Episode 13: Hannah Kent

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Australian author Hannah Kent (left) with Book Ends host, Philippa Moore

And just like that, it’s December and the last Book Ends episode for 2013 is (finally) ready for your listening pleasure.

Although this interview took place during a heatwave in September, Hannah Kent‘s haunting and beautifully written first novel Burial Rites, one of the most talked-about Australian débuts of 2013, is actually perfect winter reading!

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

In 1829, the last public execution in Iceland took place – a man and a woman were beheaded for a brutal murder committed on a remote farm. As there were no prisons in Iceland at the time, the condemned woman, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, is sent to spend her final months on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, under the watch of his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes and regard her as something of a monster. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed to supervise Agnes’s spiritual wellbeing, tries to understand her. As the months pass, the winter deepens and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, the true story of Agnes’s crime unravels and it is revealed to be far more complex than anyone imagined or, more to the point, was willing to believe.

Set against the backdrop of the exquisite Icelandic landscape, which I’ve actually seen with my own eyes so I can attest to how hauntingly beautiful it is, Burial Rites is a compelling read and a moving meditation on human nature, on truth, survival, freedom and on the painful gulf that often exists between how we are seen by the outside world and how we see ourselves. 

Hannah was born in Adelaide in 1985 and found herself in Iceland at age 18 as an exchange student – not in Reykjavik as she thought, but in a remote fishing village in Iceland’s north called Sauðárkrókur…so remote, Hannah couldn’t even find it in her atlas! Despite struggling at first to find her place in the close-knit community there, Hannah fell in love with Iceland and has since returned many times. But it was on her very first visit, as a teenager, that she first heard the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir and was instantly captivated.

Returning to Australia, Hannah completed a BA and in her honours year, she submitted a creative writing project inspired by Agnes’s story. Encouraged by this (and now certain this was well and truly a story she wanted to write), she then embarked on a PhD in Creative Writing, for which Burial Rites was her project. She submitted the first draft of Burial Rites to the inaugural Australian Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2011, which it went on to win! Burial Rites has now been published in Australia, the UK and the US and has been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.

Persist. It’s really important not to let any feelings of insecurity or disbelief in your own ability paralyse you. Just keep on pushing through and maybe accept that you will always feel this way….but you’ll never be objective about your own work and therefore shouldn’t listen to yourself! And be disciplined. Write regularly, even when you don’t want to. Don’t wait until you’re inspired because you’ll so rarely feel that way. Persistence and the ability to work very hard on something consistently pays out a lot more than talent.”

– pearls of wisdom from Hannah Kent in this interview

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I wasn’t ready for the camera!

Highly articulate, funny, modest and generous, Hannah was a delight to interview and this was such an enjoyable hour or so that we spent together in her publisher’s office in London. I can’t wait to see what she does next.  Thank you so much Hannah for being on the show!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Guests

Hannah Kent
Australian writer

Publications mentioned

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Picador)

Fred and Edie by Jill Dawson (Sceptre)

The Icelandic Sagas (Penguin)

Kill Your Darlings (literary journal of which Hannah is Publishing Director)

You can also read a great interview with Hannah at Bookanista and I’d also recommend reading Hannah’s own account of the Burial Rites journey in the April 2013 issue of Kill Your Darlings.

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 
Music
“Aurora” by Bjork (buy on iTunes

Book Ends, Episode 12: Jessica Brockmole

My guest for Episode 12 is Jessica Brockmole, author of the novel Letters from Skye and the very first American writer on the show.

Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole – photo by Sarah Lyn Acevedo (from jabrockmole.com)

A lover of books from an early age and a linguist by trade, Jessica began writing her own stories after the birth of her children. She and her young family moved to Edinburgh for a few years, where she kept in touch with family back home mostly through letters and emails. “At that time I was exploring epistolary relationships in my own life, trying to stay in touch and depending on words to hold things together,” she says.

It was on a week away from the bustle of Edinburgh on the more isolated, quiet and dream-like Isle of Skye that Jessica had the idea for her novel, captivated by the atmosphere on Skye and the hidden histories it seemed to have. She started writing Letters From Skye on the way home.

Letters from Skye takes an unusual format for a modern novel – the narrative is entirely in letters, allowing for an intimate and ultimately very compelling read as we get deep into the hearts and minds of these characters as their lives span both two continents and two world wars.

The story follows Elspeth, a poet living on the Isle of Skye before the outbreak of the First World War, and David (or Davey as he comes to be known), who writes to her from America, initially as a fan of her work but eventually, as time goes on, as her friend and lover. However, their blossoming relationship is cut short by the outbreak of war. It is only several decades later, after an early shell from the Second World War destroys part of their house, that Elspeth’s daughter Margaret begins to piece together what really happened.

Now living in Indiana, Jessica’s road to publication was not an easy one – she wrote long into the night after her family went to bed and amassed an eye-watering 200 rejections before finally selling her book. Her resilient and tenacious story is sure to inspire every aspiring novelist out there!

Jessica was in the UK in August for the Edinburgh Book Festival and I was fortunate enough to grab some time with her on her whistle-stop tour of London.  Thank you again Jessica for a thoroughly enjoyable chat!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Guests

Jessica Brockmole
American writer

Publications mentioned

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole (Hutchinson)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Wordsworth Classics)

Little House On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Egmont)

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 
Music
“Other Side Of The World” by KT Tunstall (buy on iTunes

Book Ends, Episode 11: Ramona Koval

This is a rather momentous episode, listeners and readers!

My guest for Episode 11 is Ramona Koval, one of Australia’s most respected literary journalists and broadcasters, who hosted the now departed Book Show on ABC Radio National for over five years. Known for her fascinating in-depth interviews with writers, it’s fair to say that Ramona and her work have been a real influence on me. In fact, the end of The Book Show devastated me so much that I was moved to start this very podcast!

Ramona Koval

Ramona Koval

In addition to her work as a broadcaster, Ramona is also editor of The Best Australian Essays (2011 and 2012 editions) and hosts The Monthly’s online book club.

She has written reviews, features and columns for newspapers including The Age and The Weekend Australian. She has been a guest interviewer at international literary festivals in Edinburgh, Montreal, Berlin, Cheltenham, Auckland, Wellington and all over Australia.

Ramona is also a writer in her own right, having written a novel, Samovar, collections of interviews including Speaking Volumes, and a cook book, Jewish Cooking, Jewish Cooks. Ramona’s love of books started very early in her life, as it did for me.

“Books could take you out of your own life, to another family, another country….you could live many lives, not just the life you had.”

– Ramona Koval, in this interview

So, fittingly, her most recent book is By The Book: A Reader’s Guide to Life, a journey through her life as a reader and book lover. Part memoir, part literary and social history, and written with Ramona’s trademark warmth, it’s a celebration of the books that have meant a great deal to her over the years but also a meditation on how the books we read often shape our lives, our characters, our understanding of the world and even occasionally our destinies.

When I was in Melbourne in June, knowing in all likelihood I wouldn’t be there again for some time, I thought I’d be brave and ask Ramona if she would be interested in being a guest on this podcast. To my utter delight (and shock and amazement) she graciously agreed.

For the first time in my life, I was about 20 minutes early for our appointment and so I enjoyed a soy latte – there is nothing like Melbourne coffee – in a cafe around the corner and re-read a bit of her book while I waited:

By The Book

And then I walked the block or so up to a National Trust house, trams merrily ding-dinging past.  This “funny little house” (as Ramona put it!) has been converted into offices of sorts which are rented out to writers to use as their working space. Ramona kindly brewed me some Greek mountain tea and we sat in her sparse office, the early winter afternoon sky slowly darkening and only a long desk with a computer, a small pile of books and our steaming mugs of tea and my mp3 recorder between us. It really was one of those “pinch yourself” moments.

In this generous and intimate interview, Ramona expands on some of the tales she tells in By The Book; sharing some of the books that have shaped her and that she associates with particular times in her life (there are some rather hilarious stories!); her eclectic range of interests; memorable moments in her broadcasting career; and the transition from life as a journalist to life as a writer.

It’s not often in life that you get to actually meet the people who inspired you to get going on your own path and to be able to thank them in person. I am grateful that starting this podcast has enabled me to meet so many of those people and particularly in this case. I did not take a minute of being there for granted. It was one of the happiest and proudest afternoons of my career.

Ramona Koval and Philippa Moore

Thank you Ramona for all the inspiration over the years and for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon chatting in your studio. Thank you Tom for the usual brilliant stirring and mixing of the audio. And thank YOU for listening!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Ramona’s latest book, By The Book: A Reader’s Guide To Life is currently available at bookshops in Australia and New Zealand and will be published in the UK and the US in November 2013.

Guests

Ramona Koval
Australian writer, journalist and broadcaster

Publications mentioned

By The Book: A Reader’s Guide To Life by Ramona Koval (Text)

Eating Your Heart Out: Food, Shape and the Body Industry by Ramona Koval (Penguin) (out of print)

The Trial by Franz Kafka (Penguin Modern Classics)

Ulysses by James Joyce (Wordsworth Editions)

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H Lawrence (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Penguin Classics)

 The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Harvill Press Editions)

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Complete Kama Sutra by Mallanaga Vatsyayana and Alain Danielou (trans) (Inner Traditions Bear and Company)

Clara: A Novel by Janice Galloway (Simon & Schuster)

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius and Robert Graves (trans) (Penguin Classics)

The Icelandic Sagas (Penguin)

The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights by Malcolm and Ursula Lyons (trans) (Penguin Classics)

Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain by Roger Deakin (Vintage)

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin (Penguin)

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 
Music
“At The Western Wall” by Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier (from their excellent album Stories of Ghosts, buy here

Book Ends, Episode 10: Rae Earl

And just like that, we’re on Episode 10 of Book Ends! I had every intention of it being more regular than this but I’m happy we’re still churning them out as the literary world proves to be a goldmine of interesting and inspiring people to chat to.

Rae Earl

The special guest for this episode is Rae Earl, author of My Mad Fat Teenage Diary, which became an acclaimed TV series, My Mad Fat Diary, earlier this year on E4 (the book is now referred to as My Mad Fat Diary too).

The book is a collection of the journals Rae kept the year she turned 17 – it was 1989, the Berlin Wall was still up, Charles and Di were still together and Rae herself had just been released from a psychiatric ward, suffering from extreme anxiety, self-harm and OCD. There was very little known about, or services available for, adolescent mental health at that time and often teenagers suffering from mental illnesses were lumped in with the adults, as Rae was.

Sharon Rooney as Rae Earl in My Mad Fat Diary. Photograph: Channel 4/PA via The Guardian

As well as this to deal with was her mum’s new Moroccan bodybuilder boyfriend, constant dodging of the neighbourhood bullies (aka The Green Lane Twats) and a perpetual quest to shift some of her 14 ½ stone from her “five foot stumpy four” frame. Writing became Rae’s therapy and her journals recorded all the details of that tumultuous year.

Sharon Rooney as Rae Earl in My Mad Fat Diary, E4

Over a decade later, working as a broadcaster and married to a very lovely Aussie bloke, Rae was about to throw the diaries out when her husband noticed the pile of dog-eared notebooks and asked what they were. He encouraged her not only to keep them but to share some of the (less naughty!) content on their radio show. The response she got from their listeners motivated Rae to collate and publish the journals as My Mad Fat Teenage Diary. In the book’s introduction, Rae poignantly states:

“Everything I’ve written is true. I’ve changed people’s names but they all existed. (One person is actually a mixture of three people: Bethany – she’s three girls rolled into one. There is never just one bitch in a fat, mad girl’s life.) I’ve taken some liberties with time, but everything happened. Every word. I’m sharing it because these days it makes me laugh – and because I still see fat girls everywhere labelled as ‘bubbly with a nice personality’. And I suppose I want to tell them (and everyone else) that in the end it’s all OK. You can be fat and nuts and a virgin when you are 17 – and things can still turn out OK.”

Rae is also the author of OMG! Is This Actually My Life? Hattie Moore’s Unbelievable Year, a YA fictional diary set in the present day, published earlier this year.

In a bizarre coincidence, Rae now happens to live in my hometown and has become a close family friend. So on a recent trip back to Australia I popped round for a coffee and Rae graciously agreed to be this episode’s guest.

Rae and I in her living room, looking at her books!

Rae and I in her living room, looking at her books!

In this magnum opus of an interview, Rae shares the process of turning a personal diary into a book for all the world to read; the response to it; the events that inspired it; the surreal-ness of seeing someone playing YOU in a TV show; hidden phallus projections in English literature; and of course her tips and advice for budding young writers. She even reads excerpts from her two books – we begin with Mad Fat Diary and there’s an excerpt of Hattie Moore at 22:24. I must apologise for being unable to stifle a giggle at some point, listen out for it.

“The teenage experience goes across all generations….it could be set in 2247 and it would still work. The point is not the era, it’s the subject matter.” – Rae Earl in this interview

And like Hattie, I totally got the teasing about having the surname Moore. I even gave Rae a few more (no pun intended) to use in future Hattie stories 🙂

I got to see Rae’s writing shed too. It was as awesome as it sounds.

Where the magic happens....

Where the magic happens….

Rae and I in the shed...not much room to move. And cold, hence the blanket ;)

Rae and I in the shed…not much room to move. And cold, hence the blanket 😉

Thank you Rae for a wonderful few hours in your home, for the milk chocolate McVities and for being the most hilarious Book Ends guest I’ve had so far!

Thank you Tom (who makes his first Book Ends appearance in this episode too) for being the patient genius audio producer that you are.

And thank YOU for listening and reading and following Book Ends! I hope you enjoy this episode – it was thoroughly enjoyable to put together.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Guests

Rae Earl
British writer

Publications mentioned

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary (now released as My Mad Fat Diary) by Rae Earl (Hodder)

OMG! Is This Actually My Life? Hattie Moore’s Unbelievable Year by Rae Earl (Walker)

What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe (Penguin)

The Turn of The Screw by Henry James (Oxford Paperbacks)

Mister Men by Roger Hargreaves (Price Stern Sloan)

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend (Puffin)

1984 by George Orwell (Penguin Classics)

“This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin (poem)

My Mad Fat Diary E4 web site

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 
Music
‘I Want A Dog’ by The Pet Shop Boys (buy on iTunes)
‘Babies’ by Pulp (buy on iTunes)
‘David’s Last Summer’ by Pulp (buy on iTunes)

Book Ends, Episode 8: Pippa Kendrick

Welcome to another episode of Book Ends, the podcast for writers and book lovers.  This episode may be the most delicious yet….it’s all about cookbooks and food writing.  If you’ve ever wanted to write a cookbook you won’t want to miss this!

In this episode, I am in conversation with cook and food writer Pippa Kendrick, author of The Intolerant Gourmet, which was named as one of The Times Top 40 Cookbooks of The Year in 2012.

The Intolerant Gourmet

After becoming seriously ill in her early twenties with complications from undiagnosed food allergies, passionate food lover Pippa began to look for ways she could adjust to her new way of life without compromising her enjoyment of food and eating.  Always a keen writer, Pippa began a food blog, also called The Intolerant Gourmet, as she explored this new terrain of allergy-friendly cooking and discovered there were many like her, daunted by what seemed to be a bland, unpalatable and unexciting but necessary way to eat.  Pippa’s zest and passion changed all that!

Pippa Kendrick

Pippa Kendrick (photo courtesy of theintolerantgourmet.com)

Pippa’s revolutionary and deservedly popular approach to indulgent, exciting and sumptuous allergy-friendly cooking has won her many fans and resulted in her first cookbook, The Intolerant Gourmet, being published last year.

In this episode, Pippa shares the journey of The Intolerant Gourmet with me, from the proposal and agent-hunting stage, through to production and finally publication.  She also shares her writing (and cooking!) routine.  There are many wonderful nuggets of inspiration in this conversation but I found this one particularly memorable:

“(Book publishing) is such a tough competitive market….if you don’t know your own potential  it will be harder for other people to see it.  Do yourself a favour and make yourself as marketable as possible.  Remember they (agents and publishers) won’t read your submission twice!”

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Many thanks to Pippa for her time in giving the interview, and do go and check out her website for more delicious recipe inspiration, including her favourite, Bakewell Tart!

“A great book tells you something you already knew but that you hadn’t said out loud.” – Pippa Kendrick, in this interview

Guests

Pippa Kendrick
British cook and food writer

Publications mentioned

The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick (Collins)

Full of Flavour: Create…How To Think Like A Chef by Maria Elia (Kyle Books)

Alice’s Cookbook by Alice Hart (Quadrille Publishing)

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury Press)

Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg (Vintage)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James (Arrow)

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon 

Book Ends, Episode 7: Isla Dewar

Welcome to another episode of Book Ends, the podcast for writers and book lovers, and the FIRST episode for 2013.  The break has been lovely but now it’s time to get back to the writing, and the talking about writing!

In this episode, I am in conversation with Scottish novelist, Isla Dewar, author of 16 novels, one of which is one of my most favourite books of all time.

Isla Dewar

Isla started her working life as a journalist but found she was drawn more to fiction than facts.  Her first novel was published when she was 40 and she’s gone on to enjoy a rather prolific career as a novelist and fiction writer.

Isla even wrote the screenplay when one of her books, Women Talking Dirty, was made into a film.  She talks to me about this process, as well as giving her tips for those who want to follow in her footsteps!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or you can download it in iTunes 

Or download the file separately to your computer.

Many thanks to Isla for her time in giving the interview.  I hope you find it as illuminating as I did.  I don’t know about you, but I feel like a good cup of coffee now 🙂

“You must master the vices.  You know that if a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing well.  If, however, a thing is not worth doing then it’s worth doing fabulously, amazingly, with grace, style and panache.” – Isla Dewar, from Women Talking Dirty

Guests

Isla Dewar
Scottish writer

Publications mentioned

Izzy’s War by Isla Dewar (Ebury Press)

Secrets of a Family Album by Isla Dewar (Headline Review)

The Consequences of Marriage by Isla Dewar (Headline Review)

Women Talking Dirty by Isla Dewar (Headline Review) (and the film of the same name)

Keeping up with Magda by Isla Dewar (Headline Review)

Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (Fourth Estate)

Unless by Carol Shields (Fourth Estate)

Girls Night In II (anthology) edited by Jessica Adams, Chris Manby and Fiona Walker (Penguin Books Australia, now out of print)

Credits

Presenter
Philippa Moore
Producer
Tom Schoon