Interview: Carole Brungar talks about Loving Summer
Carole Brungar is a multi-award-winning author whose novels have attracted international acclaim and put her in the NZ Booksellers Top 10 for NZ fiction. She writes women’s fiction and 20th century historical fiction. She is best known for her Vietnam-related novels, The Nam Legacy, The Nam Shadow, Going Home and Loving Summer. They have been described as powerful, gritty, and authentic, and also evocative and hauntingly beautiful. NZ Booklovers talk to Carole Brungar about her new novel, Loving Summer.
Tell us about your new novel.
Loving Summer is my fourth Vietnam-related story. This time we meet a young married soldier serving in Vietnam. At Christmas he, by chance, opens a Christmas card and as a result of an accusation written inside, he feels compelled to write back to the sender, a young free-spirited teenage girl. This story is about the relationship that forms between these two unlikely characters.
What inspired you to write this book?
Several ideas inspired me. I learned that New Zealand soldiers received mail at Christmas which was sent to them from schools around New Zealand; I wanted to explore the idea of a relationship between a soldier and a hippie, one lifestyle so structured and one so free; I love the period of time the book is set in ; and I wanted to honour the death of a close friend.
What research was involved?
Most of the intense research has been done for previous books, but I did need to learn more about a couple of elements of the story: the Nambassa Music Festival of 1979 and the commune scene back during those years. I didn’t realise there were so many in New Zealand at this time. I love research, and once I started, I was fascinated and entertained by some aspects of our social history that I’d forgotten about.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
As I work a day job, I write at night and on weekends.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Wow, hard question! There was so much great music produced during those years, but I guess, We Gotta Get Out of this Place by The Animals, Break on Through by the Doors, Sealed with a Kiss by Brian Hyland. There’s so many more I could include.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
Perhaps Ben Van Lier, Tom Paterson or Dwayne Cameron as Scott and Manon Blackman, Jessica Grace Smith or Nina Somerville as Summer. I’m open to suggestions though.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
I’d typically say, typing The End, but actually this story was much easier to write than previous ones. I really enjoyed researching the Nambassa festival. It was a bit like going and brought back lots of memories of the music, the prices of the food, the vehicles, the lifestyles, and the freedoms we had back then.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I took some time to read for pleasure which I miss when I’m reading for research most of the time. I visited with my mum for a week and spent time in my garden. Luxury!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I have been making my way through Lucinda Riley’s back catalogue and am loving her stories. I couldn’t pick out any single story, but she does a great job of world-building which inspires me and my writing.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I am already halfway into my next story which will be the last one that’s Vietnam related. This time it has a contemporary setting where one of the characters from a previous story goes back to Vietnam.