After completing a PHD, working as a freelance editor, author and book reviewer. Debra Adelaide wrote her first novel, The Hotel Albatross, which was published in 1995. Prior to that she was the author of Australian Women Writers, a bibliographic guide, and editor of the collection A Bright and Fiery Troop (1988), which reintroduced the work of nineteenth- and twentieth-century women writers to contemporary readers. She also researched, edited and published the work of Dymphna Cusack, A Window in the Dark (1991), Motherlove (1996) the first of her edited collections in a much-loved and bestselling series that brought together the work of a wide range of women writers from a variety of backgrounds. This was quickly followed by Motherlove 2 (1997) and Cutting the Cord (1998) and the series was the first in Australia (possibly the world) to examine the role of mothering in fiction and non-fiction. In 1998 Debra Adelaide published her second novel, the historical fiction Serpent Dust, which was based on the smallpox epidemic which decimated the Indigenous population in Sydney in 1789.
In 2003 while writing for magazines and newspapers, working as a lecturer in creative writing, she published the edited collection Acts of Dog, which featured stories and essays by writers such as Carmel Bird, Susan Wyndham, Louis Nowra and Robyn Williams.
Her novel The Household Guide to Dying was published by Picador in 2008 after an intense bidding war first in Australia and then internationally, and was ultimately released in the UK, Canada and the USA and translated into several languages including French, German, Spanish, Italian and Chinese. In 2013 Picador published her first collection of short stories, Letter to George Clooney, which was short- and longlisted for three literary awards. Debra Adelaide’s latest book is the edited collection The Simple Act of Reading, which includes essays on particular books, authors or reading experiences, in support of the Sydney Story Factory. Its contributors include Rosie Scott, David Malouf, Andy Griffiths, Gail Jones, Anita Heiss, Delia Falconer and Luke Davies.
Debra Adelaide has also contributed to the acclaimed collection of essays and stories devoted to the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, A Country Too Far (2013), edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally; and recently to the Mothers & Others collection about the many aspects of mothering, published by Pan Macmillan in 2015.
Her latest novel to be published by Picador is The Women’s Pages, an examination of the extraordinary secrets and silences in the lives of ordinary women, as well as the mysterious process of creativity, which is intriguingly inspired by Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
Her fiction has been shortlisted for several literary awards including twice for the Nita B. Kibble Award for women writers and the Stella Prize. In recent years Debra Adelaide has been active in Sydney PEN and involved in the Sydney Story Factory and is a judge of the Patrick White Award.