The Rarest Thing by Deborah O'Brien *Guest Post, Review & Giveaway*

The Rarest Thing by Deborah O'Brien *Guest Post, Review & Giveaway*

Hey Everyone!

I'd like to introduce you to Deborah O'Brien, who is about to release her latest novel, The Rarest Thing. I had the pleasure of reading an advanced ebook copy, but the special gift edition paperback looks divine. If you live in Australia, you can enter the giveaway below for your chance to win one of the special editions.

Deborah O’Brien is an Australian writer, visual artist and teacher. She is the author of four novels for Penguin Random House: the bestselling 'Mr Chen’s Emporium', its sequels, 'The Jade Widow' and 'A Place of Her Own', plus 'The Trivia Man'. 

Her forthcoming novel, 'The Rarest Thing' is set in the Victorian High Country in 1966 and will be published by Lomandra Press on 1 November 2016.

Together with her family and two dogs, Deborah divides her time between a house in Sydney and a country cottage on the outskirts of a heritage-listed Gold Rush town, overlooking a creek frequented by platypuses. It is her dream to own a small herd of alpacas.

Connect with Deborah via

Guest Post
Crafting Characters

How do you come up with your characters? That’s a question people often ask me. I wish I could tell them I compile meticulous character cards before I start writing and that I make a detailed plan indicating exactly what will happen to my characters over the course of the book.

That would be a logical and sensible approach to characterisation, but I have to plead guilty to doing the exact opposite. No cards, no plans, no details. Just an initial idea around which to build a character. It could be a mannerism, an accent, a personality trait or even a job. It might be a combination of those things but at the outset it’s always woolly and ill-defined.

In the case of my heroine, Dr Katharine Wynter, from The Rarest Thing, I started with her name – Katharine, as in Hepburn, but quickly decided I would make her the opposite of the feisty actress. I envisaged my Katharine as someone who eschews the company of other people for reasons that become obvious as the book progresses, reasons I have to confess I wasn’t sure of at the beginning. I just trusted they would emerge as I got to know the character. And thankfully, that’s what happened.

I suppose you could compare it to meeting someone for the first time – you don’t know much about them except for their name and the way they look. Then you hear them speak and that provides a few more clues, but it will take you a long time to get to know the real person, flaws and all.

Because I work this way, there will always be gaping holes in the characters’ psychology in the first draft. In the second and successive drafts I go back and fill the gaps until I know my characters inside out and they’re no longer mere acquaintances.

Katharine’s personality is very much informed by the story of the mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus) whose discovery at Mount Hotham in August of 1966 is the starting point for the book. Presumed to have been extinct, this rare little creature mirrors Katharine’s own place in the world – timid, vulnerable, and endangered.

My leading lady is a palaeontologist – a profession which has always fascinated me. Hunting for ancient fossils in mysterious places seems incredibly romantic. But I could never be a palaeontologist in the real world, not the least because I dropped Science at the end of Year 10. In my imagination, however, I could give my female protagonist the profession of my dreams and live the experience vicariously through her.

Once I began researching the nuts and bolts of palaeontology, I actually discovered it’s a dirty, dusty job, involving scavenging in quarries and caves. In a way that seemed to suit my protagonist, a woman who would rather be looking for ancient bones in caves than dealing with fellow human beings. Her situation changes as the book unfolds, but I won’t spoil it for you by going into the details. Suffice it to say that Katharine’s journey into the High Country to find the Burramys in its habitat is also a journey of self-discovery which has her discovering strengths she never thought she possessed.

The Rarest Thing by Deborah O'Brien

It’s 1966, and a mountain pygmy possum – a species that scientists considered to be long-extinct – is discovered in the Victorian High Country and transported to Melbourne where newspapers dub it ‘the world’s rarest creature’.

Thirty-year-old Dr Katharine Wynter is a palaeontologist who’s more comfortable with ancient bones than live human beings, particularly men - an exotic species of which she has little personal experience, apart from a predatory professor who has made her working life hell.

Having studied the tiny possum in fossil form, Katharine is curious to see it in the flesh, but her much anticipated visit is disrupted by the presence of wildlife photographer, Scott King, taking pictures for an international magazine.

Before long, Katharine finds herself thrown together with Scott on a quest to locate the miniature marsupials in their habitat - the rugged Australian Alps. Along the way, the timid scientist discovers a side to her character she never knew existed, while the dashing photographer abandons his bravado and confronts memories he's hidden for decades.

As for the elusive possums, the cute little creatures lead their pursuers on a merry chase...

Hey! Here's my review.

A cute little snaggletooth possum is the catalyst for an expedition through the mountains, a journey of self-discovery and a blossoming romance.

The character's and story felt so real that I had to check the author's note at the end to find out which bits were truth and which were fiction. I enjoyed spending time with the timid heroine and seeing her grow. She was someone I could imagine being friends with. I loved the Aussie setting, a glimpse into life in Victoria in the 60s. 

I reviewed a complimentary copy.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: ebook

Enter below for your chance to win 
a special gift edition paperback copy of The Rarest Thing.
Open to Australian residents only.

‘The Rarest Thing’ will be available from November 1 as a signed gift edition paperback or as an ebook from  It won’t be available from bookshops.