Christmas is Coming - Zelie Bullen and Freda Marnie Nicholls


Love, Sweat and Tears was my best 'find' for 2013. A beautifully written novel about one woman’s incredible journey through grief, fear and love to a lifelong dream of working with animals.

In the words of none other than Steven Spielberg ...

“All the love that you put into your animals has come out on screen, on my screen and it will be there forever” 

Remember those cute piglets in Charlotte's Web? The racing zebra in Racing Stripes? The incredible horses in Steven Spielberg's epic film, Warhorse? This is the inspirational true story of the woman who trained these amazing animals.

Zelie grew up on the outskirts of Perth, Western Australia, surrounded by animals from a very young age. Throughout her school years, she collected as many animals as her mother would allow, and unwittingly began learning about their communication and hierarchy just by being around them.Today, Zelie’s living her childhood dream - working and living with animals she loves. She lives on the Gold Coast with her husband, son and various animals.

In writing her story  Zelie Bullen has been assisted by her sister Freda Marnie Nicholls, a rural journalist who’s been widely published, most recently as a regular contributor to R.M. Williams OUTBACK  magazine.  Freda lives on a farm in southern New South Wales with her husband and their three teenage children. 

This is Zelie and Freda’s first book.


Remember to share, tweet, retweet, mention any of these posts on Facebook and Twitter using the tag #bushchristmas and you'll go into the draw for a $75.00 Booktopia voucher.

Leave a comment here for your chance to get a Christmas Card direct from Zelie and Freda, or maybe a free book from the giveaway pile.


In your own words tell us a little about your new release …

Love, Sweat & Tears is the true story, to date, of my inspirational sister Zelie Bullen. The book follows her incredible journey through grief, fear and love to a lifelong dream of working with animals.

She overcame seemingly endless personal tragedies and depression, to become a stuntwoman and then one of the most successful animal trainers in Australia, if not the world.

Zelie’s love of animals and their affection for her, has kept her going during even her darkest moments. It was her trust and understanding of animals that ultimately led her to the man she loves and the amazing career she now enjoys.

You step inside Zelie’s extraordinary world where she has been an animal trainer and stuntwoman in film and television for over twenty years, working with everyone from Princess Zahra, the Aga Khan’s daughter, to Antonio Banderas, the piglets in Charlotte’s Webb and the war horse in Stephen Spielberg’s epic film War Horse, and many others.

What was the idea/the revelation/the ‘kicking off point’/the impetus for writing this particular novel?

Zelie’s story was aired on the ABC's Australian Story back in October 2011. It brought her story out into the public arena and everyone wanted to know more. 

What is your funniest ‘real life’ Christmas story?

Christmas 1992. After the deaths of our Dad and sister Julie, the family Christmas was at Zelie’s place on the Gold Coast. Our two younger half sisters Kate and Cloud were 9 and 11 years at the time and the ‘Super Soaker’ water pistols were THE present to have for all kids. My husband Bert, myself and our little two year old daughter bought a Super Soaker each for Kate & Cloud, and 50c cheapo ones that leaked, whose triggers didn’t work properly and that broke in no time flat, for everyone else. We had the biggest water fight on a very humid Queensland day, which culminated with Bert throwing Zelie in the horse trough. Water fights have become a bit of a tradition for us at Christmas ever since.

Best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

Freda  - Christmas 1986 - a marriage proposal from my now husband Bert. I had to work in Sydney right up to Christmas and was away from my family in Perth for the first time at Christmas and was spending it with my new boyfriends family instead. I snuck off to be alone for a while and shed a few tears, Bert found me and proposed to me, I often ask him if it was to stop me from crying. After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I told him to ask me in another twelve months, moved to the country and eventually became a farmers wife and we’ve just celebrated 25 years of marriage with all of its ups and downs.

Worst Christmas present you’ve ever received?

Freda – can’t actually think of one. Love getting all presents and appreciating what the present giver was feeling when the gift was chosen.

Best Christmas present you’ve ever bought for someone else?

Freda - I love cooking, so when it’s our turn to host the family Christmas, that’s my present to everyone. I think when you cook, you are giving a bit of yourself, mixed with love.

This Christmas, who would be the best person to buy your novel for?

Freda – Anyone that loves reading memoirs, loves animals, anyone wanting an insight into what goes into movies and animal training, and gain strength from an inspirational Australian woman.

Freda Nicholls is a wonderful country woman whose life sounds a lot like mine - juggling writing, children, a husband and farming. She is currently working on her next novel and I greatly look forward to one day catching up for a cuppa. I think we'd have a lot to talk about.

When I contacted Zelie and Freda about coming on the 'Christmas is Coming' series, Zelie was flying to Africa with her husband Craig to (of all things) halter train giraffe. My mind boggled as to the logistics of that exercise. 'Zelie, you do realise that giraffe have really, really long necks,' I said. To which Zelie responded (I'm sure with a little giggle), 'We use long ladders and tall fences until they are taught to lower their head to be haltered, beautiful creatures they are ;).'

Incredible. Simply incredible.

Thanks to the generosity of Freda and Zelie we have one signed copy of LOVE, SWEAT & TEARS to giveaway. Comment below and you'll go in the draw to win! (You will love this book! smiley)

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