Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, The House of Second Chances, is Esther Campion.
Esther Campion is from Cork, Ireland and currently lives in north-west Tasmania. She attended North Presentation Secondary School in Cork and has degrees from University College Cork and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Esther and her Orcadian husband have lived together in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and South Australia. They have two grown-up children in Adelaide and the youngest at home in Tassie. Esther loves sharing her life on a small property with an over-indulged chocolate Labrador, a smoochy cat and a couple of ageing mares, all of whom she firmly believes are living proof that dreams really can come true. The House of Second Chances is Esther’s second novel, following Leaving Ocean Road.
Hello Esther. It is my pleasure to welcome to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
Hello Mrs B! Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I’m sitting at my desk this morning with a black coffee as I recently embarked on diet number 263 (or thereabouts) and I’m off milk. My daughter says reducing dairy helps save the planet so it’s going down well. Later, I will switch to peppermint tea or I’ll be so strung out on caffeine, I’ll be writing fantasy, although that may not be a bad thing!
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
The House of Second Chances is my second published novel. Both this and Leaving Ocean Road are I suppose what is now called life-lit. I also like to write poetry and have had a few poems published. Poems have to come to me in a bit of a light bulb moment, but I could happily sit and write novels all day.
The House of Second Chances, your second novel, has just been released. Can you describe the book in just a sentence?
When interior designer, Colette Barry, and builder, Aidan O’ Shea are tasked with the renovation of Aidan’s grandmother’s farmhouse in Ireland which he has been avoiding for almost twenty years, the hurts of their past lives are brought in to focus and it is the house itself that gives them an opportunity to heal if only they can get out of their own way and take it.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write The House of Second Chances?
I’m laughing here because titles are so difficult! That definitely came last. My working title was ‘Fabulous Four Walls’ which is the name of the interior design agency in the book and although I knew from experience with Leaving Ocean Road that this would change, I felt it was quite glamorous and at least gave me a little lift every time I opened the file. I am a pantser, so I would say conflict between characters drives my novel writing. Setting was easy as I took minor characters from the first book and put them centre stage in both Cork City and rural West Cork while keeping some of my South Australian characters and then adding all the support cast.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the setting of your novel?
I set my stories in places I know and love. After living in Port Lincoln for five years, the South Australian landscape had gotten well and truly under my skin and as I write about it, I can see the stunning coastline with its unique palette of colours and almost smell the gum leaves and feel the hot summer sand beneath my feet. My Irish settings too are very special to me. I am from Cork City so writing about it feels natural as I can navigate the streets and suburbs in my mind and hopefully give an authenticity to the writing. West Cork is a place I go back to whenever I can as I associate it with special times with friends and family. The House was always going to be located there.
What character did you most identify with in The House of Second Chances?
I think Aidan is the character I most identify with. God love him, he has his struggles, trying to battle the bulge and get fit in an effort to combat the gravitational pull of middle age!
What was the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing your second novel?
The most challenging aspect of writing The House of Second Chances was how to write around the theme of incurable illness while honouring the trust one of my life-long friends and her family placed in me when helping me with my research. The book is dedicated to them. Her gratitude is my biggest reward.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading The House of Second Chances?
My sincerest hope is that readers will be entertained by the book and enjoy the emotional journey of its characters.
How will you celebrate the official release day of The House of Second Chances?
On release day, I will probably be found stressing about the launch three days later, but I just might have to put the diet on hold and treat myself to a bit of carrot cake somewhere.
Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
When my first ever novel got ten rejections and some positive feedback, I decided to write a new one. My mother gave me some ‘writing money’ with which I invested in a manuscript assessment. Fortunately, the assessor endorsed my book and sent it out to agents and publishers on my behalf. Again, with a good dose of luck, it landed on the desk of one of Hachette’s publishers who gave me the break I was looking for and a two-book deal to boot.
What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?
Maeve Binchy would have to be the novelist I most admire with those stories she weaved around relatable characters and their struggles. I also like Monica McInerney whose novel, Upside Down and Inside Out, was a revelation to me in terms of pacing. Rachel Johns is another Australian with a great knack for telling a good yarn. So many great writers out there. Just wish I could read faster and enjoy them all.
How do you balance life with writing?
Writing takes up a lot of time, at least for me. Maybe I’m slow, but I do find it is definitely an all-consuming pursuit. I am a sessional teacher in adult education, so I tend to take long breaks from writing while I’m working and then go hammer and tongs, pushing other things aside once I’ve got myself hooked.
What is next on the horizon for Esther Campion? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I am working on my next novel, but it’s too early to say with any certainty where exactly I’m headed.
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I have Natasha Lester’s The French Photographer on my To Be Read pile but I am a book behind so am looking forward to reading The Paris Seamstress and The French Photographer back to back. I don’t know how Natasha manages all that research, but it makes for wonderful reading and escape.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
I would love to share a pot of something fruity with Meryl Streep. I have loved her since Out of Africa and would love to hear about all the leading men she has worked opposite in her glittering career. I’d also ask if there was any chance of making one of my novels into a movie. We’ve got to dream!
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Esther. Congratulations on the publication of The House of Second Chances!
Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney
Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected property back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.
Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?
The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $29.99
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