It is a pleasure to warmly welcome Monique Mulligan to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a short form author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Wherever You Go, we sat down for a chat. Thanks Monique!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
I’ve just made a nice pot of Countess Grey tea. I bought it last year at Fortnum & Mason in London and it’s delicious – a more delicate version of Earl Grey. I drink it on special occasions like this and always use my vintage Royal Albert teacup.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
My career has always involved writing – I’ve been a journalist, editor and publisher; I’ve worked in publicity and marketing, and I spent several years reviewing books on my website. In late 2015, after years of struggling to find the time to write while raising a family, I decided it was time to pursue my dream of writing a novel. Since then, I’ve had three children’s books published, and had short stories in several anthologies, but my dream of writing a novel took more than four years to be realised. My debut novel, Wherever You Go, is out now and I’m at the nail-biting stage of waiting for reviews.
Can you tell us what inspired the creation of your new book, Wherever You Go?
A few things – a tragic news article, my love for cooking family feasts inspired by cuisines from around the world, and the quote “Wherever you go, there you are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The quote has resonated with me for many years and I always knew I wanted to explore it in my first novel, to look at how people try to get away from themselves. They move somewhere different, change jobs, even change names, but they can never quite outrun what is essentially part of them, whether it’s guilt, grief, pain, shame, fear. In writing this novel, I asked, how long can you deny how you came to be who you are?
How different was the experience of writing Wherever You Go, compared to your other works?
It took a lot longer! And I found it much more emotionally challenging. There were times I hated it, times I was sick of reading and rereading my own words. And yet, something told me not to give up on it.
Wherever You Go took about four years from start to finish, although I worked on two other novel manuscripts while it was out on submission (which is a long process in itself). There was a lot of rewriting as I added more layers and conflict, and strengthened the three main points of view. A lot of sighing and a few naughty words (sorry, Mum). But I wouldn’t change that experience because I’ve learnt so much from it. If I’d rushed the process, it wouldn’t be the book it is now.
What are the main themes in Wherever You Go?
It’s a story about heartbreaking loss, recovery, and redemption. It looks at different experiences of guilt and grief and how that impacts on relationships, and on the lighter side, the healing power of good food and friendship. It also touches on mother-daughter relationships, travel, and life in a small town.
Did you have an affinity with a particular character in Wherever You Go and why?
Ashlee. She’s four, she’s sassy, and she knows what she wants. I think she’s a bit like I used to be when I was that age – a cheeky little chatterbox. I also have a soft spot for Frank, the tradie with an unexpected backstory.
What is one thing that you really hope readers will take away from the experience of reading Wherever You Go?
While I was writing this book, my friends lost their daughter to cancer; this young woman was also my son’s girlfriend. I watched them grieve; I grieved with them. I really want readers to come away remembering that grief feels and looks different for everyone. Often we tend to weigh and measure others’ grief against what we think we would do, or what we did in a similar situation. And while I hope readers feel the emotions the characters experience, I also hope they feel the lighter moments – the friendships, the feasts, the love.
I am very pleased to see that Wherever You Go is book one of a new series. Can you give us a hint of what we might expect in upcoming books in this exciting new series?
Wherever You Go is the first in the Around the World Supper Club series. Book 2 is called The Story You Tell and focuses on Bonnie, who lives next door to Amy (one of the main characters in Wherever You Go) and is the mother of Ashlee. I’m in the very early stages of the draft, but I can say that it will focus on the darker side of human nature, and there will be food.
Have you developed any quirks or habits while writing your books?
I talk to myself much more! Often when I’m writing, I feel like an actor and director all at once, so I’m acting out a part and then saying things like ‘I don’t know what to write!’ … I’ve been sprung talking to myself many times.
Aside from that, I find it hard to write if the kitchen bench is a mess, and I’m quite touchy about noise, especially repetitive noises. I’ve also learnt that I can only listen to instrumental music when drafting, but when rewriting, a playlist of songs curated for the book helps me find the right mood.
What book or books do you recommend that I add to my reading pile?
So many … but you’ve probably already read them. Have you read Rebecca or Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier? What about The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters? Her writing is fantastic and has that gothic-feel that I love. I also admire Jane Talbot’s The Faerie Thorn.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
Right now, I’m focused on promotion for Wherever You Go and finding it hard to write anything at all. I’ve started researching for another manuscript I’m ready to revise and which is completely different to Wherever You Go, and I’ve been writing scrappy scenes for The Story You Tell, but I do find it hard to find the time. Someone wise suggested I allow myself time to enjoy my first novel coming out, rather than pushing myself and wondering why I can’t focus, so that’s what I’m doing for now.
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Monique. Congratulations on the release of your new book, Wherever You Go.
Thank you so much for having me, Mrs B. It’s been an honour and pleasure. And thank you for all the time and effort you put into reading and reviewing books by Australian women writers.
A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.
Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.
Rich with unexpected characters and extraordinary insight, Wherever You Go is a powerful and ultimately uplifting tale of heartbreaking loss, recovery, and redemption.
Wherever You Go by Monique Mulligan was published on 18th September 2020. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Monique here: