How would you sum up Sex, Lies & Bonsai in a nutshell? Well, it is very apt that you should use the word, nutshell, because it is a story about coming out of your shell. Edie, the protagonist, is a shy misfit and I wanted to see what would happen if she was brave enough to let all her rich inner life come out.
What’s an average day in your life like? With school holidays, my new book coming out, Christmas etc. it seems like a while since I've had an average day. But as I recall, it goes something like this: wake up about 6.30, go for a surf, see my son off to school, do as much writing as possible until he comes home again, do a bit of yoga or go for a walk, make dinner, tool around on Facebook or read until about 10, then crash out. I lead a pretty quiet life really.
Where did the idea for the funny crab sex scenarios in Sex, Lies & Bonsai come from? Quite a while ago I did a degree in zoology and got a part-time job drawing crab larvae for one of the professors. I decided to give this job to Edie and from there it seemed a very short step to sexual fantasies involving crabs. You know how your mind wanders when you’re doing a boring job...
Most interesting thing you’ve done for book research? I recently did a tour of 'Big Things' from my home in Lennox Head (not far from the Big Prawn) up to Tewantin near Noosa, which is home to the Big Pelican and the Big Shell. I am blessed, or possibly cursed, to live in an area with a multitude of Big Things. These feature largely (ha ha) in my work in progress.
In your debut novel, Liar Bird, your depiction of the fashionable Sydney PR world is spot-on. Did you ever work in that world? Not exactly, but I did work in Sydney for six years and I have worked in public relations, so I extrapolated. I always look at the Sun-Herald social pages too, and that glamorous, but rather vacuous party image is the one that I had in my mind. I'm glad it seemed spot-on!
You’ve worked as an igloo builder and wilderness guide in the Snowy Mountains and in community relations for National Parks. Wildlife and nature is obviously important to you. Do you think it’ll always be a theme of your books? Not necessarily, although it does come naturally to me to write in a character or two with environmental interests as I know a lot of people like that. For example, in Sex, Lies & Bonsai, Daniel, Edie’s ex, is an environmental lawyer.
Did you always want to be an author? what made you go from radio plays to novel writing? Well, at first I wanted to be a dolphin trainer, but after that, yes. For a long time it didn’t seem like an achievable goal, so I did other things. But then I eventually decided that I needed to give it a serious try or stop thinking about it. From that moment it took almost 10 years to get published! The radio play was a bit of a fluke. I just went along to a workshop on writing radio plays, then had a go at turning one of my short stories into a play and, voila, it was accepted by the ABC – sheer beginner's luck. Having the play produced was a lot of fun, but I think the novel is my natural medium.
Any hints on what you’re working on next? I'm doing a Masters in Creative Writing at the moment and as part of that I have pledged to write a romantic comedy about climate change. It's a funny idea, but someone has to do it, right?
Why romantic comedy? And what do you think makes a story of this genre “zing”? While I read very widely, my favourite type of novel is one that lifts my mood and makes me feel good. For me, that means romantic comedy. I’d like to think that readers will laugh a bit, maybe cry a bit and come away smiling from one of my books. When I think about the romantic comedies I have enjoyed most, they all have in common distinctive believable characters. Great dialogue is also essential. I love those old movies with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant where the dialogue sizzles. It's so witty and I try to aim for a bit of that feel.