author of The Tea Chest
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 Brisbane and raised in the north-western suburbs. I went to three Catholic schools, St William’s Primary School in Grovely, St Benedict’s College in Wilston and Mt Maria Senior College in Mitchelton. And yes, I had real life nuns as teachers. Some were beautiful, some have scarred me for life!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be veterinarian because I adored animals and wanted to work with them. At eighteen, having recently discovered that physics and I didn’t get on, and therefore I couldn’t get into vet school, I wanted to be an ecologist. But not long after that I realised that statistics and I didn’t get on either. Problem! So, then I changed my degree to journalism because I knew I wanted to write and I actually had aptitude for that. At thirty I was desperate to be a novelist and had been writing seriously for many years.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I believed an ensemble consisting of black jeans, a flannelette shirt, too much jewellery and Doc Marten boots was cool.
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?
When I was younger, I borrowed a copy of a short story collection by Jeffrey Archer. It is the only thing of his I’ve ever read. But I remember thinking, as I got to the end of that book, that I could do this. I could write. Because until then, I’d had a belief that I didn’t have enough vocabulary—that I didn’t know enough ‘big words’. And I am not for a second saying that Jeffrey Archer was in any way lacking. But I noticed clearly how he had a great skill for using ordinary words in extraordinary ways. And for some reason that was a huge boost for me.
I’m going to cheat a bit here for the next two nominations. I’m nominating the whole of the city of Paris. That place blew my mind. And Paris has made an appearance in my next book and there’s definitely some of my own experiences and emotions in there. And lastly, I’m nominating Radio National, which is consistently entertaining, obscure, fascinating and intelligent and is a constant source of inspiration for my writing.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
A friend of mine recently did a big clean up and found heaps of letters I’d written to her through school and for years afterwards. And another friend once reflected on the amount of emails I sent her while she was overseas and said that I was a prolific writer. And I thought, gosh, am I?? Apparently, I just couldn’t shut up!
I don’t know that it was ever a decision, as such, to write a novel over pursuing other forms of writing, as much as it was an acceptance of what I was drawn to do. The burning desire to write books just didn’t go away. In some ways it was easier just to say, okay, I accept it, now let me get on with it.
Kate Fullerton, lead tea designer at The Tea Chest, has just inherited 50% of the company from her mentor and must decide what she will risk for her young family to take a chance on herself to follow her dreams. Set across Brisbane and London, with a backdrop of delectable teas and tastes, lavender fields and vintage clothes, The Tea Chest is a gourmet delight you won’t want to finish.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
Joy, inspiration, a sense of empowerment to follow their dreams.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I am in awe of any writer who can write a good quality novel every year. I’d love to be able to do that one day but, right now, I take far too much time ‘marinating’ my work (i.e. leaving it alone for months so I can look at it with fresh eyes). I think that’s an incredible skill to be able to write and assess your work and know where to take it next in such a short time.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Interesting question! I just said to my husband recently, ‘You know what I’ve just realised? I need to set new goals!’ Because, since 1999, the only goal I had was ‘to be published by a big publishing house’. Now that’s happened, I actually need to re-evaluate where I’m going from here.
And right now, with a twenty-two-month-old son running around, my only ambition is to get to a point where I can stay up late enough to watch Offspring rather than having to catch up online later in the week.
I think it’s time to aim a little higher.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Be curious. People often say to write what you know. But I think you need to write about what you want to know.
Josephine, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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