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, A Lifetime of Impossible Days, is Tabitha Bird.
Tabitha Bird is a writer and poet who lives and works in the rural township of Boonah, Queensland. By day Tabitha may be found painting, working on her next book or with her husband, three beautiful boys and Chihuahua.
Hello Tabitha. 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?
Thank you for having me! I hope it’s okay that I’ve brought my chihuahua along. Her name is Lion and she loves to be a part of all good bookish outings. We’d love tea and we made some jam drops specially for the occasion. The Willas in my book love jam drops so we thought it most appropriate.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I write contemporary fiction with a magical twist, otherwise known as magical realism. This will be my first book.
A Lifetime of Impossible Days released earlier this month, can you describe it in just a sentence?
Willa Waters aged 33 meets herself and ages 8 and 93 and will need all the Willas help if she is to save her future.
How long did it take you to write A Lifetime of Impossible Days?
This is a really difficult question because it doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. Eleven-years ago I was struggling to deal with the trauma of my childhood. I was a stay-at-home mum with two small boys and having children of my own began to unravel memories that I’d locked away.
I started counselling and was asked a simple question by a most wise woman: what does the pain look like? I began to imagine what my pain would look like. My dormant imagination was unlocked. It was a very powerful revelation to me that my pain could have a voice. I began to write about a character named Beast who had a little girl trapped in the cave of my heart. Over the next five or so years I poured out my writings in emails to this counsellor. I will be forever thankful that she is an avid reader. In the end I had the shape of a first draft for what would become a memoir. It took another few years for me to realise that I wanted to write fiction and use magical realism to highlight the emotional truth of my story. So all up the book took eleven years to write, or forty-two years of my life and experience. But the version that would become A LIFETIME OF IMPOSSIBLE DAYS only took three of four years to write.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write A Lifetime of Impossible Days?
The characters definitely came to me first. The character of Little Girl in my memoir became the kernel of the idea for the youngest character in my novel named Super Gumboots Willa. As I was healing, I often wished I could go back and love the little girl that I was, mother her and give her what she never had. Through writing Super Gumboots Willa I got to do exactly this.
Can you tell us about the research process to bring A Lifetime of Impossible Days to life? How did you incorporate this research into the narrative?
This story is incredibly personal and arguably the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done. Research was very much based on my years of healing from trauma and understanding how my voice had been silenced and taking back my own power. To write my emotion truth I had to stop being afraid of what others would think. To write at all I had to recognise the lies about having no self-worth and nothing important to say that abuse had told me and step into an unknown area for me called healthy living. I will be forever thankful to the Willas for that.
A Lifetime of Impossible Days is a multi time period novel, did you find one time period easier than the other to write? How hard was it to link the time frames together?
This was an incredibly difficult book to structure. As each of the three Willas pushed and pulled and collided with each other I had to think about which aged Willa would need to appear next on the scene to both move the story forward, but also to really provoke growth in the other Willas. Each Willa had to appear to be a separate character, but also one character with similar traits. I had to think about the age and circumstances of each Willa and how they saw the world and create three individual story arcs that were working together for one over arching story line. There were days when I felt the Willas were running amok and I was powerless to stop them!
How different was the experience of writing A Lifetime of Impossible Days, compared to your poetry work?
Great question! Remarkable similar actually. I love the sound of language. Poetry is a deep pulling from your core to see what words are there. Words that might sing or cry or ache. And I find the process of writing a novel to be the same. Perhaps the only difference is that with a novel there is story structure, plot, narrative arcs etc to consider.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading A Lifetime of Impossible Days?
In my novel eight-year-old Willa Waters receives a jar of water with the instructions: ‘One ocean. Plant in the backyard.’ From that planted ocean grows a time slip through which the Willas can meet themselves at different ages. My wish for readers is exactly the same: the gift of an ocean and perhaps a way to explore meeting their own younger selves while hanging onto the hope of their futures. They do say that salt heals wounds.
The other invitation I’d love to extend readers is the same one that Middle Willa receives from her counsellor during the story.
Have you met your own Super Gumboots Willa?
Where: You decide
When: in your own time.
Perhaps their inner child wants to play, imagine, create or change career paths. Maybe they are deeply bored and feel lonely. Perhaps the child wants to talk about an unhealed memory, maybe it’s something they are still afraid of, some place from the past where they are stuck, some relationship perhaps that isn’t life-giving.
If trauma is that if it is not worked through then we can become trapped emotionally at that age. We don’t grow into healthy ways of thinking and understanding ourselves and the world around us. And trauma can be anything, any event, large or small, in which we have not had adequate support to work through what happened or our emotions.
How will you celebrate the official release day of A Lifetime of Impossible Days?
My whole family and close friends are going out to dinner. And just quietly, I know the Willas will be with me.
Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I have always been a big supporter of The Manuscript Academy, which is an online site for writers to receive professional feedback from agents and editors. One day I received an email from The Manuscript Academy asking if I would be interested in a phone call with a new editor that was coming on board. I said I most definitely was. The new editor was none other than Kimberly Atkins (former acquisitions editor with Penguin Random House Australia, but she has since moved to Hodder Books, UK). Kimberly was only supposed to read the first ten pages of my work and then give me some feedback in a ten-minute phone call, but instead she emailed to say she loved what she was reading and could I please send the whole manuscript? Of course, I did (with much excited jumping up and down in the back ground).
By the time we spoke on the phone a few days later, Kimberly had read the first 50 pages and was still loving the book. During our phone call (which lasted closer to 40 minutes) she had such wonderful things to say about the book and my writing! I could hardly believe what I was hearing but was of course very thrilled. A week or so later she emailed to ask if she could take the book to an acquisitions meeting and I was beside myself! A few weeks later I received the email that all writers dream of with an offer of publication on my book. I called my husband and we jumped around the house like little kids hugging each other!
Do you have any advice for the aspiring writers out there?
Write because you don’t know how to quit. Write because without it you would feel like you had a missing limb, because it is so apart of who you are that not doing it for any length of time would cause a physical ache in you. And then trust your path. Things will happen as they are meant to at the right time. I could not have written this book any quicker than I did and I would not have been ready to publish it any earlier than I am.
Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
I need my dog. I have a tiny chihuahua and she is always curled up with me. My constant companion. The one who taught me about the power of staying and that bravery was an act of will and heart and not of size.
Aside from writing, do you have any interesting hobbies?
I love to draw. You can find my work on Instagram. Art is another passion of mine that I have only recently been brave enough to give a voice to
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
There was this one day when I was about thirty-five and I’d sent my memoir off to this agent who was very interested and had requested the full manuscript. I received an email in early January telling me that the manuscript had been rejected. I remember walking into the bush near where we lived and crying for about an hour. I’d go back then and tell that women to hang in there. To keep working at her healing journey because she isn’t ready yet. And then I’d tell her that this all works out so much better than she could ever imagine.
What is next on the horizon for Tabitha Bird? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
There is another book, but I can’t say too much yet. It also has magical twists!
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
Maya Linnell has a gorgeous rural fiction titled WILDFLOWER RIDGE out with Allen and Unwin on the 3rd of June. Meg Bignell’s THE SPARKLE PAGES is a funny and heart-warming read that has only recently released through Penguin. I’m super excited the read Kate Forsyth’s THE BLUE ROSE and of course the new novel by Erin Morgenstern THE STARLESS SEA.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
My husband. We have been married for twenty-one years this year and I would toast those high school sweethearts that worked hard to stay together and grow closer.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Tabitha. Congratulations on the publication of A Lifetime of Impossible Days!
Thank you so much for having me! It was a pleasure.
Meet Willa Waters, aged 8 . . . 33 . . . and 93.
On one impossible day in 1965, eight-year-old Willa receives a mysterious box containing a jar of water and the instruction: ‘One ocean: plant in the backyard.’ So she does – and somehow creates an extraordinary time slip that allows her to visit her future selves.
On one impossible day in 1990, Willa is 33 and a mother-of-two when her childhood self magically appears in her backyard. But she’s also a woman haunted by memories of her dark past – and is on the brink of a decision that will have tragic repercussions . . .
On one impossible day in 2050, Willa is a silver-haired, gumboot-loving 93-year-old whose memory is fading fast. Yet she knows there’s something she has to remember, a warning she must give her past selves about a terrible event in 1990. If only she could recall what it was.
Can the three Willas come together, to heal their past and save their future, before it’s too late?
A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird was published on 4th June 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Tabitha here: