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 Gift of Life, is Josephine Moon.
Josephine Moon was born and raised in Brisbane, had a false start in Environmental Science before completing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and then a postgraduate degree in education. Twelve years and ten manuscripts later, her first novel The Tea Chest was picked up for publication and then shortlisted for an ABIA award. Her bestselling contemporary fiction novels are published internationally. They include The Tea Chest, The Chocolate Promise, The Beekeeper’s Secret, Three Gold Coins and The Gift of Life.
In 2018, Josephine organised the ‘Authors for Farmers’ appeal, raising money to assist drought-affected farming communities. She is passionate about literacy, and is a proud sponsor of Story Dogs and The Smith Family.
She now lives on acreage in the beautiful Noosa hinterland with her husband and son, and a tribe of animals that seems to increase in size each year. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hello Josephine. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you 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?
I drink both tea and coffee but my heart’s allegiance firmly lies in the land of chai! My absolute favourite chai is the Masala blend from The Fresh Chai Co. It is just the best I’ve ever had.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
My primary genre is contemporary fiction with The Beekeeper’s Secret and The Gift of Life leaning solidly into the mystery genre. I’m loving mysteries more and more. The Gift of Life will be my fifth novel on the shelf but my sixth book overall, with the latter being a non-fiction book I wrote on horse rescue in 2015. I also have another non-fiction book coming out in July this year (so that will be seven in total).
Can you describe your new book, The Gift of Life, in just a sentence?
When Gabriella (who is a heart transplant recipient) and Krystal (who donated her husband’s organs) meet, they know they must work together solve the mystery behind Evan’s death.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write The Gift of Life?
Sadly, none of the above! 😀
For me, research is always the starting point. It’s my happy place where I get to follow little trails of inspiration and ideas, get lost down rabbit holes, pick up a plot line and then realise it won’t work and then drop it again, find all the fussy fascinating pieces that inspire images in my mind. After that, the setting is probably the first to come into play. For me, setting is such a strong driver of my books because I’m a strong ‘world builder’. I need to be so firmly grounded in locations and atmosphere because that drives and shapes my characters. My title is almost always last because I never really know what I’m writing about in the first draft. It’s only in subsequent drafts that I can see what it is and how to bring out its best.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful contemporary life lit based novel?
Fascinating characters, compelling plots and the author’s unique ‘voice’.
Did you have to undertake a research process to bring The Gift of Life to the page?
I researched the causes behind heart failure and the process of organ donation. I was lucky enough to find two heart transplant recipients who agreed to speak with me about their experiences, which gave me so many details to play with. They each had very different experiences, and were both very different people, so the richness of their stories gave me many ideas about where to take the characters in my book on their journeys. I watched many videos online, including one of the retrieval of a heart for donation, and read many testimonies from people who had received hearts. I read Claire Sylvia’s memoir A Change of Heart about her experiences after a heart transplant too.
The character of Gabriella owns a cafe in Melbourne so I also did a lot of research on the business of coffee and was fortunate enough to be taken behind the scenes into a roasting house up here in Noosa, which gave me a wealth of information there too. I was also invited out to a coffee farm, which gave me a wonderful sense of the whole ‘tree to mouth’ process of coffee, but this was one area I just ran out of space to include in the book. It might come back in another book, though. And because I don’t live in Melbourne, I made sure I spent time down there plotting out where all my characters lived and how they got around the city and generally just getting a feel for Melbourne to bring it to life in the book.
How long did it take you to write The Gift of Life?
About 15 months.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
This book has been about twenty years in the making, beginning when I saw a woman who’d had a heart transplant (Claire Sylvia) when she appeared on the Phil Donahue Show, talking about the unusual things that had happened to her after receiving her heart. Her testimony affected me so much that it stayed inside my mind for all that time until I saw the first episode of an ABC medical drama (Pulse) on television, in which a young woman contracted a virus, which went to her heart and she needed a heart transplant. I remember seeing that and the memories of Claire Sylvia on television all those years ago hit me and I felt it deep in my bones: that, right there, that is what I need to write about!
Did you find it challenging to capture the emotions and powerful themes of this novel?
I confess I am a bit of a sook when writing and I do tend to delay writing the most painful parts of the book for as long as I can. There is a scene in The Gift of Life where Krystal is standing at the bedside of her husband, Evan. Evan is on life support and she has been told he has suffered brain death and she has been asked to donate his organs. That was a really tough scene to write.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading The Gift of Life?
If my readers are anything like me, they will have a far deeper appreciation for the need to discuss their thoughts and wishes around organ donation with their family as soon as possible to save them the heartbreaking agony of having to wrestle with that decision on your behalf if they should ever need to.
How will you celebrate the official release day of The Gift of Life?
With a huge book tour!
Also, probably with a bit of happy dancing, a good chai and some unplanned videos to Facebook 🙂
Can you tell us more about the creative workshops you offer?
I’m running just two more workshops this year, one on bringing your ideas to life and the other on how to write a bestselling novel. Both are suited to beginning and emerging writers and are being run in Brisbane. You can find out lots more about these here.
Do you have any advice for the aspiring writers out there?
I think it’s wise to spend as much time as you can finding your voice because it’s your voice that captures readers and holds their attention, and the best way to do this is to invest in developing your craft through small pieces, such as short stories, where you can play in a lot of genres and styles without giving up years of your life on one big piece like a novel.
Is there a genre you haven’t tried writing yet, but want to in the future?
I’m still trying to write children’s books.
What is next on the horizon for Josephine Moon? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
Right now, I’m trying to finish the first draft of my 2020 novel, which is set in The Cotswolds. It’s working title is Rambling Rose (though I think it will change) and I’m currently summarising it as ‘a cake maker who can’t bake; a village on the edge; and a decades old secret’.
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I’m not sure what’s coming up later in the year but just in this first quarter:
- The Mother-in-law by Sally Hepworth
- The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
- Saving You by Charlotte Nash
- The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
- Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee
- Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
I might just pop back to 80s, just to experience the world again before technology took over our lives… and for the music and bad hair and crazy clothes.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
Oprah, hands down.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Josephine. Congratulations on the publication of The Gift of Life!
You’ve been given the gift of life, now go live it.
Gabby McPhee is the owner of The Tin Man, a chic new cafe and coffee roasting house in Melbourne. The struggles of her recent heart transplant are behind her and life is looking up – until a mysterious customer appears in the cafe, convinced that Gabby has her deceased husband’s heart beating inside her chest.
Krystal Arthur is a bereaved widow, struggling to hold herself and her two young boys together since Evan’s death, and plagued by unanswered questions. Why was her husband in another city the night he died? And why won’t his spirit rest?
Krystal is convinced that Gabby holds the clues she needs to move towards a brighter future. Gabby needs Krystal to help her let go of her troubled past. The two women must come together to try to unlock the secrets in Evan’s heart in order to set free their own.
By the internationally bestselling author of The Chocolate Promise, this is a profound and moving novel about the deeper mysteries of love and loss – and the priceless gift of life.
The Gift of Life by Josephine Moon is published on April 2nd 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Josephine here: