Isa Pearl Ritchie is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in social science.
Isa talks to NZ Booklovers about her latest novel.
Tell us a little about The Seekers’ Garden.
‘The Seekers’ Garden is a book club style novel, following five characters at different stages of their lives. Their stories are all interconnected which leads to the overall plot. This novel was sparked by my own curiosity about people in different life-stages, and about how people utilise spirituality to get them through hard times, and to help themselves to cope, grow and thrive.
What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration for this book came to me one day as I was gardening in the front yard of an old family house. I was digging up old bottles and unidentified chunks of metal from decades past and it struck me that there was an apt metaphor here about the old baggage that families often carry and try to bury, but that burdens later generations. The idea came to me for Marcia, a character struck by sudden loss who crosses the world to confront her family's past and finds herself in her old childhood home, digging up weeds. The weeds themselves are a metaphor for different kinds of emotional issues.
What research was involved?
There were various different kinds of research. Some of it was experiential, as I was doing a lot of gardening and learning about that in my own life. I had to figure out what was happening with the seasons in different parts of the world at various points in time and also, there were kinds of research such as for the teenage character Lea I went back to my old notebooks and journals from when I was a teenager and tried to tap into that incredibly intense emotion. I used some of my old poetry for her character too. From the safety of adulthood, it's hard to remember how acute everything can be for teenagers, so I wanted to make sure I was accurately capturing that kind of experience.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I didn't really have a routine for this book. It took me a number of years to complete. I would get some inspiration for it and write it in bursts with long periods where I was 'resting' it, in between
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
As this book is quite introspective I imagine it would have a lot of ambient music as a background track. Probably some kind of dark intense rock music for some of Lea's scenes, and lighter, more optimistic songs for Iris.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
As it's quite a New Zealand book I imagine they would ideally be New Zealand actors. It would be amazing to have someone like Lucy Lawless playing Marcia.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
I enjoyed the characters the most. I liked how they became so real to me that I'd often have conversations with them in my head, like imaginary friends.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I was already on a bit of a writing retreat/holiday when finishing this book, so I had a beer in the spa pool!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
It's hard to name just one. I suppose, probably Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, because it's so helpful for how I think about creativity and putting my work out into the world. I've started reading it for a third time!
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I have a non-fiction book coming out this month - Food, Freedom, Community. It's based on the research I did for my PhD thesis about local food systems, community initiatives and food sovereignty. I also have a few other projects on the backburner but none that I'm ready to talk about yet.
Te Rā Aroha Press