1. Tell us about your new book The House of Memories.
It’s the story of a family trying to knit itself back together again after an unthinkable tragedy, told through the eyes of 34-year-old Ella, her step-brother Charlie and their half-sister, 21-year-old Jess. Set mostly in London, it’s a love story and a sad story, but it’s also filled with as much hope and humour as I could put into it.
2. You grew up in Australia and then moved to England and Ireland, why was this?
I grew up in a small country town in South Australia, and while I loved country life, I longed for adventure. When I was 19, a friend moved to London and invited me to come for a holiday. I stayed for 3 years, working in pubs, Irish bars and live music venues, having the time of my life. London is a great city to be in when you’re 19, 20 and 21. When I was 25, back home in Australia, I met and married an Irishman and for the past 22 years we’ve been moving back and forth between Ireland and Australia. I love both countries, so I get the best of both worlds.
3. You grew up in a family of seven - is this why you like to write family sagas?
I’m sure it is. I loved all the drama, comedy, loyalties, ties and tensions that surrounded me as I was growing up. I love to put all of that into my novels now too.
4. Where did your initial inspiration come from for the novel?
One of my greatest fears is something happening to one of my nieces or nephews while I’m looking after them. Over a decade ago, it nearly happened, when the baby niece I was minding started to choke on a piece of fruit. I’d turned away for just a moment and in that time she had turned blue. Even though that story had a happy ending – I was able to help her in time – I’ve never forgotten the feeling of terror. I know that memory was the seed for this novel.
5. How do you achieve such strong and contrasting emotions in your writing?
Again, I have family life to thank – it’s where all the raw emotions live. Our family ties and experiences shape us and stay with us all.
6. The book begins in Australia and then travels to Britain, as you did. Are there any of your experiences in this book?
There are definitely echoes of my experiences. Ella’s love for London reflects mine. While I was writing and researching The House of Memories, I spent many days walking around Paddington, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and grew to love it as much as she does. Jess’s experience in London is more difficult, and I certainly drew on my own memories as a 19 year old, finding myself living in a new and huge city for the first time.
7. What can we expect next from you?
I have ideas for two new novels ticking over in my mind. I’ve started a children’s adventure story (my nieces and nephews keep emailing and telling me to hurry up and finish it). I’ve also got an idea for a TV series and a play...
8. Do you think you will ever stray away from writing about family?
I don’t think I will ever need to. The wonderful thing about writing family dramas is that the material is never-ending. Everything happens in a family – love, loss, loyalty, rivalry, fun, sorrow. What more do I need!
9. Do you think that escaping your problems can fix them, as Ella attempts to?
No, because as the saying has it: ‘Skies change, not cares, for those who cross the seas.’ Wherever you go, you bring yourself and your worries, problems and hopes with you.
Female First Lucy Walton