Q: Favorite authors?
A: I go through books and authors in phases. That said, I remember how accomplished I felt after reading The Golden Notebook by Nobel laureate Doris Lessing. A true masterpiece. So she's a favorite. I also love Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte wrote one of the most original books in English literature. Among contemporary authors, I really like Elizabeth Gilbert. She inspires me.
Q: Favorite book?
A: Wuthering Heights. The Golden Notebook is a close second.
Q: Favorite genres?
A: Memoirs and biographies. Novels, too.
Q: What inspired you to write The Honeyeater?
A: I really don't know, except to say that I felt compelled to write it.
Q: We've never seen a negative review by you. Why?
A: I make an effort to write reviews of books I really really like (4 stars) or absolutely love (5 stars). I made a conscious decision to do that. I just don't want to be panning a book or an author. I've actually started to read a book for review and halfway through decided I did not like/love it, or it wasn't what I expected, or whatever. When this happens, I change books.
Q: Chick lit? or Contemporary romance?
A: If I thought too long about it I might be offended by the term 'chick lit'. But I don't. It's a term that emerged from our culture. 'Chicks'. Of course, there's no such thing as 'guy lit', as far as I know. That's something to ponder. But I don't dwell on it. It's best to focus on more important issues, like global warming/climate change, starving children, world peace, etc.
Q: In your essay, "How I Wrote My Second Novel", you write that you did research for The Honeyeater. What kind of research?
A: I wanted the book to feel authentic, so I was scrupulous about all the details. I researched the news events. I wanted to depict all the historical/news details accurately. I researched furniture and art. One character in the book is very stylish, elegant, regal in a Chanel-type suit. So I researched that. Also, foods--a recipe. I researched names of places and characters. I also consulted a world map, to guide me throughout.
I'm very detail-oriented, in general, so it was second-nature to me to be very detailed as I wrote The Honeyeater.
Q: To Sequel or not to Sequel?
A: That is the question! A sequel hadn't occurred to me until recently. That there might be something else to say about these characters. Earlier this year, I began to think about Eulalia's life after The Honeyeater ends. So who knows? I've jotted down a few notes. That's all I care to say. I like to take a long time germinating ideas for a book.
Q: Do you have a favorite character from the book?
A: Eulalia is a favorite, of course. I love how she grew and changed and developed. She was so in love, but very naive. What she lived through might have broken any one of us.
Q: How did you prepare to write this novel?
A: I had reams of paper, folders with newspaper and magazine clippings. Journal entries. Huge envelope filled with notes. From those notes, I created my outline and synopsis. In addition, I researched online and offline: the encyclopedia and dictionary are invaluable resources to me as a writer.
Also, all of my reading helped prepare me to write The Honeyeater. And I don't think I could have written it before I wrote my first book. Although they are different genres and styles, I needed the experience of having written Porridge & Cucu. I learned so much as I wrote it, and those lessons helped me to write The Honeyeater.
For more details, read my essays "How I Wrote My First Novel" and "How I Wrote My Second Novel."
Q: Who influenced your writing? What authors are you indebted to?
A: Doris Lessing, Elizabeth Gilbert, Emily Brontë, Isabel Allende, Louise Erdrich, Shakespeare.
Q: At one time, you wrote poetry. Could you explain how you transitioned to writing fiction?
A: I wrote poems from the time I was a child through highschool, but it was all hidden. My friends knew about me writing but they never got to see any of it. I had two professors in college who encouraged me to write poems. The first taught me the craft of writing poetry. And the second encouraged me to send the poems out to magazines/literary journals.
I was a bit timid about sending my poems out. Each poem was like a baby I couldn't bear to part with. And there's a fear of bearing one's soul for all to see; but nervous as I was, I persevered.
One day, I remember looking over my papers. I had compiled my poems into a book (rejected by several publishers, sometimes with a beautiful note from the editor--i.e., These poems are lovely, well-written. But we're booked for five years. Maybe you could send them to Publisher X). I counted between seventy to a hundred--about eighty or so poems. Those were the good ones. I read them in sequence, and when I finished I felt I'd said everything I wanted to say in poems. I wanted a larger canvas, so to speak.
I'd already kept my journal for many years. I also wrote stories, sketches and essays. My mom pointed out that the poems, though well-crafted, were not commercial. She said that one always heard of bestselling novels/novelists (think Jackie Collins). Maybe I should do that. So I decided to put all my energy into fiction writing.