Margaret Rice - Author Q & A

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5 minutes with Margaret Rice

Margaret RiceMargaret Rice is a journalist by training. She has written news and features and worked as a sub-editor for Australian Associated Press (AAP), as medical writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian, and as feature writer for The Good Weekend.

What was the last good book you read?

I have just finished Amor Towles A Gentleman in Moscow. I loved its broad historical reach – so informative of modern Russian history while he shared an engrossing story and wonderful life wisdom. Yet at the same time as having a good plot, it was beautifully written. I loved Towles’ capacity to balance an idea or a word with the ‘other’, in the same stream of thought.

Do you have a favourite Library?

It’s hard to choose one. I love working in libraries. The buzz of people around me while I’m working energises me, especially when I’m feeling challenged or a bit isolated by working from home. Could anyone go past Double Bay Library? I always feel it’s such a luxury just to enter its doors. When I was researching my book the librarians there were warm and welcoming and the spaces set up so you can research, write and read are just sensational. I like the quiet, contained feeling of Paddington Library though, and then there’s North Sydney Library and the City of Sydney’s Customs House Library. They all have slightly different feels which are ideal for different moods.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever read about yourself or your work?

I’ve seen my name in print many times because I’ve been a journalist for many years. Yet the strangest thing was to walk into a bookshop and actually read my name as the author of my book A Good Death: a compassionate and practical guide to prepare for the end of life.  There my book was, beside a whole lot of others and my first reaction was to think, as I did of all the other authors surrounding my book, who is she? What is her life like? How does she deal with the big questions of life? It was almost as if I had to remind myself it was me.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When I was a journalist working with The Wentworth Courier and was just about to start this project I interviewed Anna Funder for the Woollahra Festival. She not only encouraged me but offered this advice: “Just remember, don’t look down.” I’ve never forgotten it and I have drawn on these words of wisdom from her many times.

What inspired you to write your book?

When my mother was dying, I realised I had been a medical writer most of my writing life and yet knew nothing about this thing, dying, that every human being must do. I realised that with more practical knowledge I would have been less afraid of Mum’s death and more helpful to her. Then I realised with more information generally available, our whole society would be better at managing death. At the moment we tend to say, especially of the elderly, “Well she’s going to die anyway, it doesn’t matter.” But actually, it does. If we can ease pain and suffering right up until the very end, let’s do it. As a medical journalist I’m well equipped to help people figure all of this out, so it’s become my mission.