'This is the main street of Boonah,
where The Emporium of Imagination is set.'
When I picked up Tabitha Bird's highly acclaimed debut novel, A Lifetime of Impossible Days https://www.penguin.com.au/books/a-lifetime-of-impossible-days-9781760899905 in mid 2019, I was well and truly stepping out of my reading comfort zone. I was told it had a magical realism element and, despite me being a huge fan of anything a bit 'woo woo' in other parts of my life, I wasn't sure a book like that would be my cup of tea.
Wow! I could not have been MORE wrong. It was EXQUISITE. BREATHTAKING. One of those stories that once you have inhaled them, will never leave you. Veronica in a Goodreads review summed it up brilliantly when she said 'This book grabbed my heart and squeezed until I couldn't breathe.'
So it has been with bated breath that I have eagerly anticipated the release of Tabitha's second novel, the divinely titled The Emporium of Imagination https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-emporium-of-imagination-9781760895914
Yesterday was the day that Tab's latest 'book baby' entered the world. Sadly, a Covid lockdown in Brisbane affected the launch but in true Tabitha style, she lifted her chin and kept planning ahead. My pre-ordered copy is still to arrive but I know it will be worth the wait. And if I get too impatient to turn the first tantalising page, I could always buy a copy on my Kindle until I can hold the hard copy in my hands.
So without further ado, I will hand you over to the magical Tabitha.xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: When I was a first-time author I had myself tied in all sorts of knots. I would have loved someone to grab me by the shoulders to say, “There are no SHOULDS!”
Oh, the freedom!
I would have come to the conclusion much earlier that there is no one ‘right way’ to create a story. You don’t have to plot if that’s not your jam- and it is SO NOT my jam. I have since given myself permission to write in a perfectly messy and vulnerable way where I am my first reader who is totally invested in my tale.
L - R: Meeting the gorgeous, gumboot-clad Tabitha at Better Read than Dead, during her June 2019 book tour for the exquisite A Lifetime of Impossible Days - such a beautiful book that will stay with me forever - Gumboot buddies, Tab with writer and the voice behind the fabulous Talking Aussie Books podcast, Claudine Tinellis
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: Oh gosh! Just one book? Okay, THE BOOK THIEF https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-book-thief-markus-zusak/book/9781742613314.html But then… THE NIGHT CIRCUS is divine as well. https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-night-circus-erin-morgenstern/book/9781784871055.html?dsa=s1-east&gclid=CjwKCAjwu5CDBhB9EiwA0w6sLXumHzA2bdCr_dx2dycxS1BsE-CKo-hbe9Lv_ksYV-jNPQvvnUcPohoCuLcQAvD_BwE .
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: The first book that made me cry was The Faraway Tree.
I was this tiny thing hiding under my covers reading by torch light with my chihuahua and I was so taken with the way the children in THE FARAWAY TREE were so free to explore and have fun. My home looked so different to this and it made me teary.
(Oh Tab, that makes ME teary. Shelley.xx)
Q4: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…
A: Tea…no, wait. Wine. Okay, tea then wine…then more tea! Is there a wine flavoured tea?
(I think we must have been separated at birth Tab! Shelley.xx)
'I regret to say that I don’t have photos of my writing workspace as I don’t actually have a writing workplace! I write from either my bed, the kitchen table or beside the scorer fields in my car. My son is pursuing professional soccer and is playing for The Brisbane Striker this year. He trains four nights a week in Brisbane so a lot of my writing happens in the 2.5 hours I have waiting for him to finish training.
This photo was taken in Rockalicious- one of my favourite cafes here in Boonah and a place that is mentioned in The Emporium of Imagination.' https://www.facebook.com/RockaliciousBoonah/
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: I’m currently reading LANNY by Max Porter https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/Lanny-Max-Porter-9780571340286 He plays with form and story in ways I’ve never seen attempted by any other author. His freedom is intoxicating!
Q6: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: Ever since I started writing I have had a small furry dog curled up on my lap, his head in the crook of my arm as I wrote. I don’t think I could live without my chihuahua, Lion. She taught me that bravery was not is size of body but in size of heart. She also knows the value of simply staying close by and staying and staying and staying. And I love her for it.
Tabitha's constant companion, the larger than life Lion. xx
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: I’m fortunate enough to have visited my dream holiday destination. Way back, in another life, I worked as a teacher at an international school in Hong Kong. My first holidays there I flew to the Maldives for two weeks. Heaven on an island!
The fabulous Tabitha Bird in full vintage vibe, matching the feel and themes of The Emporium of Imagination.
The photo is taken in Boonah where novel is set.
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: I would be a picture book illustrator and writer. This is a dream I am actively working on. I’m blessed to be working with the lovely Zanni Louise http://zannilouise.com/ children’s author extraordinaire. Feel free to join my adventures into art land on Instagram at @tab.bird https://www.instagram.com/tab.bird/?hl=en
Q10: Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?
A: I think all good writing requires a deep connection with yourself and for me that really is the most intimate spiritual practice there is. When we know ourselves, and are willing to share our emotional truth, then that is our church.
That is the way that I, as an author, throw open the doors of my heart and invite others inside. The act of writing is where I meet myself and the act of reading is where others can view the truth of who I am. I can’t think of a more meaningful spirituality.
(I LOVE this answer Tab. Shelley.xx)
'A captivating novel of magical realism about a fantastical shop that brings comfort, peace and hope to those in need. You won't want to miss the opening of this shop! From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People's Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.'
Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.
But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store’s long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying . . .
The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.
Like Enoch Rayne – a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret. Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it’s Enoch’s father who dominates her thoughts - and regrets . . .
Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before - and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy . . .
Tabitha Bird lives with her family and chihuahua in Boonah, Australia where her magical novels are set. Her debut, A LIFETIME OF IMPOSSIBLE DAYS (Penguin, 2019) was the 2020 winner of The Queensland Literary Award- People’s Choice Book of the Year. Her second book, THE EMPORIUM OF IMAGINATION is also a work of adult fiction, heavily dusted with magic (Penguin, March 30th 2021).
Thank you Tabitha for being my April 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
The Emporium of Imagination is available through all leading bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Tabitha, you can find her here: