Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.
Monique has two books coming out this year – Alexandra Rose and her Icy Cold Toes with Serenity Press in May. The release and launch of this book have been affected by cancellations and her adult book, Wherever You Go, is out in September. So far, events in August and September – from what I can tell from these interviews – haven’t been affected as such yet. It will be interesting to see if they are, and how – if they are cancelled outright or have limited numbers based on distancing laws and how this might affect the overall event – will more time be allowed, or will there be multiple sessions?
Hi Monique, and Welcome to The Book Muse
1. How did your writing career begin, and where did it begin?
In a way, my career has always involved writing of some sort – from training programs in the Australian Public Service and writing children’s curriculum for an educational publisher, to journalism, news editing, and later, publishing. When did I start writing creatively? After a few false starts around 2004-6, I would say late 2015, when on a whim, I entered a short story competition. My story was Highly Commended and I won a small cash prize. That gave me the confidence to try writing in different genres, but I soon realised what I wanted to do was write novels.
2. You’ve had several books and anthologies published with Serenity Press – what can you tell my readers about these books?
I have such a soft spot for these anthologies (which I also commissioned and edited as then editorial director of Serenity Press) – A Bouquet of Love and Destination Romance. Each one features ten emerging Australian writers and each story is linked to a common setting, such as a bridal shop and a travel agency. My stories are rom-coms – when I write romance, that is what I am drawn to (the same if I read a romance).
3. Do you still work with Serenity Press? If not, what are you focused on now?
I left Serenity Press in 2018 so I could focus more on my own writing. There were so many wonderful things about being a publisher, but I struggled to co-own a business and manage the editorial side, and find time to finish my novel. I also had a part-time job, which I still have, so something had to give.
4. Your new book, Wherever You Go, is out in September – has the COVID-19 health crisis affected any events or launches you have had planned for this, or another book – and also, both as an author and a publisher?
Not yet – it’s at copy edit stage so I haven’t planned launches yet. It’s being published through Pilyara Press and we’ll start looking at the marketing very soon. However, I do have a children’s book coming out next month – Alexandra Rose and her Icy-Cold Toes – with Serenity Press and I need to come up with some strategies for that!
5. You’ve worked as a publisher, newspaper editor, journalist, children’s curriculum writer and a magazine editor – what were the things you loved about each of these jobs, and what were their individual challenges?
Each of these jobs brought me wisdom and joy in many ways. As a publisher, I was able to commission some gorgeous books, such as Kate Forsyth’s fairy tale series, and travel to London for the London Book Fair and Northern Ireland for a writing retreat in a castle. But being a publisher was all-consuming and left little time for anything else.
As a journalist, newspaper editor and magazine editor, I had some fantastic experiences and met some wonderful people. But these were all high pressure jobs. I went from a casual journalist to senior journalist in a matter of weeks, and within two years, I was the newspaper editor. Big responsibility and late nights while juggling a growing family was really tough.
I was a curriculum writer when my boys were in the earlier years of primary school and the best thing was that I could work from home (back when this was a new thing) and still do all the school mum things I wanted to do. Funny thing, it paid better than all my other jobs! And they paid for me to fly to Sydney once a year … it was perfect for that time of my life.
6. Did any of the skills and techniques of the above jobs ever cross over?
Absolutely. Interviewing techniques, writing under pressure, knowing how to sell a story to a journalist – these are just some of the skills I carry from one role to another.
7. What is Wherever You Go about, and where did the inspiration come from?
Without giving away too much, Wherever You Go was inspired firstly by a news article that led me to wonder how grief and loss affects a marriage. I’ve always been more interested in how relationships worked than in the romance aspect. Other inspirations included my love of food and cooking, and Bridgetown, Western Australia, a place I’m thinking of moving to one day. Here’s the blurb:
A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.
Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.
8. What do you do/have you done with Stories on Stage?
I founded Stories on Stage in 2012 so my workplace could offer something literary in their arts programming. The events are held in a theatre and combine an in-conversation with a supper (home-made by me). It’s always a great night. Since 2012, I’ve hosted more than 50 Australian authors at Stories on Stage. This year, due to COVID-19, we’ve had to cancel our regular events so we’re starting an online edition. I’m excited because it means I can interview a lot of interstate authors who normally couldn’t make it to Perth.
9. You’ve done a lot of work in the arts sector – what has been the most rewarding thing about working in this industry?
One thing? That’s hard … but I’d have to say the connections I’ve made with such wonderful, talented creators. And the opportunities I’ve had to read early copies of books!
10. When not writing, what do you enjoy doing or reading?
Lots of things. I love cooking for other people. It brings me pleasure to feed people and see them enjoying what I’ve made. And spending time with those I love brings me great joy.
I love taking photos, especially when I travel – so many times, I look at things and think ‘That would make a great photo’. But I also am being mindful of being in the moment and not always trying to capture a moment.
I love going for long walks (uphill, not so much), rambling around the countryside, and seeing new places.
And most nights, I look forward to chilling out with my husband, my cat on my lap, a glass of good wine in my hand, and watching whatever show or movie we’re into at the time. And later, I read, all sorts of books, whatever my mood tells me to read at the time.
11. Have you won any awards for your writing, and what are they?
Once I won first prize for a poem … but that was a long time ago. The closest I’ve come to winning since then is a Highly Commended. But, I don’t enter many things, and like the lottery, you’ve got to be in it to win it.
12. How do you think the arts industry will cope in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how can people help support the industry? Also, how important do you think the arts are in this time?
The arts industry has been terribly affected by COVID-19, restricting many creatives in sharing their experiences. It’s really tough when all the gigs that earn money are cancelled and there is such uncertainty about when things will change. But artists are survivors. They will survive, albeit by embracing different ways of sharing their experiences. What I have seen across the arts community is a beautiful ‘pulling together’, wherein artists help each other to share music, story, art and more in innovative ways. I hope this continues, because Art in all its forms has always helped people connect and keep on going.
How can people help? Buy books. Buy art. Buy music. Make the most of the free experiences being offered online. Tell people about it. Review whatever you buy.
13. Do you have any favourite authors or books that you always turn to?
Daphne du Maurier is one of my favourites, especially Rebecca. I’ve read it so many times. I was thrilled to visit a town she lived in for many years – Fowey, in Cornwall. I’ve started writing a gothic-style novel set in the Blue Mountains, NSW, because I love that genre so much. Stories with big old houses and secrets will always tempt me. I also recently discovered Sarah Waters and really admire her writing.
14. Even though I probably know this – favourite writing companion – cat or dog?
My rescue cat Boogle is my treasured writing companion. When it suits her, she sits on my lap while I write. Also, when it suits her, she sits in front of my screen and makes loud huffing noises.
15. Favourite writing snack?
Chips. It’s always potato chips. Original Smiths Crisps will get me every time.
16. Do you have a favourite local bookseller you are always going to?
We have a chain bookstore nearby which is okay, but I prefer independent bookshops, and none of those are close. I wish they were. I used to dream of owning a bookshop/café at one point, but not any more. I’d never find time to write if I did that! Booksellers work so hard – it’s definitely not as easy as it looks on TV.
17. What are you currently working on?
The Story You Tell, which is the second book in my Around the World Supper Club series. It picks up from Wherever You Go about two years later, but features a different main character. It’s partly inspired by the Echo and Narcissus myth.
18. What’s more of a challenge – shorter works, longer works, fiction or non-fiction?
Writing fiction is more challenging for me than non-fiction – that just flows, probably due to my journalistic background. All forms have their challenges, but I find writing short stories – not my rom-coms though, they just about fell onto the page – harder than long form. Maybe it’s because I can tend to waffle on when I tell anyone a story … you know, you have to set the scene first and give the context. Right?
19. You write for a variety of audiences under the same name, where some authors choose separate names for different genres or audiences – what made you decide to maintain the same name across all books? (This by the way, is something I support – I’m curious as to why different people do it differently).
I’ve thought about this from time to time – should I have a different name for different genres? But I’ve worked hard to build the platform I have under one name, and I don’t want to have to start from scratch. Or look after yet another set of social media accounts – I already have my own plus a work one to look after. It does my head in sometimes!
Also, I have no plans to write more children’s books, so I’m comfortable with maintaining the same name for my future writing.
20. Finally, what is next for your writing career?
Biting my nails and pacing for weeks once Wherever You Go is launched … writing the next book …
I dream of being invited to writers festivals and having a book tour … of having the opportunity to research a book idea overseas.
But in the more immediate future, I just need to stop procasti-cleaning, watching hilarious cat videos or making cups of tea, and write.
You can find Monique at:
Facebook: Monique Mulligan, Author
Anything I may have missed?