As the Sunrise weatherman, Sam Mac has travelled the country end to end, and met a lot of people with stories to tell along the way. His new book Accidental Weatherman is his chance to tell his own story about what happens when an Adelaide boy who knows nothing about meteorology scores the weatherman gig on the top rating breakfast TV show in Australia.
Mediaweek spoke to Sam Mac about writing a book, mental health, and the new Sunrise lineup.
The time is now
Even though Covid lockdown gave Mac the time to throw himself into writing, he says that the book has been a long time coming.
“I was approached a couple of years ago by Hachette, the publisher who I ended up writing the book with, and at that point I think I was just too busy. I was hosting a show on the weekends in New Zealand, I was doing Sunrise Monday to Friday, I just had so much on my plate. Even though I’d always thought I’d love to write a book one day, the timing just wasn’t right.
“But it definitely planted the idea in my head that this was a realistic possibility, and what it made me do for the next couple of years was take more notes on my travels with Sunrise. I’d send myself a little email every day with funny quotes or just something amusing that had happened on the road, which ended up coming in so handy when it came to writing the book.”
The notes Mac took eventually got to be used after Hachette got back in touch last year.
“At the start of 2020 they got in contact with me again and said ‘look, you’ve had a really big couple of years since we last met, you had a huge 2019. Now more than ever is the time to write this book, are you ready to go?’ And I was ready.”
Writing the book
While Mac says that he already writes a lot in daily life, writing Accidental Weatherman required a very different style of writing.
“It’s quite daunting when you think about it, over 75,000 words, but I guess I tackled it in chapters. Each chapter is a topic and a story in itself. I write a lot anyway, I just write short form.
“I’m so trained, particularly with Sunrise to keep things punchy and to get to the point really quickly. And my background is radio, so it’s all about how quick you can get to the point and keep moving. That’s how I’m trained, which is great for that, but for a book you do need to go deeper into these stories and you do need to share more insight into behind the scenes of the job.”
Choosing what to say
Mac says that deciding what to say in the book came down to finding a balance between the fun and the serious.
“First and foremost it’s important that it’s reflective of me, as in who I am as a person, but also what I provide on social media, what I provide on TV, which for the most part is fun. I try to bring some fun, positive energy to everyday Australians, so it needs to have that in it.
“But then I’m not always fun and silly. There’s obviously another side to me, and that is areas like animal rescue – I’m a very passionate supporter of animal rescue, I’ve got two rescue cats of my own. One of them is a celebrity, Coco, she has 13,000 Instagram followers, she suffers from RBF (resting bitch face), and she’s incredible. So there’s a chapter on my cats called Coco, and that’s about animal rescue.”
Even though Accidental Weatherman is largely an upbeat book, Mac doesn’t shy away from confronting topics.
“There’s a chapter on mental health. I’ve lost a friend to suicide and I’m very passionate about supporting R U OK Day, I’ve been an ambassador with R U OK Day for a number of years now.
“I think it might actually catch a few people off guard, because it’s a very heavy chapter, that chapter on mental health. It’s titled Richard, named after the friend that I lost, Richard Marsland, a number of years ago and talks through that experience for me, for his parents, for his friends, what I’ve learned from it.
“It’s a really heavy chapter. I recorded the audiobook recently, and that was really difficult to read, to be honest. It was one thing writing those things down, but reading them in front of a microphone with a stranger listening in on headphones is a different situation altogether, and I definitely struggled through that.
“It was the hardest chapter to write, but it’s the most important chapter, I think.”
Mac says that there may well be more books in his future, but the next one might be a bit different from Accidental Weatherman.
“I think the next one for me, I’d really like to write a children’s book. I’ve written a song with The Wiggles, I really loved that process, I really like entertaining kids, and I think there’s definitely some fun to be had in that space. And children’s books generally don’t require 75,000 words, so maybe that’s the next one for me.”
New Sunrise lineup
With Samantha Armytage leaving Sunrise in March and Natalie Barr taking up the role of co-host, Mac says that the transition has been a smooth one.
“I got along great with Sam and definitely miss her on the show, but at the same time Nat’s hosted the show so many times over the years, it’s not really that different in the sense that we’re already an ensemble team in many ways.
“It’s not like we have a new host who’s come in from another show or another network to adjust to, because Nat’s been on longer than most of us.”
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