut novel, The Artist's Portrait, was shortlisted for The Richell Prize for Emerging Writers in 2017 and was published by Hachette Australia in April 2019. Her short stories have been published across a range of Australian journals. 

Julie has worked as a tutor, a registered nurse, a youth worker and as a clinical trials co-ordinator. She is now studying a PhD in creative arts at the University of Wollongong and writing full-time.

 Julie Keys lives in the Illawarra region on the NSW south coast.

Kerri Turner

Kerri Turner

Kerri Turner is a historical fiction author who lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and miniature schnauzer. She trained from a young age to become a ballerina, but life had other ideas for her. After gaining an Associate Degree (Dance) and Diploma of Publishing (Editing, Proofreading and Publishing), she combined her love of ballet, history and books to discover a passion for writing which far outweighed anything she'd done before. She still dances, passing on the joy of ballet to those who never got the chance to experience it-or thought their dancing years were behind them-by teaching adults-only and over-55s classes.


Chloe Higgins

Chloe Higgins


Chloe Higgins writes about the things we’re all afraid of: death, sex, love, and how we feel about our mothers. Chloe is the Director of Wollongong Writers Festival, a casual lecturer and tutor in creative writing at the University of Wollongong where she is completing a PhD, and a member of the Finishing School Collective. Originally from south-west Sydney, she now lives in Wollongong and travels the world for three months per year. 

Her debut novel, The Girls, a memoir about family, grief and sexuality, is her debut.

Melissa Fagan

Melissa Fagan

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Melissa Fagan is an author, freelance writer and editor currently based in Coolangatta, in Yugambeh–Bundjalung country, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. She is also completing a PhD in travel writing with Curtin University and the University of Aberdeen. 

Her debut novel, What Will Be Worn: A McWhirters Story is a true story of mothers and daughters and the legacy of the once-grand department store that binds them.

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Helena Fox lives by the sea in Wollongong, with her endlessly creative and kind family. She mentors and runs writing workshops for young people and is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in the US.

Helena’s debut YA novel, HOW IT FEELS TO FLOAT, an intimate portrayal of a teenager navigating familial and social complexities while living with an undiagnosed mental illness, was recently published by Pan Macmillan in Australia/NZ, and by Dial/Penguin Random House in the US and Canada.

Helena has travelled and lived all around the world, but of all her adventures, working with young people and helping them find and express their voice has brought Helena the greatest joy.