Author Talks: Monique Mulligan on Nurturing the Seeds of Inspiration

One of the most-asked questions of authors is ‘What inspired you to write this book?’ Some authors hate this question; others don’t.

I fall into the latter camp. What inspired me to write Wherever You Go is something I’m passionate about. I could talk about it endlessly and I do, which sometimes earns me a polite ‘shoosh’ or a less polite roll of the eyes. Here she goes again.

But it wasn’t just one thing.

To me, inspiration is like a packet of flower seeds. Now, imagine these seeds being scattered in the garden of a writer’s mind. Many of them take root; not all of them flourish. Some of the seedling ideas have to be plucked out to make room for the strongest seedlings. And along the way, some ideas blossom, while others wither.
At first when people asked me about the inspiration for Wherever You Go, my first thought was that a newspaper article was the ‘seed’ that took root. In that article, a family experienced a terrible loss while overseas. I always wondered what I would do in that situation. What would happen to the people left behind after their loss? How would it affect their marriage?

That article certainly helped flesh out the story, however, the ‘seeds’ for this book were there well before I was even ready to tackle the immense task of writing a novel.
It all started the year I turned 40, or as my son once put it, I became obsessed with Italy.

I’d never been, but to me it was the most desirable place on earth (thanks to the books and movies I absorbed like a sponge at this time). I wanted to go there more than anything and even started saving freelance earnings for this goal (spoiler alert: it went on school fees). In my dreamiest of moments, I imagined living there (I even looked up Tuscan villas for sale, to my husband’s mild exasperation).

With four teenagers at home, I knew the dream was years from becoming a reality. It came to me that if I couldn’t go to Italy, I could bring it to me in the best way an Aussie woman (of German background) could. So, I started to learn the language, cooked Italian feasts (everything had to be authentic – no Aussie-Italian foods for us), and read loads of books set in Italy. Once, I borrowed an Italian recipe book and set myself the challenge of cooking three things from it – but I had to translate the recipes first. I confess to feeling an incy bit jealous when someone told me about their tomato sauce making day with their big Italian family – I wanted to be part of something like that!

My 40th birthday was Italian-themed – woodfired pizzas, tiramisu, a long table out the back, fairy lights … even Italian café music. It was so much fun that I thought I’d cook feasts featuring food from different countries. We had regular Greek, French, Indian feasts and Moroccan feasts (and more); every recipe was as authentic as I could make it, and every feast had music in the background (the Bollywood music was fun, but the kids hated it). I cooked so much over those years, and while my family sometimes complained about me being ‘obsessed’, they never complained about the food (especially the desserts).

I thought ‘obsessed’ was a bit harsh – we were travelling the world through food, I told them. What I didn’t know then was that those travel-themed feasts were the first seeds that took root in the garden of my mind. I was already thinking about writing a novel ‘one day’ – the ground just needed to be ready.

When I started writing Wherever You Go, I knew I wanted food and travel to play a big role. For various reasons, my characters can’t or won’t travel, and so I wanted my characters to travel vicariously through food, like I was when I drafted the book. How do they do this? My main character, Amy, forms an intimate Around the World Supper Club and invites some of her new friends in the small town she and her husband move to. Cooking is her way of showing she cares – and also a distraction, a way to hide from her Self and the guilt that follows her wherever she goes. As Wherever You Go progresses, the characters’ travel experiences, dreams and fears are revealed, and often food and feasts are the catalyst for their stories coming to light.

It’s taken four years for Wherever You Go to get to publication. In that time, I’ve been overseas twice – but not to Italy yet – and written another book and a half. The seeds for those books came from very different places, but that’s another story.

Wherever You Go

A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.

Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.

Rich with unexpected characters and extraordinary insight, Wherever You Go is a powerful and ultimately uplifting tale of heartbreaking loss, recovery, and redemption.
Available from September 18 from Pilyara Press and online retailers. Find out more here.

Preorder your copy today:

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About the Author:

Monique Mulligan is an author, interviewer, and founder of the Stories on Stage program in Perth. A former journalist, news editor and publisher, she combines part-time work at an arts centre with freelance editing and novel writing. Monique’s debut contemporary fiction novel Wherever You Go will be published by Pilyara Press in September 2020 and her third picture book, Alexandra Rose and her Icy-Cold Toes was released in May. As well as two other picture books, Monique has had a number of short romances published in anthologies. When she’s not working you will usually find Monique a) writing b) reading c) cooking and d) taking photos for her cat’s Instagram page. When she’s socialising, she’s usually behind a camera or in a corner hanging out with other introverts and making mental notes for stories.

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