It is a pleasure to welcome Amanda Hampson to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Lovebirds we sat down for a chat. Thanks Amanda!
Hello Amanda. It is my pleasure to welcome you back to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, can I interest you in an English Breakfast Tea again, or would you prefer another beverage?
Thank you for hosting me! I am still an EB tragic but have branched out lately with some delicious herbal teas, a favourite being one with cinnamon, cardamon and ginger.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I’ve been writing professionally for about thirty years. I had always wanted to write a novel and worked my way up to it writing articles for magazines and two non-fiction books. My debut novel ‘The Olive Sisters’ was published in 2005 and became a best seller, since then I have written five more novels and working on another one now.
What kick started the creation of your latest novel, Lovebirds?
People often make assumptions about older women that we have nothing of interest to say, as if we are past our ‘use by’ date. It’s only our close friends who know the dreams and passions we once had, and the disappointments or tragedies that changed us in some way. I wanted to tell the story of Elizabeth, a woman who has become is little prickly and isolated in her older years, and then take the reader into the defining moments in her life for a different perspective.
How different was the experience of writing Lovebirds, compared to your previous releases?
Every book is quite different and each has its own particular difficulties but, with experience, you get better at recognising and resolving them. ‘Lovebirds’ is set in New South Wales and that made it a lot easier to go back to the areas I had visited pre-lockdown to gather more detail. I haven’t written about a fifteen year old boy before but I do have personal experience with the species. He was fun to write if only because his dialogue had to be reduced to one or two words and delivered with scorn or reluctance.
What issues do you explore in Lovebirds?
Lovebirds explores a number of issues that I feel strongly about. One is the marginalisation of older women which sometimes self-fulfilling because of our generation’s resistance to change (inspiring the phrase Ok Boomer). Another is the criticism of young people by older people, I make it my business to champion Millennials and their efforts to change the world.
I hate to hear parents being critical and dismissive of their teenage son’s taciturn ways — often in his presence. Fifteen year old boys can be extremely challenging and annoying. Life is difficult for them too but they do grow out of it (eventually) to become wonderful young men and they need patience.
During my teens the threat of conscription hung over young men and ultimately destroyed the lives of most of those sent to serve in Vietnam. So Zach’s and Ray’s stories are reflections of each other; one boy who has his future ahead of him and another who had it taken away.
Did you have an affinity with a particular character in Lovebirds and why?
Elizabeth is a little older than I am but only by a few years and, although we are nothing alike, I do have an insight into her formative years and her sensibilities. If you weren’t a part of it, it would be hard to imagine how compliant most young women were in our younger years. We were brought up to believe we had no authority over our own lives, or in the world, and we allowed others to make decisions for us. It has taken a lifetime for most of us to understand our own potential.
Is there anything surprising you discovered from the process of writing Lovebirds?
‘Lovebirds’ has a love story at the heart of it which is something I haven’t written before. It was important to me that it was a deep, enduring love. I don’t have much faith or belief in romance but it turned out that Ray and Elizabeth were also romantic and sentimental in their love for each other — so that was a nice surprise!
Can you give us an insight into settings used in Lovebirds?
Elizabeth has lived in the same house for forty years, and been waiting for Ray to come home for thirty of those. So my first job was to take her out of there and into Zach’s home. Sending her on a road trip with him and into the Nightcap Mountain range to look for Ray was way out of her comfort zone and an experience that would lead to a change in her entrenched way of thinking.
What is one thing you would like your audience to take away from the experience of reading Lovebirds?
I write to engage and entertain but I always want the story and characters to be authentic and thought-provoking. I hope that readers might take a fresh look at older women around them and wonder what their lives have really been like, and what more they have to offer. And older women may draw strength from the transformation of Elizabeth’s life.
What ingredients are essential for a successful contemporary fiction novel?
I think believable characters who show themselves through their actions and dialogue with a strong plot that sweeps the reader up in the story — and humour is a big bonus!
What does your writing space look like?
I’m a bit of a writing gypsy. I have always used a MacBook Air because it’s light and portable, so I can write at my desk or on my balcony. Occasionally in bed on a cold day or, on a day too beautiful to stay indoors, in my car overlooking the sea.
What book is next on your reading pile?’
I just started Candice Fox’s new crime thriller ‘The Chase’. She’s a skilled writer with the ability to grip you from the first sentence. Just don’t read it close to bedtime if you want to sleep, is my advice.
What is next for Amanda Hampson, do you have any works in progress you would like to share with your readers?
Right now I’m working on a mystery set in 1965 in the rag trade in Surry Hills about four tea ladies who get together to solve a crime. It’s really enjoyable setting the scene of a very different time in Sydney and developing the characters of the tea ladies and their relationships with each other. There’s Bushell’s tea and Iced VoVos, so should be right up your alley, Mrs B!
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Amanda. Congratulations on the release of your new book, Lovebirds.
Not all marriages end in happily ever after…
‘Skilfully written, with moments of laugh-out-loud humour, Lovebirds both warmed and broke my heart in perfect measure.’ Joanna Nell
In their youth, lovebirds Elizabeth and Ray had to fight to be together. Their future was full of promise and, blessed with children and careers, their happiness complete. But a twist of fate changed their lives forever.
Now in her sixties, Elizabeth is desperately lonely. She rarely sees her two adult sons and her closest friend is a talkative budgie. But when her grandson, Zach, gets into trouble with the police, she decides to take him on a road trip to find his grandfather, her lost love Ray, in the hope of mending their broken family.
Two less compatible travelling companions would be hard to find, as they set off on an unlikely adventure into the wilds of the northern NSW hinterland. What they discover along the way, about Ray and each other, has the power to transform them all. In trying to save Zach, Elizabeth might just save herself.
Warm, witty and wise, Lovebirds is an astute and uplifting novel about the power of love and family.
Lovebirds by Amanda Hampson was published on 4th May 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
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