Celebrated best-selling international author Monica McInerney already has next year well planned when she returns to Dublin and her husband to take on new writing commitments.
Like many, COVID-19 has turned her year upside down, but she has tackled it with her usual skill and good humour.
Monica’s new book, The Godmothers, is a family mystery story as its follows Eliza Miller, the main character, as she searches for the father she has never met and also for the truth about her mother’s troubled life.
“I also think it is a story about moral dilemmas because Eliza’s two godmothers know all the family secrets, which is their torment, how much do they share?” Monica says from Adelaide in an interview with Have a Go News.
“It’s a book about how generations keep secrets from one another and the question is: is it good to keep secrets or is it better to lie?”
Monica is currently living with her mother in Adelaide before she embarks on a South Australia-wide personal promotion of her new book with online and Zoom events listed in other states.
She says she did research at many different levels for her new book which she started writing in 2018.
“I went to every setting two or three times where possible so I did three trips to Edinburgh and to every location mentioned in the book, including Gretna Green.
“I had a fantastic contact in the hotel industry in Dublin in terms of background material for the way a boutique hotel is run.
“The psychological side of the story focuses on a motherless young woman so I did a lot of reading on that subject, about the impact on their personality and their choices.
“I am quite careful about research, though after being a published author for 20 years, not to fall down research rabbit holes, because you can sometimes undertake research for three months rather than writing your book which is what you are supposed to be doing. I know my characters well, know what had happened and I don’t plot my books in advance.
“I knew this young woman had a tragedy with her mother which was the starting point and then it was a matter of seeing where things led me. So I often did my research as I was going along.”
By contrast to the heroine in her new book, Monica grew up in a family of seven children in the Clare Valley of South Australia and has been living between Australia and Ireland for twenty years.
She and her Irish husband John Drislane (a former journalist who had a stint on The West Australian newspaper) normally live in Dublin but this year’s events changed that.
I’m 55 now so I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my life.
Monica also has an Irish background with her grandparents settling in South Australia in the 1840s.
“My Dad was the stationmaster at Clare and, after his death, Mum moved down to Adelaide. I was visiting Mum on a work trip in March when everything happened, so I took up residence in her tiny spare room. John and I have been together for 30 years so it’s like we are having a courtship again. We write to each other and send emails.
“John ran a regional newspaper in Ireland which closed down, so he is pretty much retired though he has spent a few years writing a television drama series.
“I was the middle one in the family and growing up Mum and Dad were very hospitable, we always had people staying and visiting. I grew up in a cauldron of story ideas with lots of dialogue and chat. I’m 55 now so I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my life. In my books, I use emotions I have experienced, great love, great grief, sibling rivalry; I pin these emotions on to fictional characters.”
Monica is also excited about her first foray into children’s book writing with Marcie Gill and the Caravan Cat Adventures.
“I’m absolutely loving it, it’s a whole new world of writing for me. I have lots of nieces and nephews, I started in children’s publishing many years ago and worked in the Here’s Humphrey children’s television show.
“I’m working with illustrator Danny Snell which is a whole new world for me.”
Flights permitting, Monica hopes to rejoin her husband in Dublin in mid November.
“I think I will lock myself in an attic for a year, I have a new adult novel to write for my publishers, I have ideas for that and I’m also writing two new books in the Marcie Gill series so I will be shackled to my desk but I love it.”
Away from her desk Monica is a keen amateur photographer.
“It’s my hobby, I take lots of nature photos and have a very visual memory. John is a really good gardener and has a beautiful cottage garden at home. I spend so much time at my desk on a computer, the antidote is looking at petals and leaves close up.”
The Godmothers (Penguin Random House Australia) $32.99, is available from all good bookshops.
Monica will speak about her book online through the City of Mandurah on 20 October and with a Zoom event at the Stirling Library Karrinyup on 22 October.