I’m so thrilled to welcome this week’s guest back to the attic, Monique Mulligan. Monique has been a visitor here on quite a few occasions, including when she wrote a post for the attic in 2016 and more frequently when we shared a photo every Wednesday as part of our long-running series, Midweek Moments.
She’s back today with huge news: her novel, Wherever You Go, has just hit the bookshelves. I was lucky enough to read an early version of this book and have seen its evolution. It’s been a long process and it warms my heart to welcome Monique and her book to the attic today.
Read on to learn more about Monique’s story as she chats with her protagonist, Amy:
Monique Mulligan is a writer and freelance editor who works out plot tangles in the shower. Outside work, you will often find her a) writing, b) reading, c) cooking, e) hanging out with other introverts and e) taking photos for her cat’s Instagram account. Her début contemporary fiction novel, Wherever You Go (Pilyara Press), is out now.
A Conversation With My Character
The moment I love most about writing is when a story stops being words and ideas and two-dimensional characters and becomes real. After that, the story and characters follow me wherever I go, butting into my everyday life.
In earlier stages of writing my debut novel Wherever You Go, whenever I visited Bridgetown, Western Australia (the inspiration for the setting) I’d see the town through my main character Amy’s eyes. This was where she shopped. Thatwas where she lived. Sometimes I wondered what would happen if I met Amy Bennet in real life. What questions would she ask me?
Join my imagination as it wanders into a café called Brewed to Taste, Amy Bennet’s pride and joy.
Me: Hi, Amy.
Amy: Right on time, Mon. Bonnie? Bring us a couple of flat whites and two serves of Persian Love Cake, thanks.
Me: How’d you know I’d order that?
Amy: Lucky guess. Here, have a seat.
Me: Nice chairs. Comfy!
Amy: Well, you wrote them in.
Me: Touché. So, you wanted to ask me some questions about Wherever You Go.
Amy: Yep. Hmmm, where do I start?
Me: Most people ask about inspiration. I can tell you about food and travel—
Amy: Sorry, Mon, but I’m a bit short on time. I’m interested in more personal questions. Like, why did you throw so much at me? I mean, they say death of a loved one, divorce and moving are the top three life stressors, and you gave me all three in the first chapter.
Me: To be fair, you weren’t divorced.
Amy: No, but my marriage to Matt was in a bad way. And I did consider divorce in the first chapter.
Me: Not for long though.
Amy: True. I was hopeful the day we moved into Blackwood. Ready for a new start, to make things with Matt work. I didn’t think my life could get worse. But it did. Why’d you have to keep butting in?
Me: That’s my job as a writer. To “shove you up a tree and throw rocks at you” as an editor told me. If you lived happily ever after from Chapter 2, who would read the book? Who wants to read a book where the characters muddle along? It’s like listening to someone tell you about their dreams.
Amy: True … but haven’t you ever heard of that phrase ‘you never get more than you can handle’?
Me: Sorry. I know some people say that, but I’m not sure it’s entirely true. Besides, it’s my job to take character to their limits and see what happens.
Amy: Harsh. What happened to empathy? There were times I was on the floor, bawling, Mon. I couldn’t see a way out of the mess I was in. And you kept throwing those figurative rocks.
Me: I’m an empath, so I was right there with you, trust me. I cried too. But did you handle it? Did you learn something?
Amy: Well, yes, I—
Me: Shh! No spoilers.
Amy: Fine. But did you know all along what was going to happen? Like predestination?
Me: Whoa, predestination, that’s a bit deep for this time of the day. From a writing perspective, I didn’t plan it all out beforehand, no. I had an idea of where I wanted things to go, but as for your story, I let it unfold organically.
Amy: What? I’m a chef, not a writer, Mon.
Me: It’s a bit like cooking – I gathered the basic ingredients and allowed some to marinate, some to simmer, and others to sizzle. Sometimes, the flavour combinations surprised me and took me in an entirely new direction. Carla was a surprise ingredient. And Henry.
Amy: Oh, that naughty Henry! But Carla? What did I miss?
Me: Is there any more cake? It’s delicious.
Amy: I see what you did there … So, you’re saying you don’t follow a recipe?
Me: Well, not as such. There are things I have to do, like make sure every POV earns its place and every scene carries the story forward.
Amy: You take a basic recipe and add a twist.
Me: That’s one way to put it. I have to let my own voice shine through otherwise I’m just following a formula.
Amy: It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it. Saying what’s on your heart.
Me: It really is.
Amy: I guess you projected some of your dreams and thoughts about life into the book.
Me: That’s true, to a point. I gave you the kitchen of my dreams.
Amy: I do love my kitchen.
Me: Good … but I had to make sure the book reflected the thoughts of my characters, not me. It can be hard for authors not to intrude sometimes.
Amy: Speaking of intruders … Una and Sharon didn’t exactly welcome me with open arms. They were always sticking their nose into my business. Was that really necessary?
Me: Yes. They helped create conflict. And they were so much fun to write. Strangely, I found it easier to write the ‘villains’ …
Amy: So, you find conflict and making your characters’ lives difficult fun?
Me: Actually, I’m a massive conflict avoider in real life. I like harmony. But harmony, like characters who muddle along, makes for a boring book. Remember, readers get pleasure from all the stress. It’s weird, I know. Honestly, working conflict into the story wasn’t fun at all. I thought I’d written in plenty with what I threw at you in Chapter 1. Turns out that was dramatic action, not conflict. But my editor pushed me hard (kind of like I did with you) to continue building tension, both internally and externally. It nearly broke me. I much preferred writing the food scenes.
Amy: The Around the World Supper Club feasts are definitely mouth-watering, Mon. The only conflict there is when to stop eating.
Me: Well, there’s a bit more …
Amy: Wait, we both love cooking and travelling, and we both like to avoid conflict. How much of me is you? Am I just an extension of you?
Me: We do share some common interests and there are similarities, but you’re not me. I haven’t lived your life, or shared your experiences, and many times, your reactions are the opposite of what I would do. I’m more like another character in the book – which happened by accident and I only realised while I was writing this!
Amy: What’s going to happen to me next?
Me: You’ll have to wait for The Story You Tell to find out.
Monique has donated a copy of her book, Wherever You Go, to giveaway.
To enter, simply comment on the blog or any of my social media posts about Monique’s book.
The winner will be drawn 12pm (WST) this Thursday, 1st October, and will be chosen randomly.
International entries are welcome, but we can only post to an Australian address.