A yarn spinner meets living legends

YARN SPINNER: Sandy Thorne uses her characteristic conversation style in Living Legends: True Tales of Extraordinary Old Timers (pictured inset).
YARN SPINNER: Sandy Thorne uses her characteristic conversation style in Living Legends: True Tales of Extraordinary Old Timers (pictured inset). Kristin Williams

LIKE any genuine storyteller, Sandy Thorne prefers to yarn about her subjects, rather than herself.

Until in true Rural Weekly style we touch on who is looking after things at home, while she's on a whirlwind tour to promote her new book, Living Legends: True Tales of Extraordinary Old Timers.

Home for this former jillaroo, horse breaker and bull catcher is a sheep property at Lightning Ridge, where it hasn't rained for two-and-a-half years and she has lost count of the days she has spent feeding stock.

Fortunately the situation is better on her cattle country on the coast, inland from the township of 1770, where reasonable feed should get her breeders through winter.

So in many ways she does not mind the city break to promote her latest literary effort and she has got a "good mate feeding the working dogs" so she's not too worried about being away.

"But I always like to get home," she said.

When the Rural Weekly caught up with Sandy she had just finished a session in the Queensland capital sharing extracts from her latest work - a collection of stories about larger-than-life characters, full of bush wisdom and wit.

"Living Legends details 14 remarkable Australians - oh and one Kiwi - who are jacks and jills of all trades with a wealth of experiences," Sandy said.

She travelled the length of the country tracking down subjects for the book and then in true form returned home to Lightning Ridge to write up the interviews.

"When I started writing I had a little child, so I use to get up at 3am and write for three hours - it was the only time I had spare," she said.

It's a habit she has maintained throughout a writing career that has spanned more than three decades and sold more than 460,000 books.

"It's a good time of day to write and this way you don't waste any daylight work time" she laughed.

In her latest book she introduces readers in characteristic conversational style to the real life stories of a champion jockey, a Second World War rear gunner, who survived 30 raids over Germany, and a petite 97-year-old who was once a bullocky's offsider.

"One story leads to another," she explained when asked how she stumbled across the diverse selection of subjects.

"Once I finished interviewing someone they'd be suggesting who I talk to next. In the end it was a case of narrowing down just a few stories for this book."

Subjects who survived the cut include a truckie, who was a fighter, croc-wrestler and lotto winner, and a Vietnam vet turned world-class water-skier.

"Between these 14 individuals, they have survived the Depression, seen world wars come and go and witnessed monumental changes in everyday life. There's comedy and courage in their adventures, as well as moving tales of triumph over adversity," Sandy said.

Many of the Living Legends are in their 80s and 90s and "still firing on all cylinders" in a no-nonsense Australian fashion.

When asked to describe her writing style Sandy laughed: "I hope they are good yarns. I know I am never going to win a literary award, but if I give someone a good laugh or an inspiring read I am happy."

Sandy Thorne's new book Living Legends: True Tales of Extraordinary Old Timers was released this week. The book is published by Penguin.