I’m starting a whole new blog series where writers will be invited to tell us about their reading habits and influences. And to celebrate the release this week of my new novel  I thought I’d kick off the series by having a crack at the questions myself. Anyone who leaves a comment will go in the draw to win a signed copy of Essie’s Way.

Here’s a sneak peek:

 A captivating story of family, love and following your heart, from the author of Blackwattle Lake.

Essie's Way front cover

In the distance the sea and sky merged into an opaque sheet of black, the only light shed by a sliver of moon. A crack of lightning split the darkness, illuminating the cauldron that was the ocean for just a few moments. She tilted her chin up and stretched forward, straining to see. Something was out there.

Miranda McIntyre thinks she has it all sorted. She s a successful lawyer, she s planning her wedding and ticking off all the right boxes. When searching for something old to go with her wedding dress she remembers an antique necklace from her childhood, but her mother denies any knowledge of it. Miranda is sure it exists. Trying to find the necklace, she discovers evidence that perhaps the grandmother she thought was dead is still alive.

Ignoring the creeping uncertainty about her impending marriage, and the worry that she is not living the life she really wants, Miranda takes off on a road trip in search of answers to the family mystery but also in search of herself.

Ultimately, she will find that looking back can lead you home.

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Now, on with the “interview” …

1. Which books do you most vividly remember from your childhood?

So many! I have very fond memories of being snuggled up in bed reading Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs. It’s one of my favourites to this day and I’ve read it aloud to my three daughters. I also remember a book about an owl, called Uhu, which had beautiful illustrations and a great conservation message. I loved the Moomins – and recently saw this copy in a bookshop so I just had to get it. Loved Seven Little Australians and remember bawling my eyes out when Esther died. I went through a Secret Seven phase too.

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2. Who are your three favourite literary characters? Tell us what you love about each of them.

The first that comes to mind is Elizabeth Bennet. She’s smart, strong, has a great sense of humour, is slightly unconventional and has great taste in men! It’s a toss-up between Bilbo and Frodo Baggins for number two but I’ll go with Frodo since his story is more detailed and his quest more perilous. I love the way he gets himself and his companions out of such tight spots, is amazed by his own bravery and ingenuity and of course he is loyal to the end. Last but not least I can’t go past Fish Lamb from Cloudstreet. He narrates the opening scene so beautifully and the story of the Lamb and Pickles families is really his story, so poignantly told.

3. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?

I don’t tend to read novels with strong villains in them but I am a Harry Potter fan so I’d have to say Voldemort.

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4. If you could invite any five writers – living or dead – to a cosy dinner party who would you ask and why?

Tim Winton is my all time favourite so he would be top of the list. He’s such a brilliant writer and depicts place and character so beautifully I’d love to pick his brain. Markus Zusak would get an invite – he’s such a lovely, easy-going guy and has done so brilliantly with The Book Thief. Sticking with the Australian theme I’d also invite Kate Grenville and Geraldine Brooks – both eloquent women and fantastic writers who write wonderful historically themed novels. And to mix it up a bit I’d include poet Mary Oliver in the hope that she’d do an after dinner reading of one of her wonderful poems.

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5. What book has made you laugh out loud?

Too Many Men by Lily Brett. The main character Ruth Rothwax is so totally anal that she’s hilarious and her interactions with her Polish father Edek, who has a less than perfect command of English just cracked me up. The follow-up book, You Gotta Have Balls, where the Edek opens a specialty meatball restaurant in New York is excellent too. The Bridget Jones books also gave me a good long laugh, as did the movies.

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6. What book, or scene in a book, has made you cry?

I blubbered through so many parts of The Light Between Oceans, especially the end. And every time I read the Lord of The Rings I bawl my eyes out in the final scene with Frodo and Sam. I recently had more than a lump in my throat when I read Mr Wigg, by the talented Inga Simpson (see below). And the tragic family situation in Dawn Barker’s Fractured also made me reach for the tissues.

7. Where and when do you do most of your reading?

I usually read in bed, the only problem with that being that I sometimes only manage a few pages before falling asleep. Reading during the day feels like too guilty a pleasure but when I’m on holidays I like to chill in a hammock and spend a good few hours escaping between the pages.

8. Is there a genre of book you’d never read? Why?

As much as I’m a fan of the expression “never say never” I’ll never go near the horror genre or true crime. I have way too vivid an imagination and on the odd occasion when I’ve watched a creepy movie or television show I’ve lain awake in bed re-living the whole thing and generally don’t get to sleep.

9. Can you give us a mini-review of a book you’ve recently read?

Mr Wigg, by Inga Simpson, is a beautifully written, character based novel about an old man living alone after the death of his wife. Set in the 1970’s with contextual references to the Ashes cricket series, it’s a story about loss and love as the main character tends to his beloved orchard, spends time with his grandchildren and remembers his married years with great tenderness. This novel does not have a detailed plot – rather its depth is in the way Simpson depicts Mr Wigg’s day-to-day existence in such beautifully wrought language.

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10. What are you currently reading and what are the top three books in your TBR (to be read) pile?

I’m currently reading The Poisonwood Bible by Margaret Kingsolver. Top of my TBR pile is Eyrie by Tim Winton, which I can’t wait to get into. Next is The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey (I’ve never read one of her books and as this one is set on the south coast of NSW where I also set my books I’m curious). And I’m keen to read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent as I’ve heard so much about it.

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What books do you remember from your childhood?

Who is your favourite hero or villain?

What books have made you laugh out loud or reach for the tissues?

I’d love to hear your answers to any of the above questions and remember anyone who leaves a comment will go in the draw to win a signed copy of Essie’s Way.