How my books came about - part 1

A few new readers have ask about my books, how I got published and how I fit writing into my daily routine, so I thought  there may be others interested in that. I've written three books - Down to Earth, The Simple Life and The Simple Home, all were published by Penguin | Random House.


I used to earn a living as a technical writer/journalist and when we moved to where we live now, in 1997, I transferred my business to the Sunshine Coast. Hanno retired soon after we arrived and bought a shop in Montville. I continued writing technical manuals and travelled up to the mines to gather information and photos and then I'd write the manuals in an office I had close to home. I had a couple of people working for me at the time and life was hectic.  But when I settled in here at home, I started looking at my life with a more critical eye and realised I was far from happy. To make a long story short, I closed my business, started working in my home and that simple decision changed my life completely.

And things started to get better.



I tried to convince Hanno that he didn't have to work either, that if we both improved the productivity of our home and land, we'd be able to live well without working.  I was about 55 then and Hanno was almost 64. We were vegetarians so I had visions of fresh eggs, swapping eggs for honey, lush green growth in our vegetable patch and the aroma of homemade bread and preserves filling the house. When I explained my plan to Hanno, he thought I'd lost my marbles. He went back to work at his shop and I went back to dreaming of a better life, and planning.

 When the book was published, about 10 boxes of books arrived for me to sign and send out. 
 This was how Down to Earth looked when the first copy was mailed to me. 

Over the months that followed I made everything I could make that we used to buy at the shops and consequently reduced our grocery bill significantly.  We used less electricity, gas and water, we got rid of our second car, I stopped recreational shopping, pulled the plug on pay TV and magazines and we glided into a wonderful life of less. We produced a lot of fresh produce in the back yard, we saved money and soon Hanno realised he too could leave work when he became eligible for an age pension. We were on our way.

I have to point out here that this life is there for anyone, at any age. The priorities are slightly different as you go through the stages, but it's all achievable for anyone.


Being a writer, I wrote down what I was doing and started taking photos every day to record this wonderful lifestyle. I was happier than I'd ever been and my days were full of meaningful work. I was sure that others would be interested in this way of living but when I looked, I could find no Australian books on the subject. I wanted to share my experiences and write about this alternative lifestyle away from the consumerist merry-go-round so I wrote the beginnings of a book.  After sending it to three publishers, I got back three rejections.  Never one to be put off, I started this blog, called it Down to Earth, wrote about my days and what I was doing and learning. We'd paid off our house and were living well on much less than I thought possible so there was a lot to share. Readers starting pouring into the blog and a wonderful community of like-minded folk was created.  I started a forum that had over 40,000 members and ran that with the help of a great group of women for a number of years.  People were starting to see the possibilities of a new way of living that focused on sustainability, being debt-free and the life-long satisfaction of living with less.

I'd also started volunteering and was the coordinator of the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre for seven years. I loved being there, met hundreds of wonderful people and during my time there we moved from a little old house next to the pub to a purpose-built $2 million building funded by the state government. While I was there one day, I got a phone call from Penguin saying they loved my blog and would I be interested in writing a book. It was a dream come true.  Soon after, Hanno had a very bad accident with a chain saw. I left the Neighbourhood Centre to help him recover and poured my spare time into writing my book, Down to Earth.  It was published in February 2012 and became a best seller. It's still selling well in many book shops now.

These are some of the chapter pages in Down to Earth. I love the little blanket stitched notes.


Over the years, many people have asked me how I fit everything into my day. At first I wrote out a few routines to follow and now, modified as I age, I have them in my head. However, I have to let you know that I'm very relaxed about work in my home and never put pressure on myself to get all my planned work done. I write about this in Down to Earth under the title: Housework Never Ends. Usually I get everything done but if I don't, there's always tomorrow and I know the work will still be there when I get back to it. I try to live without stress now. I take time out to look after myself as well as my loved ones and I ask for help when I need it. The truth is that if I wasn't living this simple life, I wouldn't have the time or energy to write anything. My life opened up when I simplified, I was organised and had a different mindset as well as a backyard full of food, a stockpile and full freezer. Housework and writing happily combined quite comfortably for me.

Later in the week I'll write about our book tours, how books number two and three came about and meeting hundreds of people I didn't know out in the cities and towns of Australia.

29 comments

  1. And we're so grateful you did write! I am just one of the many who have learnt so much and been inspired by your writing, Rhonda. Thank you x
    Cheers, Sally at One Family, One Planet blog

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  2. The 'simple decision' that changed your life completely has changed the life of many Rhonda, including mine. Your books, the Down to Life forum and the online friendships I have subsequently made has given me the support, kindness and validation to continue and develop the life of a maker. If I now get called a greenie or a hippy.....I just smile and feel truly confident that I'm on the right path! Thank you for your humble, kind and gentle voice in the huge paradigm change that we are now experiencing.

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  3. Good evening Rhonda the library bus didn't come this week so for a change I found myself reading through some old down to earth posts and they are still lovely to read and very inspiring and supportive! So again thankyou

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  4. What a lovely story. It's so motivating when we hear about dream being fulfilled!

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  5. I love reading about everything you write. Your are an inspiration to all woman. I'm sooo glad you are back.

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  6. This question has been at the back of my mind since I started reading here. Thank you for this lovely post, I really enjoyed reading about your process. What really shines through for me is the gentle and thoughtful way that you right, I particularly love what you say about housework, that rings so true for me. Thank you.

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  7. Hello Rhonda, I would like so much that your books are translated into french...
    I like reading your blog so much!
    Thank you for everything you do for us!

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  8. It's so inspiring to read how it all happened. I am now 55, and like you at this age, I have been able to retire. It's amazing how much money you save over time when you are debt free, and keep your expenses low. Being happy when you're older sure makes a big difference in life. Having enough money, food, and time is key.

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  9. Down to Earth is one of the few books that I read again and again, Rhonda.
    Not only it's full of valuable information, it's also a very beautiful book. :)

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  10. Hi Rhonda, Your blog has certainly inspired me over the years but even more wonderful for me my four children are all shifting into the same mindset as I am always quoting the sort of things you say. It is a joy to see. Thank you very much. Jane xx

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  11. Wow I can't believe that book was 7 years ago...seems like only a few years ago to me. Loved hearing your story again and loved that you went ahead and did the things you wanted to do to save money and then Hanno got on board. Showing people how it can be done is better than telling them.

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    1. Yes, seven years! Incredible. I still remember meeting you over at that library in Brisbane during one of my talks. I agree with you Kathy. It's almost impossible to change people who don't want to change but it is possible to SHOW them it's not as difficult as they thought and then they can go on to make their own changes.

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  12. I found your blog (and bought your books) after I retired 5 years ago---your beautiful words have changed my life and reminded me why I retired in the first place. To return to my love--my home! I raised my family as a stay-at-home mom the first 20 years of our marriage, then worked away from home for 27 years. Could not wait to get back "home". This 5 years has brought me full circle. We happily celebrated 52 years this summer. Thank you.

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  13. Gosh, being reminded of Hanno's chain saw accident makes me realise how long I have been reading your blog!

    Reading this post also reminds us that if we want to have what we dream of, we have to change things, sometimes big things, otherwise 'if you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got'!

    Madeleine

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  14. I love hearing the whole story ❤

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  15. I love your story Rhonda and I can relate to so much of it, even though we are in different stages of life. Our life style has changed dramatically over the years and I'm happier for it and more relaxed. Our budget is very tight and although there may not be much spare cash we aim to own our farm out right by mid 2020. I would never have dreamed that was possible 10 years ago.


    Some occasional writing on the side is bringing in a little extra cash here and there, as well as some other home based things. Our road is different from the 'norm' but we are really happy. Our lives are greener and more sustainable now which is a wonderful lesson to pass on to our children.

    xx

    xx

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  16. Never stop writing Rhonda! I can hardly wait for your next blog post.

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  17. I have just started re-reading your books Rhonda and always recommend your inspirational words to my friends and family. Its lovely that you are back writing your blog. Thankyou, Keriann.

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  18. Rhonda, you are such an interesting and informative Lady, I have loved reading your blog and books. Thankyou for sharing your life and knowledge.

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  19. You literally changed my life, Rhonda. I have all your books and refer to them regularly. You are the only person who has given me permission to enjoy housework, revel in making as many things as I can and feel proud of managing our money as just another resource to be used well. We do a lot of caravanning (van and brand new tow vehicle paid for in cash, thanks to you and much to the astonishment of my husband!) and I still continue a frugal and responsible life while vanning. No knead bread, home made yoghurt, whole orange cake in the Weber. It all amuses fellow campers no end but for me, it is a way of life. And I thank you. Much love, Diann

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    1. Thanks for telling me that, Diann, I appreciate it. You've described a good example of putting the work in, being consistent and having it all pay off. Good on you! xx

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  20. Making your income from home, is a worthwhile pursuit. Because it can span the rest of your life, and allow for all the changes that can happen. Like unexpected accidents. Outside work, isn't usually as forgiving to such uncompromising changes. I can understand why you decided to flip the situation, and plot a different course.

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  21. Thank you for sharing this, Rhonda, and thank you for your writing and encouragement. I regularly feel like I have to explain why I choose to be home and it's not valued very much today so it's encouraging for me to be reminded when I come over here to read on exactly why I made that decision years ago!

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  22. Hi Rhonda, Thank you for your inspiring beautiful books and blog. I refer to them often! It’s true home makers (or even part/time working mums who seek balance) are not valued much in the media or even society in general, but at least you are here. The conversations on DTE are so warm and supportive. It’s great to read there is another life out there that’s achievable, not just the one presented to us in reports and mainstream articles. Even if some of us only get part way to the dream, we can always use your good advice and wisdom in daily life. Hx

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  23. I found this very interesting, thank you!

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  24. For years and years I have had a book that I occasionally get out and edit and send off to a publisher. Reading your story makes me realize that maybe being made redundant is the spur that I need to get it out again. After all it is never going to get published if I never send it out! Us writers have to develop a thick skin!

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    1. It must be absolutely the best you're capable of before you send it off. No mistakes in spelling, grammar and with a good flow. It also has to be a book that is unlike anything else on the market. Make sure you send it to the right publisher - publishers have their own specialities so choose wisely.

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