The FABULOUS Jessica Dettmann
Meet Jessica Dettmann. She once sat perched atop the town hall as the City of Sydney Christmas angel, resplendent in a gown that reached all the way down to the street.
My angel role wasn’t quite as spectacular but was just as memorable. Think Turramurra Public School, circa 1976, the school Christmas pageant, and yours truly was cast as an angel. I was always tall for my age so was dead centre of the back row...which made it stand out even more when I was chatting away (SO unlike me) and got the giggles...
Part of the inspiration for Jessica's wonderful new novel, This Has Been Absolutely Lovely, came from watching old videos of British band Bucks Fizz at Eurovision, and thinking about bands who are one-hit wonders. I too had a connection to a ‘one hit wonder’! A guy I went to high school with was one of the founding members of the original cover band, One Hit Wonders!
I must admit to being a bit late hopping aboard the Jessica Dettmann bus...but now that I have my ticket, I'm not getting off. Her latest release This Has Been Absolutely Lovely https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460755983/this-has-been-absolutely-lovely/ has turned me into a crazed fan...about to ravage her entire back catalogue.
This book resonated SO much with me. It made me laugh and it made me scream at one of the characters to stop being so damn selfish. I LOVED this book so much.
Jessica has a very quick, dry wit, which shines throughout her novel. Her sense of humour is right up my alley and comes across in spades in her social media posts and her fab blog Life With Gusto https://www.jessicadettmann.com/blog
So without further ado, I will hand you over to the lovely Jessica. xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: I spent so long working and living in the world of books before I ever put pen to paper, or fingers to keys really, that I was already almost overwhelmed with all the useful advice a writer could ever need.
Things I had learned from being a student of English literature, an editorial assistant, an editor, a bookseller, and a reader and a peruser of the Internet: if there was a pithy, helpful saying or fact about writing out there, I knew it. But the most useful piece of that mountain of hints was that done is better than perfect. There are so many people who can help shape and improve a book, but not if you haven’t written it. So write your bloody book.
(Done is better than perfect & So write your bloody book are going to be written on index cards and stuck to my computer. Shelley.xx)
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: This is a trick question: if I say any of the books I love, then I wouldn’t love them as much because authors mostly think what they’ve written is terrible and vastly substandard.
So I won’t say I wish I had written Brother of the More Famous Jack, which was actually written by Barbara Trapido. I wish I had written Spotless, because then I would be both very wealthy from the proceeds and I would know how to clean my house properly.
'Here is a photo of the kitchen at my parents’ farm. I come here when I need to get large amounts of uninterrupted thinking and writing done, and as such much of both my novels were written in this kitchen. The floor slopes away from the fireplace so I arrive, with my office chair in the boot of the car, like a total professional, and I move the kitchen table so my chair is trapped behind it. Otherwise I end rolling away from my computer and finish up in the corner near the bin. I get the bread bin, lie it on its side and put my laptop on it so I don’t strain my neck. Then I pick some flowers, lie out all my notes and books, and eventually, I get to work.
When I’m not writing here, I write at a little desk built into our wardrobe at home. Stephen King recommends having a non-threatening writing space that doesn’t seem too grand for the likes of you. That’s worked well for me for four years but soon I’m graduating to the spare room, which I am redecorating. I hope I’ve earned its soon-to-be loveliness.'
(OMG! I adore this writing space Jess. So cosy and rustic. I laughed out loud at the image of your chair rolling away across the room. And you have MOST definitely earned its 'soon-to-be loveliness'. Shelley.xx)
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: War Horse. I stayed up much too late as an eight year old reading this and sobbing. It was awful and devastating. It shouldn’t be allowed near children. Spoiler: things do not go well for War Horse. It is more a book for lovers of war than lovers of horses.
Q3: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…
A: Tea is fine while you wait to be awake enough to enjoy coffee, but the queen of drinks is gin. It’s versatile, delicious and I wish I drank much more of it. But you know: health.
Q4: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: Malcolm Knox’s Bluebird https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/Bluebird-Malcolm-Knox-9781760877422 I write and read a lot about women, but many of my favourite authors are men and I like to return to those when I can, despite how unfashionable that is.
Q5: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: I’d love to see Emma Thompson as Annie, and Aisling Bea as Molly.
(Ooh Emma would make a brilliant Annie. Shelley.xx)
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: Self doubt, apparently.
(Ba ha ha...love it. Shelley.xx)
'I love the ocean pool at Kiama. I’m a bad swimmer and a big scaredy cat about the ocean, but I’m trying to improve and getting in here is my favourite way to do that. And I love getting in very cold water. There’s a mad fashion for it at the moment and for good reason: it always improves my mood, which can usually do with improvement.'
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: Scandinavia. Not terribly picky about where. I went to Finland, Denmark and Sweden five years ago with my best friend on an extremely belated Gap year, which we crammed into nineteen days. I’d love to take my family back there.
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: As a kid I loved horse-riding, but I don’t get to do that much anymore. I’d like to have a job that involved gently exercising really delightful well-trained horses, somewhere very beautiful. Maybe in Scandinavia. There might also be an element of being sent free clothes to test. I’m not sure either of these are real jobs.
Q10: Name one debut author/novel you would recommend?
A: Soon The Light Will Be Perfect https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781488205941/soon-the-light-will-be-perfect/ is the debut novel from Dave Patterson, who is a writer and musician from Maine in the USA. It’s so beautiful and sensitive and touching. It broke my heart and made it sing. (Full disclosure he is my friend. But I’m not normally very nice about my friends so trust me, this novel is brilliant.)
(Just added this to my tbr pile. Shelley.xx)
Molly's a millennial home organiser about to have her first baby. Obviously her mum, Annie, will help with the childcare. Everyone else's parents are doing it.
But Annie's dreams of music stardom have been on hold for thirty-five years, paused by childbirth then buried under her responsibilities as a mother, wage earner, wife, and only child of ailing parents. Finally, she can taste freedom.
As Molly and her siblings gather in the close quarters of the family home over one fraught summer, shocking revelations come to light. Everyone is forced to confront the question of what it means to be a family.
This Has Been Absolutely Lovely is a story about growing up and giving in, of parents and children, of hope and failure, of bravery and defied expectation, and whether it is ever too late to try again.'
'Dettmann nails the funny, sad and bizarre nuances of family life in this gripping novel that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes' - Sally Hepworth
'A pure joy to read from the first page to the last - lots of heart and emotion, but with a perfect amount of humour. My only complaint is that I didn't write it myself!' - Rachael Johns
'Hilarious, poignant, and a genuine page-turner. Dettmann's tone is addictively dry and often laugh-out-loud funny, but the family drama that unfolds is a proper yarn, with lovely dramatic twists and gorgeous revelations and resolutions.' - Tim Minchin
'Witty, warm, sharp and sincere. An absolutely lovely read.' Book'd Out
'Compelling and utterly charming ... A joyful, laugh-drenched, tear-soaked page-turner' - Ben Elton
'Brilliantly observed, Jessica Dettmann's portrayal of messy, modern family life is packed with delicious humour and balanced with moments of real poignancy. Her knack for writing sharp, witty dialogue makes for a hugely entertaining read. I adored it.' - Joanna Nell
Thank you Jessica for being my July 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
This Has Been Absolutely Lovely is available through bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Jessica, you can find her here: