The fabulous Barbara Hannay
Welcome to the first day of summer and welcome back to my little ol' blog. You will notice that while I have been gone my blog questions have had a mini makeover.
After a long and unpredictable year, The Author Stalker decided to go on Spring Break. I love the imagery that term conjures in one's mind...rest, relaxation, sunshine and doing loads of fun and carefree things.
But, somehow, the universe lost my memo and it rained (more like torrentially poured...and I'm not referring to La Niña, who has decided to darken our post lockdown doorstep) on my Spring Break parade, instead sending me into a 106 day Sydney lockdown. Thanks Covid!
As you all know I am a voracious reader, and lover of the written word. But I will be perfectly honest. I struggled to read. I am sure that a lot of you did too??I would pick up a book but my hive mind wouldn't allow the words to settle easily and so I would find myself glued to the TV, bingeing on more series in 106 days than I had watched in the previous two years.
But then I picked up a book and it wrapped me in a giant hug, it made me feel loved and connected and allowed me to again immerse myself within the pure joy and beautiful world of stories.
And the book you may ask?
Allow me to introduce you to my final Author Stalker victim for 2021, the fabulous Barbara Hannay. Barb is former English teacher who once lived on hillside acreage in the Atherton Tablelands (see her dreamy garden below), which was part of the inspiration for her latest release.
Not only has she sold over TWELVE MILLION books worldwide, her novels have been translated into twenty-six languages and are loved the world over.
And after slipping within the comforting pages of The Garden of Hopes and Dreams https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-garden-of-hopes-and-dreams-9781760899417 I can see why this quietly spoken, humble writer is a global bestseller.
I LOVED this book. The setting. The characters. The garden. Her publisher's blurb says in part 'From award-winning novelist Barbara Hannay comes a timely and uplifting story about the importance of community and connection.'
I couldn't agree more with this description. Timely...hell yesss! Uplifting...100 percent. The importance of community and connection...never has a truer word been spoken.
At a time when so many of us are struggling with a sense of isolation and disconnection, Barb's beautiful novel offers us a soft place to fall. You will lose your heart to so many of the characters and find yourself wishing you lived in the same building as Vera, Maddie and Ned. An eclectic bunch of people are connected via a rooftop garden. They support each other when times are tough. They create a sense of community that has been lacking in their lives.
I honestly don't think I could have picked up a more perfect book at a time when I had strayed from my beloved book path. The cover reeled me in but it was the words that saw me lose myself within the pages, wishing for it to never end.
This is the perfect book to buy your friends for Christmas. A holiday read that will leave them on a high as they navigate the path that lies before us all in 2022.
Wishing you all a magical Christmas and may 2022 be kinder and more gentle to us all.
The Author Stalker will be back once a month, for the foreseeable future, so I will see you all in January.
And now, without further ado, I will hand you over to the fabulous Barbara.xx
Q1: What was your inspiration for this story and how long did it take you to write the first draft?
A: I come from a long line of gardeners and many other family members have much greener thumbs than I do, but wherever I’ve lived, I’ve made gardens and they’ve been important to me. Two years ago, after living on hillside acreage on the Atherton Tablelands, my husband and I moved back to Townsville (older age, health, family and facilities being the main reasons). However, I really missed the beautiful gardens I’d created up there and I know this nostalgia found its way into The Garden of Hopes and Dreams, especially through my character, Vera.
This story isn’t only about gardens, though. It’s about the importance of connection and I was inspired in part by Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections.
This book makes the point that depression is often caused by loneliness, by feeling disconnected. We need other people and we thrive when we share something meaningful with them.
By setting my story in a rooftop garden in a city apartment block, I had oodles of opportunities to explore this idea and I loved helping my fractured or “lost” characters to heal and find love. I think the first draft probably took six to eight months, but I’m afraid it’s all a blur now. 😊
'This is a small part of the acreage garden we left behind on the Atherton Tablelands. I really missed the beautiful gardens I’d created up there and I know this nostalgia found its way into The Garden of Hopes and Dreams, especially through my character, Vera.'
Q2: You are hosting a spectacular dinner party. Name four dream guests you would love to have seated around your table, and what would they be dining on and drinking?
A: I know I’m supposed to be choosing famous and fascinating people, but if I’m totally honest, I’m never happier than when I’m entertaining family or friends. I have a group of close writer mates, whom I’ve known for close on twenty years. We’re scattered far and wide across Australia and New Zealand and so we usually meet up once a year for a retreat, but this hasn’t happened now for nearly three years, (for obvious reasons). So my current fantasy if to gather them around my table.
Drinks would definitely begin with bubbles and I’d probably cook roast lamb with lots of rosemary and something from Ottolenghi (I adore his harissa and confit garlic potatoes). I might include a salad from my favourite Cookie and Kate blog, and as it’s summer, I’d finish with Sophie Dahl’s simple but gorgeous dessert of homemade strawberry ice cream with extra strawberries and crumbled meringue.
Late at night, when we’re still talking, talking talking… we’d probably break open a bottle of good, single malt, peaty scotch.
(I absolutely LOVE your answer to this question Barb. Shelley.xx)
Q3: What is your favourite book of all time and why?
A: This is such a hard question, because there are so many, many gorgeous books, but one that I have read so many times it’s falling apart is Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. https://www.hachette.com.au/rosamunde-pilcher/winter-solstice
I love her voice, I love the cold Scottish setting (possibly because I live in North Queensland and fantasise about a snowy Christmas) and I love her strong female character Elfrida. It’s a story of waifs and strays escaping unhappiness, who find themselves together at Christmas, surrounded by harsh Scottish weather. It’s potentially a recipe for disaster, but it’s also a story about healing and finding love. Sound familiar? 😊
Q4: If you could travel anywhere in the world to write for a year, where would we find you?
A: I would probably be in Scotland. My husband and I came very close to spending a year in the north of Scotland some time back and I often wish we’d taken that plunge. If not Scotland, I’d be in Spain. Wherever I was, I’d be in the mountains, but with views of the sea. Not asking much, am I?
Q5: Describe your go-to reading spot at home and what book/s would I currently find there?
A: I’m afraid that place is my bed, with a view to lush palms outside and a cup of tea at my elbow. And currently, I’m reading Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/623487/fifty-words-for-rain-by-asha-lemmie/ It’s set in Japan in 1948 and is absolutely fascinating.
Also, Who am I? by Robert Bernard Taylor, https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/5149539 a self-published memoir about his harrowing experience as part of the English child migration scheme after WW2.
And House Lessons by Erica Bauermeister, a beautiful meditation on house and home and identity.
Q6: Tell us a bit about a typical writing day…
A: I’m a morning person, so I like to start as early as I can, sometimes when it’s still dark, and I aim for a thousand words a day. On days blessed by the writing gods, this might happen quite quickly and the day is mine, or I might be still trying to find words at dinner time.
I’m an intuitive writer rather than a plotter, so I never quite know where each writing day might take me. If I’m feeling slow, stuck, or plodding, I’ll listen to classical music on YouTube. This is my favourite and it helps me stay in the zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7faf-t4JVt0
(Oh what a wonderful playlist Barb. Have just added that to my list. Shelley.xx)
Where Barb makes the magic happen....over 12 million books sold worldwide, translated into 26 languages. Wow!
Q7: As a lover of words, is there a special quote you would like to share with us?
A: “Give the reader what they want in a way they don’t see coming.” This is pinned above my desk, and it’s pretty much my motto, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the source.
(Love this! Shelley.xx)
Q8: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: I love reading, of course, and gardening, as I’ve already mentioned, but these days I also really enjoy going to the gym a couple of times a week (a senior’s circuit) and, of course, going for that all important coffee and chat afterwards. And I thoroughly enjoy singing world music in an acapella choir.
Q9: Any advice for aspiring authors?
A: Read, read, read… I used to be an English teacher and the best writers in my class were always the most avid readers. And write the kinds of stories you love. Don’t force yourself into a genre you think might sell, unless you really enjoy writing in that style.
Also, join a writing group (online or in person) that will give you feedback, but with the added proviso that the feedback should come from someone who understands your genre and your target audience.
Q10: In a few lines, which debut/emerging Aussie author should we look out for?
A: I’m going to give a shout out for two FNQ romance authors who are launching their first indie books.
Frances Dall’Alba’s Little Blue Box has just been released https://www.amazon.com.au/Little-Blue-Box-Frances-DallAlba/dp/0645116203/ref=sr_1_1?crid=I8Q08ULZAVA8&keywords=frances+dallalba+little+blue+box&qid=1637911870&sprefix=frances+dallalba%2Caps%2C334&sr=8-1
Rachel Armstrong’s Reunited With the Millionaire https://www.amazon.com.au/Reunited-Millionaire-Rachel-Armstrong-ebook/dp/B09K114435/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=rachel+armstrong&qid=1637911975&sr=8-2 will launch next March and is available for pre-order.
Both of these writers have been working hard at their craft for many years now. They love the romance genre, they write from the heart, I have huge respect for their diligence and I’d truly love to see their books fly.
'From award-winning novelist Barbara Hannay comes a timely and uplifting story about the importance of community and connection.
Can love and friendship blossom on a rooftop?
The residents in Brisbane’s Riverview apartment block barely know each other. They have no idea of the loneliness, the lost hopes and dreams, being experienced behind their neighbours’ closed doors.
Vera, now widowed, is trying her hardest to create a new life for herself in an unfamiliar city environment. Unlucky-in-love Maddie has been hurt too many times by untrustworthy men, yet refuses to give up on romance. Ned, a reclusive scientist, has an unusual interest in bees and worm farms. Meanwhile, the building’s caretaker Jock has all but given up hope of achieving his secret dream.
When a couple of gardening enthusiasts from one of the apartments suggest they all create a communal garden on their rooftop, no one is interested. Not at first, anyway. But as the residents come together over their budding plants and produce, their lives become interconnected in ways they could never have imagined.'
Thank you Barb for being my December 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
The Garden of Hopes and Dreams is available through bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Barbara, you can find her here: