Leanne Barrett: A Trip of a Lifetime: Monica McInerney @ Harry Hartog Woden

Tuesday 11 July 2017

A Trip of a Lifetime: Monica McInerney @ Harry Hartog Woden

Are you looking for a consummate story teller about families? I think I found one last night in Monica McInerney at Harry Hartog Bookseller, Woden.

I was one of 80 women (plus store manager James) who were entranced by Monica's story telling ability. But don't all authors tell stories? I hear you ask. Yes, they all do tell stories in words but not all authors are great public speakers, Monica is an engaging speaker.

I have never read a Monica McInerney book, until now, so I have quite a back-list of books to read. Monica has written 12 books to date and will begin writing her 13th book upon her return to Dublin in Ireland, once this book tour is finished. 

Monica has lived half her life in Australia and the other half in Ireland. She grew up in Clare Valley, South Australia as the middle child of seven children. Monica told the audience that her books are 'not autobiographical but emotionally biographical.' Monica has experienced many of the same emotions that her character Lola Quinlan encounters in the book, The Trip of a Lifetime.

The Trip of a Lifetime is the third book in the Quinlan Family Saga. The main character, Lola Quinlan, has decided to visit Ireland for the first time after 65 years of living in Australia. Lola doesn't travel alone, she is accompanied by her granddaughter and great-granddaughter. In this story you will delve through the themes of homesickness, sibling rivalry, secrets, grief, lies that we tell ourselves, homecoming and most importantly this story is told with splashes of humour.

Last night Monica brought Lola to life though her stories about writing this novel.  Lola is that grandmother who is quick witted, flamboyant but wilful. Monica said, 'I can only write Lola's dialogue if I wear lipstick.' This demonstrates how powerful Lola's presence is for Monica. Lola has a strong personality and Monica could clearly identify the type of home town Lola originated from. As Monica and her husband drove around County Kildare she found herself saying  to her husband 'Oh no. Lola wouldn't live here.' and knew instantly when she had found the right location for the Irish setting.

For Monica it is the tiny details included in the story-line that makes a story ring true. She researches all kinds of aspects like where the character lives and how they do things or how they got to school over 70 years ago. I'm sure that it is this kind of commitment to her stories and characters that drew such a large crowd to the event last night.

Monica has a delightful way that she talks to a room of her fans. Upon meeting her you feel like you have known her forever as she is friendly, personable, vivacious, open, superstitious and deeply emotional. Last night she wove a story about her life and her stories' characters. She told us that her ideas come from everywhere that '...authors are like walking compost bins...' that everything that a author sees and hears mulches down and is used to grow a story. 

Monica's way of developing a story also resonated with the writers in the room. 

Tips for writers based on Monica's comments
  • Write 2000 words a day (Stephen Kind suggests 1000 words a day in his book On Writing.
  • Email drafts to yourself in  case your computer crashes, then you have a copy somewhere.
  • Ideas come from everywhere.
  • Stop writing in the middle of a scene so you have somewhere to start writing the next day.
  • Writers can uses post it notes rather than note books to record notes.
  • Writing cannot begin until you name the characters.
  • Travel to all the locations of your story, except maybe Antarctica.
  • Don't base characters on people you know because this might hold you character back from doing things.
  • No paddywhackery - No stereotyped portrayal of Irish people.
  • Learn from other authors by attending launches and talks.
  • Book covers and titles can change especially when books are published internationally, often as an authors you have no say in this process e.g. see Lola's Secret covers.
  • Read, read, read.
  • Writers spend a lot to time with imaginary people and worlds so maybe have a ritual to end the day's writing to help you leave the imagination behind and re-enter your life.

What was the first book that gave Monica her love of reading?
Monica was unsure of the exact title of the book but it was about Carlie's Birthday Party. Monica said, 'At the end of the book was a recipe for the cake. I asked my mother if we could make it and she said "yes"...it was the first time that I realised that words are recipes not just stories.'

What are some genres or authors that Monica likes to read?
Australian Fiction
The Classics
Elizabeth Strout
Helen Garner
Gail Honeyman
Ann Patchett

Final word: Read Read Read

Title: The Trip of a Lifetime
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia 
ISBN: 9780143786313

Other books in the Quinlan Family Saga.
The Alphabet Sisters
Lola's Secret

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