We’re into the final month of 2019, and I have two more guests in the attic to come before I take a break for summer. I feel incredibly lucky that so many wonderful writers have agreed to write for the attic this year and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading their words.
I’m very excited to introduce today’s guest, Favel Parrett, as she’s one of my favourite authors. Back in 2014, I reviewed Favel’s first novel, Past the Shallows, a heartbreaking but beautiful story set on the remote southern coast of my beloved Tasmania. I have a copy of Favel’s latest novel, There was Still Love, at the top of the pile of books on my bedside table and I can’t wait to read it.
In this post, Favel tells us about the inspiration for the characters in her latest book, and fiction can perhaps tell more truth than non-fiction.
Favel Parrett is a Victorian writer who loves to surf. Her first novel, Past the Shallows, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary award, and she was awarded the Antarctic Arts Fellowship to complete research for her second novel, When the Night Comes. Her third novel, There Was Still Love, has just been released in Australia and will be published in the UK in February 2020.
When Fiction Becomes Truth
My latest novel, There Was Still Love, came straight out of my heart. It is a love letter to my grandparents, Mitzi and Bill, and now that it is a real book, I feel as if it all actually happened. But the truth is – most of it is completely made up. Everything is fiction except the flat that was my first heart home. That place, with my grandparents in it, is very real to me. It was an absolute joy to be there again while I was writing.
I know about kindness because of my grandma and because of my grandad.
When we were very young, my brother and I spent a lot of time with them in their little 1940’s flat on the second floor. When I think of the word home, I think of that flat.
I have often wanted to go and find that flat, to see if it is still there – white walls and large windows, with a little garage underneath. It was warm and comfortable. It always smelled of roasted pork or biscuits or frying butter. It had a large lounge room and a connected dining room with folding glass doors. The kitchen was small but always alive, always the best room to be in. We would spend hours in there helping grandma cook.
There were always potatoes with dinner, all different ways. I really liked potatoes. And I liked the cucumber salad with cream and vinegar. But I loved my grandma’s apricot dumplings the most. I never had a problem finishing my dinner at my grandparents flat. I always ate everything, even the carrots. Even the cabbage. Everything tasted so delicious. My grandmother was a great cook.
When we stayed there, we slept in the double bed with my Grandma. I felt very safe in that room. My Grandpa slept in the small room next door because he snored terribly. There were tick-tock clocks in every room. The tick-tock sound helped me get to sleep, and even now after all these years when I hear a tick-tock clock I feel relaxed.
My grandparents were working class and there was never any spare money no matter how much they budgeted or tried to save. They never took us to the movies or out for lunch, and Christmas presents were usually something small and useful. But there was always enough food. There was always enough time and love. And my Granddad could fix anything. He was always fixing things, re-using things. He had spent his working life as a toolmaker in London – but when he came to Australia in the early 1970s, he could only find work as a night-watchman.
My Grandma would make him dinner and put it on a tin plate. She would put another tin plate over the top to keep the dinner warm. I knew it wouldn’t be very warm by the time my Granddad got to eat it. But he didn’t seem to mind. He would make us all breakfast when he got home from work in the very early morning, and his favourite breakfast was sausages and dripping on toast.
My Grandmother was from Czechoslovakia, and even though she was forced to leave when she was a teenager, I don’t think her soul ever really left home. She was completely Czech for the whole time I knew her. It was there in the way she dressed, in her accent that never softened. It was there in her cheekbones, sharp and angular and proud. Sometimes I feel that my grandparent’s flat was really in Prague.
This book is fiction, but some of it is based on remembered things – important things. If you look hard you will find my grandparents in all of my writing. But in this novel, they are the stars.
I hope you enjoy reading.