Seniors News article: Julia Osborne – a complex spice mix

Belinda Scott

27th March 2017

If Julia Osborne was a food, she would be a complex spice mix.

The Nambucca Heads based author and artist is a mix of peppery and mild, tangy and tart.

She thinks people who don’t join social media are missing out on the modern world, but she likes to live in old houses and has renovated three in order to restore their original features.

She is keen to publicise her work , but is fiercely protective about privacy.

“I don’t want to be a predator who copies people into her writing,” she said.

She travels widely, but does not own a car; has lived for years in the country but thinks of her self as a city girl.

A sharp observer, she can be very funny about some of the reactions to her work.

At one literary event, a reader of her story Dogs, said, “you must have shot dogs yourself to be able to write that”.

“I wish I’d been quick enough to say; ‘wait until I write about a murder’,” Julia said with a wicked grin.

One of her favourites was the reader of one story who complained of “foul language and explicit sex” to a puzzled Julia, who said there was actually very little sex in the piece, but one hilariously vulgar character.

“That’s terrific – can I put it on my website?”, was Julia’s response. And she did.

“I read a lot of erotic fiction which is [often] technical and boring,” said the author, who found it was fun to write sex scenes from a man’s point of view in her self-published novel Falling Glass [pub. 2002].

Teaching herself to play complicated classical pieces on the piano was her solace in dark and lonely days, but she has given away her piano because seaside Nambucca Heads was not the best climate for the century-old instrument.

Music is central to her latest work, a trio of coming-of-age novels which takes two girls through their teenage years in a country town, into the city and into adulthood.

A slow and careful writer, Julia said she changed her style to write The Midnight Pianist, intending it as a stand-alone novel for younger readers.

Two things changed her mind.

Readers told her they wanted to know what happened next and senior readers began borrowing the book, causing librarians to shift it into the adult section.

Older readers relish the 1960s setting, as well as the nostalgia of a childhood in an Australian country town.

“I hadn’t intended to write Playing with Keys,” Julia said. “I spent several months entertaining myself with writing letters in different voices.”

She found she had the bones of a sequel and Playing with Keys was published in 2016.

Readers still wanted more, so she has written a third book, Song for Emilia, which is now with the publishers and due in book shops some time this year.

“I said: all right, I’ll throw everything into it,” Julia said.

The slim books are simple but memorable. “I sweat a lot, trying to write well,” she said. “I’m a bit allergic to big, thick books.”

Many of Julia Osborne’s short stories and plays have been published in periodicals or produced on radio.

At one point she had stories in both literary quarterly Meanjin, lad’s mag Penthouse, and the Women’s Weekly at the same time.

The Midnight Pianist and Playing with Keys are available through bookshops and libraries and are also available as e-books.


Published by ETT Imprint in association with Paper Horse Design & Publishing.

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