Interview with Monica McInerney, Author of Lola's Secret
Book Divas recently had the honor and privilege to interview the internationally bestselling author, Monica McInerney, about her latest book, Lola's Secret. In Lola's Secret, McInerney introduces us to a close-knit family who is struggling with loss and change. It is a humorous and poignant novel about family, memory and the very meaning of life. Lola's Secret is published as a Ballantine Trade Paperback Original and is on stands now.
Read on to see what Monica shares about her latest novel, her challenges getting published early in her career, and what it is about sisters that makes their relationship so intriguing.
1. The Sun Herald, Australia referred to Lola's Secret as modern day Jane Austen. Do you feel that this is an accurate description? Was this something you had in mind while writing the book?
I’m a big fan of Jane Austen, so even the smallest of comparisons is flattering. I think what I share with her is an interest in people who seem ‘ordinary’ from the outside, who are then revealed to have all sorts of layers and dramas unfolding in their lives. That’s certainly what I wanted to do with Lola’s Secret – create a lively cast of characters in a small country town, and let the drama, and the comedy, begin.
2. In Lola’s Secret, motel owner Lola has decided to spend Christmas with various strangers harboring a slew of their own secrets and quiet reasons for not spending the holiday with their families. What do you think it is about holidays that make families act in strange ways?
It’s a combination of high expectations and enforced intimacy, I think. There is so much pressure on us all to somehow put our real lives on hold for Christmas and magically turn into peaceful, harmonious people just for one day. It’s impossible.
3. Sisters can be best friends and worst enemies. How has your own family influenced the story told in Lola’s Secret?
I’m very lucky to have three sisters (and three brothers), so I have first hand knowledge and experience of all the dramas, comedy, ties and tension of family life, especially the relationships between sisters. I love the way loyalties, secrets, bonds and arguments swirl around between sisters. That said, all the events in Lola’s Secret are fictitious, I promise.
4. Would you consider this book a sequel to The Alphabet Sisters or just another story of the Quinlan family?
It’s certainly a sequel to The Alphabet Sisters, revisiting the Quinlan family four years after the events in that novel. But it can also be read as a stand-alone book, as can the short story I wrote featuring Lola, called Sweet Charity.
5. Having lived both in the Southern Hemisphere (South Australia) and the Northern Hemisphere (Ireland) how does celebrating Christmas in the summer compare to celebrating it in the winter?
I have to confess that after 22 years living in Ireland, I now prefer winter Christmases. I love seeing the decorations light up the streets of Dublin in the early evening and meeting friends for cosy nights in front of open fires in restaurants and pubs in the days and weeks before Christmas Day. I also love the annual wish for snow and the chance of a real White Christmas. But I’ve had many fantastic, relaxed hot Australian Christmases too, sitting outside under the trees and enjoying seafood salads rather than roast turkey dinners. As a family, we McInerneys have now started a tradition where every two years we meet for a July Christmas somewhere in Australia (during our winter), so we all get to have a cold-weather Christmas as well. It’s the best of both worlds and both climates.
6. Many of our members are aspiring authors. Can you tell us about any challenges you faced in getting your first book published?
I began my writing career with short stories, and I faced many rejections before I received my first acceptance letter from a magazine editor. It was difficult at the time, but I’d read in a ‘How to Be a Writer’ handbook from my local library that it was important to always keep your hopes and spirits high when you’re trying to get published, and to always have another story written and ready for submission as soon as you receive a rejection slip. That was great advice. It kept me writing and trying out all sorts of different subjects and styles, until I found my own ‘voice’ as a writer. Eventually three of my short stories were accepted. That gave me the confidence to begin my first novel. I spent two years writing it, purely for fun. The day I finished it, I heard about a ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition being run by an Irish publisher. I was living in Tasmania at the time (Australia’s island state) and decided to enter it. I thought it wouldn’t hurt if I was rejected from so far away. Around the same time, I won a trip to Ireland in a Guinness competition being run by an Irish pub in Tasmania. The day I arrived in Dublin on that trip I heard that I had come runner-up in the ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition. That is now thirteen years and eleven books ago.
7. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I’m always sad if a reader tells me they couldn’t finish one of my books. But my advice to readers always is that you shouldn’t persevere with a story if you aren’t enjoying it. There are so many good books in the world that it’s a shame if reading ever becomes arduous (even if I do want to urge those readers on to finish my own books.) My favorite compliment is when a reader tells me they really missed my characters when the book ended.
8. What do you read for fun? What is your favorite book?
I read two or three books a week, from thrillers, fiction, memoirs, fantasy, young adult, comedies, whatever I can get my hands on. My favourite book is probably one from childhood, The Railway Children by Edith Nesbitt, a story set in England during World War 2, filled with intrigue, drama, love and humour. My dad was the railway stationmaster in Clare, South Australia where I grew up, and my six brothers and sisters and I always thought of ourselves as the ‘real’ Railway Children.
9. Lastly, we have to ask…what makes you a Book Diva?
Knowing that there is no such thing as too many books.