Story continues with second novel

February 11, 2024 BY

Storyteller: Heather Whitford Roche became a published author in her 60s after a career in family therapy. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

NOT long after Heather Whitford Roche released her first historical fiction novel, Finding Eliza in 2018, lots of her readers wanted to know, ‘what happens next?’

Issie Mac is Roche’s new book and standalone sequel set in the 1950s and 60s about the daughter of the first story’s protagonists.

“Finding Eliza is about a young man who finds out he isn’t who he thought he was and goes on a journey to find out who he really is,” she said.

“In Issie Mac, Isabella McMillan meets a young lecturer who is married with children, she is convinced to run away with him, and she has a fall from grace.

“So, the story continues.”

In her professional life before retirement, Roche was a family therapist, which she said has inspired lots of her writing.

“I was really aware of families and the incredible things that happened to them, both wonderful things and no-so-wonderful things,” she said.

“A lot of my writing’s been about difficulty, struggle, and courage and that’s been something I’ve worked with in my profession, but I’ve been encouraged by the way people can overcome trauma and difficulty.

“There are lots of background stories which were really important, and I also had another story from my own background which got me started with my book writing.

“Finding Eliza grew from a seed, a snippet in my family, and I carried that notion in my head for a long time.”

Roche completed the University of Ballarat TAFE’s novel writing course over a decade ago.

She said she’s enjoyed being a part of the writing fraternity as a member of groups including Ballarat Writers, Writers Victoria, and the Australian Society of Authors.

“I’ve met some amazing people, wonderful people, likeminded and different people with different ideas and thoughts about the world,” she said.

“I’ve made some very good friends.”

Roche said she encourages older people to start writing if they’ve always wanted to do it.

“The skills you had in your professional career or workplace, they’re very transferrable, like being disciplined and solution focused, and learning out how to find something out if you don’t already know it,” she said.

“A lot of older people have done really interesting jobs and have learnt a lot about life and people. You can bring that to your writing.

“We underestimate it, and sometimes don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we bring.”

Roche is now working on her third book, a modern women’s fiction novel, and will be at the Creswick Market on Saturday 17 February, and Clunes Booktown in March.