Today’s feature post is my Q&A with author Kirsty Manning! Kirsty discusses her
book The Midsummer Garden, published by Allen & Unwin Australia and available now. Welcome to Talking Books Blog Kirsty!
How long have you been an author?
I started writing fiction about two years ago through an online writing course. I co-published a cookbook in 2010 (We Love Food), and had academic work published, but no fiction. Not even a short story!
But I have worked as a lifestyle features writers for about a decade. So I have lots of experience with writing place, food, design and capturing the essence of dialogue. You have to write pretty fast, and clean.
It’s funny, even though I’d been a jobbing writers for years, I couldn’t call myself a writer or author until I finished the fifth draft! Somewhere in among all the words I realised I just had to start believing in my story, and myself. Lo and behold, I became an author and wrote the book!
What is the most difficult aspect of your artistic process?
Finishing! On a more serious note, I find tweaking the plot, making both eras work as their own entity, then tie in with the other plot line quite a challenge. Somehow the book needs to find it’s own rhythm across both eras. I adore doing the research, but the challenge is to make sure that does not dictate the story. So you have to research the history in, then write so it feels natural. Or write a bit of plot, then find what history you need in there to make it believable. It’s give and take the whole way.
It’s a bit like putting together a jigsaw where you don’t know what shape the pieces are yet! But it’s an amazing feeling when it comes together.
Can you tell us a scene that didn’t make the cut while writing The Midsummer Garden?
Oh so many! There was a scene where Pip’s parents died in the very first unfinished draft. But I decided that I loved them too much, so they had to stay!
There were a couple of other wonderful characters with subplots that went nowhere (in different countries) . But I think I’m keeping said characters for another book as they are still in my mind, willing me to write a story around them. Just goes to show you should never press ‘delete’. Save the bits you cut, you never know when they’ll inspire something very different.
On average, how long does it take you to write a book?
Hmmm, well I’m writing my second book and I have given myself just under twelve months. I’m close to finishing the first draft, so should be fine. That’s where the fun starts, for me anyway. With historical fiction, there’s lots of facts to check and bits to be filled in. There’s always a surprise, and that is the delight of writing. It’s a wonderful way to fill the day.
What can readers expect next from your writing?
I want to give the reader a really sensual experience so there will be lots of travel. I am studying a different era (WWII) in different countries! I even managed a research trip.
I hope look forward to curling up and transporting themselves to other worlds. I love the beauty, symbolism and nostalgia of food-the way we connect it to place, family and friends. I’m interested in history of herbs and herbalism, and how plants can be used to heal. Gardens are also my happy place. You can tell a lot about a person, or a place/city/town/ by their gardens. And of course, the symbolism and metaphors around gardening are endless inspiration.
Readers who love those elements in my work can expect to find that in my next one.
About The Midsummer Garden by Kirsty Manning
Travelling between lush gardens in France, windswept coastlines of Tasmania, to Tuscan hillsides and beyond, The Midsummer Garden lures the reader on an unforgettable culinary and botanical journey.
1487 Artemisia is young to be in charge of the kitchens at Chateau de Boschaud but, having been taught the herbalists’ lore, her knowledge of how food can delight the senses is unsurpassed. All of her concentration and flair is needed as she oversees the final preparations for the sumptuous wedding feast of Lord Boschaud and his bride while concealing her own secret dream. For after the celebrations are over, she dares to believe that her future lies outside the Chateau. But who will she trust?
2014 Pip Arnet is an expert in predicting threats to healthy ecosystems. Trouble is, she doesn’t seem to recognise these signs in her own life. What Pip holds dearest right now is her potential to make a real difference in the marine biology of her beloved Tasmanian coastline. She’d thought that her fiance Jack understood this, believed that he knew she couldn’t make any plans until her studies were complete. But lately, since she’s finally moved in with him, Jack appears to have forgotten everything they’d discussed.
When a gift of several dusty, beautiful old copper pots arrives in Pip’s kitchen, the two stories come together in a rich and sensuous celebration of family and love, passion and sacrifice.
Published by Allen & Unwin Australia RRP $29.99, and available now.
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ABOUT KIRSTY MANNING
Kirsty Manning grew up in northern New South Wales. She has degrees in literature and communications and worked as an editor and publishing manager in book publishing for over a decade. A country girl with wanderlust, her travels and studies have taken her through most of Europe, the east and west coasts of the United States and pockets of Asia. Kirsty’s journalism and photography specialising in lifestyle and travel regularly appear in magazines, newspapers and online. In 2007, Kirsty and her husband, with two toddlers and a baby in tow, built a house in an old chestnut grove in the Macedon Ranges. Together, they planted an orchard and veggie patch, created large herbal ‘walks’ brimming with sage and rosemary, wove borders from chestnut branches and constructed far too many stone walls by hand. Kirsty loves cooking with her kids and has several large heirloom copper pots that do not fit anywhere easily, but are perfect for making (and occasionally burning) jams, chutneys and soups. With husband Alex Wilcox, Kirsty is a partner in the award-winning Melbourne wine bar Bellota, and the Prince Wine Store in Sydney and Melbourne.
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