I'm thrilled to have debut novelist Hannah Tunnicliffe stop by today for a quick interview! My thoughts on her new novel The Colour of Tea are at the end of the interview.
1. I'm always fascinated by the origin of a book. You lived in Macau for a number of years, but where did the rest come from? The idea behind the story? The French cafe and baking? (are tea and macarons a favourite with yourself)? Your main character Grace? The plot?
While on a ferry ride between Hong Kong and Macau I started to think about the character of Grace. The relationship between her and her mother came to me first and then the other aspects of the motherhood theme which are explored in the book. Characters major and minor popped up over time and the setting of Lillian’s café, which I can almost see in my mind even though it doesn’t actually exist! I tried my first macaron on a visit to Hong Kong while I was living in Macau and it was love at first bite. As for tea, I think my husband would describe me as a ‘tea geek’. At one point a good percentage of our pantry was taken up with boxes and boxes of different teas. Tea and books, I could buy them by the armful.
2. How do you squeeze in writing with small children? What does your writing day look like?
Basically I thieve the time to write wherever I can and I find little ‘rhythms’ develop. For example I might write for one hour every night for two weeks and then the baby will start teething and I have to give it up for a week, find another time for it to fit into. I have written 1,000 words a day, I have written for one hour each night at a local café and I have written every nap-time, just to name a few ‘rhythms’. I have had to learn to be very flexible about when and where writing happens. It is comforting to remember is that every other writer I know faces the same challenge in different forms. We all juggle jobs, kids, partners, pets, homes to clean, people to care for….
3. I really like the cover of The Colour of Tea - did you have input into the final say? The girl on the cover looks suspiciously like you!
That is a great question; I, too, always wondered how much input authors had into the cover art of their books. Experts in the publishing industry designed my cover art and thankfully, for readers, I had very little input into it, except to approve and gush! I was very lucky with the final result because I think it is beautiful and really reflects the book content. The woman on the cover is a model, but thank you, I will take that as a compliment…lol!
4. What do you read for pleasure? What authors have influenced your writing?
At the moment I am reading an awful lot of picture books – to my toddler! I love a range of fiction writers but particularly Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, Marcus Zusak, Joanne Harris and Ami Mckay, just to name a few. I love to pick up debut novels too, there is something nice about supporting an author who is just starting out.
5. You've lived and travelled to many parts of the world but have settled in Vancouver. How are you enjoying Canada? What stands out for you - good. bad, different?
My family and I are temporarily back in New Zealand but Canada holds a very, very special place in our hearts. My first daughter was born in Vancouver and from the midwives who cared for us, the neighbours and incredible community in Kitsilano, the Moms I met and other writers who gave me support, we were so supported and cared for. I am currently missing the Spring weather and thinking fondly about all the lovely, fresh produce at Granville Island market and the flowers starting to pop up after a winter slumber! It is such a beautiful country. However, without a doubt the best thing about Canada is the people. I found Canadians to be wonderfully kind, thoughtful, earnest and resilient. We made some great friends that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
Luanne – Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I do hope you enjoy the book!
Very best wishes, Hannah.
Thank you so much for stopping by Hannah. And yes - I enjoyed the book very much!
Grace Miller moves to Macau, China with her husband Pete. Pete's work has brought them there, and it will keep him busy, but Grace herself is adrift. For years, Pete and Grace have been trying to start a child but with no success. The stress has taken its' toll on their marriage and Grace's mental well being. She writes numerous letters, never sent, to her Mama recalling her childhood and her mother's impetuous ways. And then one day,on a rare day out, she passes an empty shop and.....a French styled cafe is born, featuring tea and macarons.
It is here that Graces' healing begins, surrounded by an eclectic group of women. And this is the meat of the story - where ups and downs are shared, friendships are formed and family is redefined. Each woman undergoes her own revelations, supported by the others. And the dessert? Well it's those macarons -Tunnicliffe's descriptions had my mouth watering!
A feel good read perfect for a shady porch swing. The Colour of Tea would appeal to fans of Kate Jacobs and Fannie Flagg. A book club would enjoy this book as well - a reading group guide is available. Read the first chapter of The Colour of Tea. See what others on the Simon and Schuster blog tour thought.