It is a pleasure to welcome Meg Bignell back to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of The Angry Women’s Choir we sat down for a chat. Thanks Meg!
Hello Meg. It is my pleasure to welcome you back to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, what is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
I’m afraid it’s an instant coffee. Gold blend which is probably even more uncool, because it’s daggy trying to be a bit classy. A bit classy never really works does it? You either are or you’re not. Also it’s decaf with almond milk and one sugar. So wanky as well as daggy. I’m naturally too jittery for caffeine and I’m allergic to dairy. Which is devastating because I live on a dairy farm.
If you’d asked me this evening it would most likely be a glass of sauvignon blanc. I should have pretended it’s six pm.
What writing and publishing highlights have you experienced this year?
2022 is the year my third novel is released, so that has to be the highlight. Alongside it are five original songs written by me and my music collaborator Jude Elliot, which is a total dream come true because I’ve been playing about with songwriting as a hobby for years, and now they’ll be published as part of the audiobook. So that’s pretty special too.
I’m still loving bringing out my monthly newsletter, ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’, which is almost a year old now. It’s where I can just relax a bit and use my own voice. So that’s a monthly highpoint.
And as a copywriter I still relish getting into a brainstorm with fun colleagues and nutting out an advertising campaign. When writing gets lonely, that’s a great antidote. We laugh our heads off.
Can you describe your new novel, The Angry Women’s Choir in a sentence?
I can do it in a haiku! . . .
‘All the women sing
a chorus so thunderous
the world must tune in.
And in one sentence — An all women’s choir shows that art and friendship can move mountains, fury can be kind and sometimes life can do with a bit of ruining.
I just love the title of your new book. What is the significance of the title to the book?
Having reached my mid-forties and the inevitable mood swings that come with perimenopause and the excessive amounts of things on the plates of the average woman, I found myself unaccountably cross at times. It led to a reading binge on anything to do with women’s rage, which in turn led to reading all sorts of feminist work. It really helped me tap into why I was feeling intermittently overwhelmed and angry, how others manage it and how I might. I was interested in the notion of developing the collective feminist imagination and using our anger in creative ways that are not always negatively destructive.
What topics do you explore in The Angry Women’s Choir?
Music, art, imagination, female friendships, women’s rage and the misguided convention that caregiving is self-supporting, infinite and free.
Are the characters in The Angry Women’s Choir inspired by any real-life figures?
As always, my characters come from my imagination, with the odd trait or quirk inspired by a real life person. The exception being the villain. He’s not based on any one person either but nearly. I’ve seen him about.
What were the challenges and highlights of writing The Angry Women’s Choir?
A perennial problem for me appears to be overwriting. I have tried plotting a novel, but the magic doesn’t happen for me until I actually start writing. So I end up with a huge manuscript which I call draft zero, then with help from my publisher I sculpt the novel from that. That is especially true for this novel. The work felt so urgent to me, it just poured out. I wrote with my heart in my mouth.
After I’d sent the MS away with trembling hands and pounding heart, then waited for my poor publisher to wade through it, her phone call to say she loved it and would love to work on it with me was an absolute highlight. This book wasn’t contracted so it was a risk. I loved that moment so much. Then the hard work had to begin!
What is one thing you would like your audience to take away from the experience of reading The Angry Women’s Choir?
I recently had an advance reader review it and she said something like, ‘this book opened a void I’ve been carrying in my own heart and encouraged me to see things differently.’ I can’t ask for more than that.
How will you celebrate the release of The Angry Women’s Choir?
On release day I think I’m going to kidnap a friend and take a road trip around Tasmania to bookshops. Release days can be maddeningly quiet, so I plan to fill it with noise.
Shortly after than I will be officially launching it with a bit of a party, lots of music, some conversation and some fizz!
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
On an idea day (children at school, no appointments, interruptions or cows out on the road) I will write between the hours of nine and three-thirty. Then the afternoon gets stampeded by teenagers and school activities and dinner prep. Most often I can do a bit more work in the evenings. I try to end my day with reading someone else’s book, which is an essential part of work too.
What writers inspire you?
I can usually find something in every writer that inspires me — their routine, their productivity, the way their present themselves to the world. But as far as putting words together goes, I am very inspired by writers who experiment with form, break the rules, change the shape of things, mix magic into realism. Elizabeth Strout comes to mind. Poets like Amanda Gorman, Simon Armytage and Mary Oliver are excellent sources of this kind of inspiration. They show me that anything is possible but also that I have so much to learn, and to practice my craft!
Lots of classic women writers inspire me – Ethel Turner, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Elizabeth Taylor, Rumer Godden, Dodie Smith. I love that they write with a twinkle in their eye but on the same page can be utterly devastating. Again, I have so much to learn.
What books are on your to-be-read pile?
It’s huge! As I get to know other authors I like to read what they’re writing. We all try to support one another. As well I like to stay in touch with what’s new. At the moment I am half-way through Justin Smith’s delightful book, ‘Cooper Not Out’. Under that is Benjamin Stevenson’s ‘Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone’, Damon Galgut’s ‘The Promise’, and Emily St. John Mandel’s ‘The Sea of Tranquility’.
Are you currently writing a new book?
I have three in the works! I’m having a bit of trouble deciding which one is number four.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Meg and congratulations on the publication of The Angry Women’s Choir.
Thank you for having me! Sorry if I waffled!
By the acclaimed author of Welcome To Nowhere River comes a heart-warming and uplifting story about a remarkable group of women who discover they are all capable of incredible things – if they’re strong enough, and angry enough, to take up the cause.
Once in a while, everyone needs to be heard.
Freycinet Barnes has built herself the perfect existence. With beautiful children, a successful husband and a well-ordered schedule, it’s a life so full she simply doesn’t fit.
When she steps outside her calendar and is accidentally thrown into the generous bosom of the West Moonah Women’s Choir, she finds music, laughter, friendship and a humming wellspring of rage. With the ready acceptance of the colourful choristers, Frey learns that voices can move mountains, fury can be kind and life can do with a bit of ruining.
Together, Frey and the choir sing their anger, they breathe it in and stitch it up, belt it out and spin it into a fierce, driving beat that will kick the system square in the balls, and possibly demolish them all.
The Angry Women’s Choir by Meg Bignell was published on 5th July 2022 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Meg here: