The Booktopia Book Guru asks
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in London to Australian and New Zealand parents who brought me back to Australia when I was three. I was raised at Redcliffe, which is a city just north of Brisbane on the way towards the Sunshine Coast. I attended Humpybong state school, which is famous for having schooled the Bee Gees. It’s directly across from the beach, and during whale watching season we would often find ourselves down at the back fence watching the passing migration.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At all those ages I wanted to be a writer, because I just didn’t think I would be good at anything else.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I was a bit of a rebel and I strongly rejected the suburban lifestyle, the barbecue on the patio, the ordinary life. I never wanted to have children. Now I love all those things and I love my two children.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Studying English literature at university brought me into contact with some of the most amazing poetry. I can’t and don’t write poetry but I have certainly been influenced by the works of writers such as Tennyson and Keats and Shakespeare, the way that they put words together, the rhythm of their sentences. I must have read Tithonus by Tennyson one hundred times and I’ve yet to make it through without sobbing. Recently I read Beowulf in the original old English with the group of colleagues at the University and it was one of the defining moments of my intellectual life. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is one of my all-time favourite novels, and I love that puts a woman’s experience at the very centre of the story. Jane is a fabulous character with a strong moral compass.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I actually did muck around with music for quite a while, I studied opera, and I played in rock bands. But what I love about writing is that I can express myself in private and edit and polish my thoughts before I have to put them in front of anybody. Performance really isn’t for me, though I do still love music and I still sing a lullaby to my children every night.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Evergreen Falls is a novel set in two time periods: 1926 and the present. In the 20s, a naive young waitress at a luxury hotel in the Blue Mountains falls in love with the wrong man entirely, triggering a set of tragic circumstances that are covered up by everyone involved. In the present, a woman who is searching for meaning in her own life comes across a bundle of old love letters that seem to hint at a long buried secret.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
What I want most of all is for people to feel how I feel when reading a good book: the world goes away and you’re falling through the pages, wishing you could slow down but unable to stop, and afterwards feeling is that you’ve been on an adventure.
I admire Marian Keyes, because her books make me laugh and cry, because she has suffered such a public battle with depression, an illness which afflicts so many but which so few talk about.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My goals are not ambitious. For me the practice of writing is its own reward. I get to spend a lot of time in my imagination, with my imaginary friends who are always fascinating. I just want to be able to keep writing, and maybe one day have a house with a view of the sea.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read a lot, write a lot, and enjoy the process. If you’re not passionate about it, don’t bother.
Kimberley, thank you for playing.
by Kimberley Freeman
1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.
2014: After years of putting her sick brother’s needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair – and a shocking secret.If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?