Hannah from NZ Booklovers chats with Meg Frith about her latest novel Trip ‘n Die, writing, and her plans for the future.
When did you decide to make the plunge into writing that first novel?
When I was a kid I wanted to write a book one day, but then I also wanted to be a secret agent and had a hankering to be abducted by aliens (nice ones). I took an extra-mural course through NZIBS in my thirties, just after I got married. After that, I couldn’t let the idea of writing a novel go.
Are you still holding down the day job? If so, how do you find the time and energy to keep working on the next novel?
Yes, I still have a day job. I’ve got “energy” and “courage” printed on some coasters at home. Maybe it’s subliminal messaging. What gets me is women who have a partner (or not), have kids that are involved in every activity imaginable, hold down a full-time job and have hobbies. Now that’s energy! (And yet, one of my other personalities wants to say: ‘Don’t they know about reincarnation? They can do all that stuff over several lifetimes and have a much easier time of it.’)
How is the second novel coming along?
Well, I’ve already got two draft manuscripts done and in editing mode: a kids book (for 8-12 year olds—super cute, but funny and exciting) and a sci-fi/chick-lit novel (yep, you read that right!). I’ve also started a new novel (suspense/drama) under the guidance of Sonny Whitelaw (NZWriters’ College). Always learning. Besides, if I don’t write my head would explode. Can you imagine the mess? There’d be bits of stories all over the place.
Does your leading lady in Trip ’n Die reflect your own character?
Personally, I think all of the characters in this novel are inside everyone: The self-conscious and naive Jennifer, the lovely Lucy, the callous Carla, the practical Paul. Nobody is only one thing. The trick, I guess, is to let the good “you” shine through as much as possible. And if the bad “you” surfaces, put a bag on your head and don’t leave the house.
You have an incredible sense of humour and style – do you expect to stay on that track or did it just feel right for this novel?
Thank you! It fitted Trip ’n Die. Although when I wrote the sci-fi/chick-lit manuscript it was supposed to be a standard novel with a sci-fi element. Humour crept in. It tends to do that. Sneaky bugger.
What has the response been to your first novel and has the experience been as you expected?
Response has been great—I’m on my second print run. Now though, I’m keen to give it to a New Zealand distributor to handle and just get on with the business of writing/finishing my other books. Sales is not my forte.
Experience-wise, the highs were the unexpected events. At work, for example: the CEO found out I’d just published Trip ’n Die so he bought the first paperback copy (in the world!) then announced my book at a staff meeting later that day. Loads of people bought it. I just about cried. They’re a very supportive lot, my colleagues.
Might we hear more from Jennifer Cornwall?
I’ve half written the sequel—Lemon Eye. While it has the same humour, I’m not happy with parts of the plot so I’ll rethink it before going any further. Jennifer does get herself in some rather hilarious predicaments though.
How would you describe your daily writing routine and space?
If I’m writing (the old way, you know, with a pen), it has to write like cream. Typing, the keyboard has to be comfortable. I don’t have a specific routine. I do end up writing in some quite quirky places though. I wrote my winning story for last year’s Page & Blackmore competition in the sauna.
Do you ever get struck by writers block? What are your tricks for coping with it?
No. The idea for my latest novel (drama/suspense) was triggered when I was at the hairdressers. A guy walked in with his two little kids. BOOM! Entire plot before I finished getting a trim. The problem is cramp in my hand while trying to scribble the ideas down before my wafer-brain loses sight of them!
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished reading The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (an Aussie writer). Loved it! Now, even though I don’t have the excuse of children, I’m about to start Mary McCallum’s children’s book Dappled Annie & the Tigrish. It’s been in my must-read pile for ages, and I hear it’s very good. After that, I might re-read my own novel Trip ’n Die because I can’t remember all the details. Told you I had a wafer-brain. It has its advantages though—I get to enjoy a good laugh at my humour over and over. When I become famous, I’ll probably volunteer to be the voice of the Alzheimer’s Foundation—if I remember.