Catching up with the gorgeous Lauren at the inaugural StoryFest Writer's Festival, held in Milton, New South Wales - June 2019 https://www.storyfest.org.au/
Allow me to introduce my next Author Stalker victim, fellow Sydney-sider & Masterclasser, the enchanting Lauren Chater.
Lauren and I connected online a few years ago, around the time she released her exquisite debut novel, The Lace Weaver https://www.simonandschuster.com.au/books/The-Lace-Weaver/Lauren-Chater/9781925596359 which was such a beautifully written and evocative novel, that I found it hard to believe it was her debut.
The story is set in 1941 Estonia, until Stalin's brutal rule. Whilst there is death and suffering, there is also love and great beauty amidst the female friendships and traditions of the women as they weave their stories into fine Estonian lace.
New York Times best-selling author Natasha Lester had this to say: https://www.natashalester.com.au/ 'From the very first line, I was captivated by this tale of two very different, but equally heroic, women. There is beauty to be found everywhere: in the writing, in the women's friendship, in the tragedy, and in the motif of the lace shawls, which weaves the story together.’ Natasha Lester, author of Her Mother’s Secret and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
Lauren is also an extraordinary baker who creates the most sublime, book-themed cookies and is known as the Well Read Cookie. In November 2018, her sweet literary treats were published in a cookbook https://www.simonandschuster.com.au/books/Well-Read-Cookies/Lauren-Chater/9781925596366
Oh and in case you are wondering about my cryptic FB teaser re my next Author Stalker victim, Lauren used a dehydrator to fast-track the drying of the royal icing that sat atop her decadent cookies.
After a recent house move, Lauren no longer had space for it and so generously offered her dehydrator for free on her FB page. I snapped it up for my own fabulous pastry chef daughter https://www.cakesbybreparsons.com.au/ and it was a life-saver, recently used for drying fondant on top of cookies, in preparation for hand-painting with edible water colour paint.
Lauren's new novel Gulliver's Wife, about midwife and herbalist Mary Burton Gulliver, has been birthed into the world at a time of chaos due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Writers pore over their manuscripts for at least a year, and then spend many months in the editing process, to bring you the finest possible incarnation of their stories. The success of that novel will mean the difference of having contracts renewed or not.
And now, so many writers are faced with promoting their new releases without the ability of live author events where they can meet their readers, without the masses perusing the shelves of their local bookstore and in a time where people are losing their jobs and may not have the money to spend on books like they used to.
If you can buy a book, please do. Please support the many wonderful writers we have in this country. By doing so you will not only help to keep the industry alive, and authors employed, but you will also provide yourself with some respite from the stress and tension that abounds. There is nothing better than slipping between the pages of a beautiful novel, to lose yourself within the story and perhaps, just for a while, forget about the crisis we are currently facing.
Stay Safe. Stay Home. And if you can, Buy A Book.
I will now hand you over to the lovely Lauren.
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: Just push through! Don’t worry if it’s bad (it will be). Don’t worry if every part of your brain screams that the writing is terrible (it can be fixed). Don’t listen to the voice that tells you your work isn’t worthy of publication (you’ll never know if you don’t try). Get to the end before judging your manuscript critically.
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: I actually don’t think I would want to have written any book except my own! Each published book resembles a unique blueprint of an author’s experiences and imaginings at a time and place under conditions which can never be replicated. Literature would be a sad place if we didn’t have those offerings. Plus writing a book is so much work. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t have a burning desire and passion for a particular subject. That doesn’t mean I’m not jealous of the way other authors see the world and are able to express themselves through their mastery of beautiful language. I am! Hilary Mantel, Geraldine Brooks, Kate Forsyth and Emma Donoghue are some of my favourite authors and I’m so glad they continue to write books so we can all enjoy the fruits of their labour!
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: Sonya Hartnett’s Sleeping Dogs was the first book I read as a teenager which affected me on a deep, existential level. First published in 1997, it’s the story of a dysfunctional Australian family and an artist whose arrival on the property disrupts their lives leading to a dark, explosive ending. I remember reading the ending for the first time, numb with shock, tears streaming down my face. I remember flicking through the blank end pages, thinking desperately that there must be more, there had to be. How could a novel end in such a devastating way? Until then my reading had consisted mostly of books like Mary Norton’s quaint The Borrowers or Enid Blyton’s pastoral visions of European childhood. Hartnett’s book was a revelation for me. The suffering experienced by her adolescent characters was so far removed from my life in privileged, suburban Sydney. Looking back, I wonder if that book wasn’t the one which opened my eyes to the importance of storytelling and the way it encourages us to empathise. To be able to touch the lives of your readers that way is an extraordinary gift which should never be squandered.
Q4: Coffee, tea or ? (what is your favourite drink?)
A: Mocha, always. Coffee & chocolate – the best of both worlds!
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: I have a huge TBR pile! I’m currently reading Laura Jean McKay’s The Animals in That Country which is about a pandemic (!) where humans can suddenly hear animal’s thoughts. It’s excellent. Up next is Kayte Nunn’s The Silk House which has a stunning cover. I’m sure it’s just as beautiful inside!
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: The main character in Gulliver’s Wife is Mary Burton, a midwife and herbalist. I imagine her being played by Kate Winslet or someone like her. Mary has a teenage daughter – Bess – who can be quite exasperating so it would have to be an actress who can balance firmness with kindness! I’d love to see Mary’s best friend Richard Sympson played by Chris Evans perhaps or Orlando Bloom? Not really sure – I don’t watch many movies so I’m always about ten years behind on popular actors!
'One of the herbalist images I used as inspiration for Gulliver's Wife' - Lauren
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: Right now, my dream holiday destination is anywhere outside this house/neighbourhood! Last year I visited Holland and London to undertake research for my next book and lately I’ve been thinking how lucky I was to get to go before this catastrophe began. In my dreams, I’ve been wandering through the Mauritshuis enjoying the artwork of Dutch Golden age painters and strolling through the London Museum admiring 18th century dresses. So many freedoms we took for granted have been upended by this pandemic. It will be interesting to see what the global travel landscape looks like once the dust settles. I know the paintings and museums will still be there, though, waiting for me to return.
A laneway in London, used as inspiration for the setting in Lauren's breathtaking new historical fiction novel.
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: I’d be botanical artist. A few years ago, I booked into a botanical art course at Hazelhurst (our local artist collective). I didn’t realise at the time that it was a Masterclass for experienced watercolour artists and when I showed up the other participants were all comparing notes on their previous works - which were absolutely beautiful and exceptionally daunting! The course ran over two days. We’d all been asked to bring a fruit or vegetable to paint and I took a pumpkin, which wasn’t the hardest subject but wasn’t the easiest either! I almost gave up after the first day, determined not to return. But the second day was much easier and I ended up being very happy with my artwork! It’s such a skill to paint botanical art – everything is very scientific and exact. What a gift, to be able to do it well!
Q10: How long does it take you to complete your first draft?
A: It takes me at least a year to complete a first draft. I’m more of pantser than a plotter, meaning I fly by the seat of my pants and don’t spend a long time plotting out the story before I start. This has benefits and drawbacks. Because I use intuition to guide me, there’s a lot of back and forth, a lot of rewriting. I compare the process to getting lost in the forest. Sometimes you take the wrong path and have to retrace your steps! But in the end, I do always seem to find the way forward and I think the advantage of writing this way is that I’m always open to possible subplots and character development. This is the way I work and I’ve learned to make my peace with it. Here’s hoping it leads to another good story!
Birth. Death. Wonder … One woman’s journey to the edge of love and loyalty from the bestselling author ofThe Lace Weaver
'London, 1702.When her husband is lost at sea, Mary Burton Gulliver, midwife and herbalist, is forced to rebuild her life without him. But three years later when Lemuel Gulliver is brought home, fevered and communicating only in riddles, her ordered world is turned upside down.
In a climate of desperate poverty and violence, Mary is caught in a crossfire of suspicion and fear driven by her husband’s outlandish claims, and it is up to her to navigate a passage to safety for herself and her daughter, and the vulnerable women in her care.
When a fellow sailor, a dangerous man with nothing to lose, appears to hold sway over her husband, Mary’s world descends deeper into chaos, and she must set out on her own journey to discover the truth of Gulliver’s travels . . . and the landscape of her own heart.'
Praise forGulliver’s Wife
‘Gulliver’s Wifeis utterly spellbinding. Lauren Chater is a master of story-weaving and exquisite detail. I adored this book.’ Melissa Ashley, bestselling author of The Birdman’s Wife
Thank you Lauren for being my Mid-April Author Stalker victim. xx
Gulliver's Wife is available through all leading bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Lauren, you can find her here: