Hello book lovers!
It has been a little while since we have posted , the Christmas season is always a busy time of year!
Book club has still been running once a month and in case you missed it our last two books for 2019 were: The Sea & Us by Catherine de Saint Phalle and The Bee and the Orange Tree by Melissa Ashley.
Both books were pretty much unanimously liked by everyone and we had a great time discussing them.
Our first book for 2020 was Well-behaved Women by Emily Paull.
This one was hard to judge as it is a collection of short stories and people loved some of the stories but weren’t as fussed on others. There were definitely quite a few in there that I personally loved and one thing everyone agreed on was that they got better and better as the book went on.
This was the perfect book for our first book club after the holidays, since it was a collection of short stories people were able to pick it up and read a story or two and put it back down again if life got a bit too hectic!
On another note the author herself is very lovely and she let us interview her!
I really enjoyed reading this interview and honestly can’t wait to read her future works.
with Emily Paull
Can you tell us a bit about where your inspiration came from for the stories in Well-behaved Women? Were they inspired by real events and/or real people?
The collection represents about ten years of writing short stories, and in that time I think the places I have looked for inspiration have probably changed. One thing I noticed after the collection was complete was that a lot of the time, I was writing about things that made me anxious, or responding to a news article or something I saw on Facebook that made me think about what it would be like to be in someone elses’s shoes. The first story in the collection, ‘The Sea Also Waits’ for example, was written in response to an article that I read about the disappearance of champion free-diver, Natalia Molchonova. ‘From Under the Ground’ I wrote when the coverage of the Claremont Serial Killer amped up again a few years ago— the disappearances and murders of those poor women was something I was aware of all through my childhood, and I think that real fear of being out late at night alone as a woman for me definitely comes from having that particular case happen so close to home when I was young. Other stories in the collection are influenced by books I love, people I met in passing… I had so many sources of inspiration so I guess I’m lucky.
What made you choose to write short stories?
At first I was one of those people who thought that you need to write lots of short stories as ‘practice’ for writing a novel, and to build up your writer’s CV or something like that. But I quickly fell in love with the form. I find short stories a lot harder to write than longer form work, because you have to have such tight control over everything in order to produce your desired effect in 3000 words or less. I’m also a big reader of short story collections, particularly Australian ones. Some of my favourites are The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill and Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy. More recently, I’ve loved the collections written by Jennifer Down, Claire Aman, Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Laura Elvery, Melanie Cheng and so many others. I’m always looking for the next amazing collection.
Do you have a favourite story out of the collection or one that you connect with most?
It changes daily! I just did a talk at a local writer’s group where I read from ‘Crying in Public’ so I think today it’s that one. It was so wonderful, writing about that moment as a young woman where you realise that your grandmother or your mother has had this whole other adult life that you don’t get to know about. My grandmother is not a tiny, feisty South African, but she did once take me on a walk along the beach and tell me about a break up she’d been through on the morning after I got dumped by a long-term partner. She claims not to recognize herself in the character of Grandma Mimi at all!
Which story was the hardest for you to write?
The hardest one to write didn’t actually make it into the collection. We decided that it wasn’t up to the standard of the rest of them and it got cut at the last minute. It was about a very complex subject matter, and I really did need to get it right, so I agree with my editor and publisher about the decision to axe it. Perhaps it will be the first story to go into my next collection, who knows?
When putting these short stories into one collection, how much say over the title and the book cover did you have?
The title was the one I had from the start. We didn’t even discuss changing it, I don’t think! As for the cover, I was very lucky, because I know not many authors get to be as involved as I was. I was given about 25 options that the incredible designer, Debra Billson, had made from the brief Margaret River Press sent her, we narrowed it down to a few, argued a bit and then settled on one that I loved. Problem was it was going to cost a lot of money for the image rights, so Debra went back and designed another set of options (not 25 but still quite a few!) and because she knew now what kind of image I was going to love they were all completely fabulous and I would have adored any one of them. Thankfully we got Edith, my little woman peeping through her bunch of flowers. Yes. I named her Edith.
What made you want to be a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I love books. I grew up in a house with lots of books, where my Mum read all the time and once a week when Grandpa babysat we’d go to the library (maybe it wasn’t actually every week but it sure felt like it!) I also had an amazing library teacher in primary school named Miss Stefani who gave me my first ‘publication’ when she distributed an acrostic poem I wrote for Book Week around the library. I’ve just always loved books and reading and wanted to write my own, I guess, but it wasn’t until I got to Uni that I realized I could actually make a go of writing as my main career without having to do it on the side of something else. Up to that point I’d always wanted to be A Chiropractor and a Writer or a Japanese Teacher and a Writer or something like that. Writer was the constant thing, the other thing was always just to make money and have a ‘real’ career. Then when I had to choose what to do for Uni, I realized all I wanted to do was write… so I did English and History and figured out the rest on the way.
What is your writing process? Do you need to stick to a strict schedule, or do you write when inspiration strikes?
Inspiration strikes. I’ve tried to write to a schedule, but especially lately I have found that I just can’t force myself to write sometimes. My process is I usually do a draft, then I leave the piece for a while before I come back to it and type it all up again completely from scratch, changing any bits I need to in the re-typing. It’s weird, I know, but I’ve heard Anthony Marra (author of The Tsar of Love and Techno) does the same.
What are your top five favourite books you’ve read recently?
This question always makes my mind go blank! I’ll go in reverse order of what I’ve actually just read:
- Cherry Beach by Laura McPhee-Browne
- The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
- The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley
- Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
- Meet me at Lennons by Melanie Myers
Do you have any future projects in the works that you can tell us about?
I’m working on a novel set during World War One. It’s about a woman who marries completely the wrong man and then is given a second chance to live the kind of life she really wants when he goes missing at the Somme—so she becomes a children’s writer. When her husband is located and sent home after the war, his wife is not at all the woman he left behind.
I’m enjoying writing it so much!
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Mostly just thank you! I get a little thrill every time I see it on someone’s Instagram or when it’s in a bookshop, or like happened the other day, when a complete stranger at a library talk tells me they love my work. And it’s all possible because amazing people buy books and amazing bookshops feature them and stock them and use them for their bookclubs, so thank you so much for making my dream come true.
BOOKS WE ARE LOVING
As you know each month at book club we like to discuss what books we have been loving lately.
Well since we haven’t posted a book club wrap up in awhile here is a list of books from the past couple of months that our book club attendees have loved:
- No Friend But the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani
- My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
- The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
- Lanny by Max Porter
- The Last Séance by Agatha Christie
- A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
- Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- The Dinner by Herman Koch
- Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
- Roughneck and The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
- The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
- The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
- Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow
- Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee
Keep tuned for the next wrap up as we discuss our February book: In the Clearing by J.P. Pomare.