It’s a real pleasure to welcome Kendra Smith to the blog today. Kendra’s first novel ‘Jacaranda Wife’ was published by Endeavour Press in March. It has been hugely successful and a few weeks ago was #1 on Kindle in Australia. I’ll hand over to Kendra to tell you more. Alys x
What inspired you to write Jacaranda Wife? Life. We had recently moved back to Australia and whilst I absolutely love the country, it was a time of great upheaval for me. I wanted my heroine to grapple with conflicting thoughts and issues and, at the time, I was exploring the idea of where ‘home’ is. Also, I was missing using words. I’d started typing away as the baby napped and scribbled notes where I could. Funnily enough, as the kids were young, it was one of the busiest times as a mum, but I really needed a creative outlet. Finding new and fun ways to stack the dishwasher wasn’t quite working for me – and neither was a great Australian stay-at-home mums’ sport – cake baking & icing. I was terrible at it! So I found my outlet on the computer instead.
What are your biggest influences as writer?
I think everyday life is. I would find it hard not to capture things with words. My husband often says to me, ‘your brain is so busy!’ That’s what I try to put down on paper, all my thoughts and the emotions of life. I also play with dialogue in my head on the school run, and end up feeling a bit startled as I pull up outside the school, as my head has been somewhere else. Of course, other writers inspire me, too, and how brilliantly they write, how they can capture the essence of something in a few words and how writing styles can differ so much and convey so much emotion in one sentence.
Do you think being a journalist previously helped you to get established as an author?
I think being a journalist meant that I am used to working with words and enjoy writing. The idea of penning, say 1,000 words from the off didn’t phase me, as it might do some other non-writers. But in a funny way, it hindered me for a while. For years you are taught to write about facts. Is this true? What backs it up? What are the figures for this trend, how can we explain it? The stress of editing on a national woman’s title never leaves you, as I’d remember how I’d look over the copy and wonder if it had been checked properly, when you found yourself ringing the writer to say, ‘so when you say that the coffee was black, was it actually black, can you remember it being black? What kind of black?’ And then realising that you took your job far too seriously.
When it came to fiction, I felt like I was free-falling; all my normal guide ropes for writing had vanished, I had to hold onto new ones. I spent a lot of time reading about how to write fiction: I was playing in a totally new playground this time and wasn’t always sure what the rules were. I remember thinking, once I got into my stride, ‘I’m making this up!’ as I tapped away at the keyboard, and was feeling slightly guilty! But it was fun, I was learning all the time – in fact, you never stop, do you?
How important do you think the old saying ‘write what you know’ is?
I think it can be very important, because then the writing will be from the heart. Also, I really feel you need to have lived a bit of life before you can write. Wasn’t it Joanna Trollope who said you can only create your ‘best works’ after you are 35? She felt that you needed life to have ‘knocked you about a bit’? I think that’s true. You have stories, feelings and emotions which you simply couldn’t mine out of yourself, say, in your early 20s.
As for writing about what you know, for me, having lived in Australia on and off for almost 10 years, I wanted to capture some of the essence of the country, some of the challenges it presents to you when you first get there (humorous and emotional ones) and I also wanted to remember its beauty and spirit; so for me, I certainly did write about ‘what I knew.’ Equally, however, you need to do your research and talk to people if you are ‘covering’ a topic or emotional situation that you know nothing about. For example, you need to read about or interview someone concerning about a particular journey they have had (IVF, cancer, bereavement, sibling rivalry etc) in order to be able to create believable characters who have travelled down the same road.
What’s been your writing highlight so far?
I think reaching the number one spot in the Australia Kindle charts a couple of weeks ago, really was one of my absolute highlights. My husband came home and with a lovely bottle of pink champagne that night – it matches the cover! It was such a marker for me, for all the hard work, that it had reached that spot. So, thank you, Aussie readers!
If you had three writing-related wishes what would they be?
That I could have a machine that kept my coffee hot in my study. The number of times I re-heat my coffee, which has gone cold by my computer… That I could go on a week’s writing course or retreat and really take myself away from everyday life, when I need to read through my book and get expert help. That I could meet Allison Pearson in person!
What’s your connection with Australia (other than the fact that Jacaranda Wife is set there)?
Huge. The whole family have dual nationality and my youngest son was born there. I have lived there on and off for almost 10 years, but currently live in Surrey. I went straight to Sydney after I graduated with the intention of working around Australia and making cappuccinos for tourists. What in fact happened was that I got a job on a magazine and absolutely loved Sydney. After that, came the travelling, a move back to London, but then two other long periods back in Sydney. So I’ve lived there as a young working woman, travelled to every state except WA, I’ve been there without kids soaking up Sydney’s nightlife and beaches – learned to scuba dive on the barrier reef and body board on the Northern Beaches; I did a 1km ocean swim for charity – practically drowned when I thought a shark was underneath me, (in fact it was a diver employed to deter any possible sharks) – and have been back as a married mum with three children. We have great friends there too. It’s definitely our second home.
What has surprised you most about being published?
You somehow imagine that once you are published, that that might be ‘it’. Rather like when the lovely NCT woman talked to you about motherhood, the whole focus of the course was on giving birth. Having a baby, as everyone knows, is really just the start of a long learning curve. She forgot to mention the months of vomit and the sore tits. And giving ‘birth’ to a book is the same, you’ve got to grow and learn your trade once the book is published, much like parenting! There has been so much work to do in terms of networking, promoting Jacaranda Wife. All lovely things to do, but all very time consuming. And it’s been a very steep learning curve, but fantastic fun.
What are you working on now?
As well as all my Tweeting, Facebooking, buying surf boards for our next holiday, guest blogging and tearing three boys apart from fighting over one Kitkat, I’m writing my second book. It’s about three women who all have different wants and desires – plus a few secrets. Essentially, it’s about love, honesty and friendship.
Thank you so much for letting me take part!
Here’s a taste of Jacaranda Wife… When a double dip recession hits along with a tax bill, most people tighten their belts, cancel the summer holiday and look for the two-for-one offers. But not Katie Parkes. The home-loving mother of two from London finds herself tightening her seatbelt on a plane to Australia, where her husband has been sent to save their financial bacon. And, she realises, it might just be what they need to save their marriage… Trouble is, she doesn’t much like heat, can’t swim properly, hates spiders and finds herself further outside the M25 than is strictly necessary. Then there’s the Sydney yummy mummy with a cleavage you’d lose your car keys in eyeing up her husband, bouts of homesickness – and a few deadly spiders. Taking the bull by the horns (or at least pulling on an old Speedo) she tackles her fear of the ocean first. Find out how Katie copes in her new country – does it provide the spark to ignite her marriage, or send the whole thing up in smoke…?
Sophie King, best-selling author of The School Run: ‘An entertaining, fast-moving, page-turner for anyone dreaming of a new life….’
Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space in the late 80s. She has lived and worked in London and Sydney, working on Cosmopolitan, OK! Magazine and the BBC’s Eve as well as freelance for Woman & Home, Delicious, New Woman, Prima Baby and Junior. Born in sunny Singapore, she was educated in sub-zero Scotland, including Aberdeen University. She has lived in Australia three times. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children. Jacaranda Wife is her first novel and she is well underway with her second when she’s not burning food.
Find her on www.aforauthors.com and www.kendrasmith.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @KendraAuthor or https://www.facebook.com/kendrasmithauthor Book link http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jacaranda-Wife-Kendra-Smith-ebook/dp/B00UZ2B3UE/ref