This month’s reflection is from Nina Kenwood, whose debut novel It Sounded Better In My Head is out now from Text Publishing. Join us at Readings St Kilda on 22 August for a free in-conversation event with the author.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It’s a debut novel getting a lot of buzz at the moment, being touted as the big book of the USA summer. I’ve been a fan of Brodesser-Akner’s writing ever since I read her profile of Tom Hiddleston, so I was looking forward to reading her first book. I think she is an incredibly smart, incisive writer and the novel – set in New York, about the breakdown of a marriage – is filled with lines you want to underline or note down to think about later. I liked Fleishman Is In Trouble a lot, but I didn’t love it. I want to talk about it though. I have a lot of thoughts, and it’s the kind of book I can see myself having really juicy discussions about at a book club. Sometimes it’s more fun to like a book, rather than love it, because it’s easier to talk and argue about. The books I love, I want to protect them from the world.
Borrowed or bought?
Bought. I work at Readings so I usually have constant and non-stop access to books, both advance copies and those I buy with my beloved staff discount. However I’m on maternity leave at the moment so I’ve been buying online from Readings (which is how I got this book) and also from the two excellent indie bookshops I am lucky enough to have in walking distance from my house: The Avenue in Albert Park and Coventry Bookstore in South Melbourne.
I know a lot of people say they hate marketing hype and like to avoid the books everyone is talking about, but I’m the opposite.
What kind of reader are you?
I read mostly adult literary fiction, contemporary young adult fiction and personal memoir, but I’m open to anything. I want to read more graphic novels, romance, poetry and middle grade fiction. I’ve just had a baby, and I’m looking forward to reading a lot of picture books (so far Where Is The Green Sheep and Each Peach Pear Plum are my two month old’s favourites). Because I work for a bookshop, I am always trying to read ahead. I know a lot of people say they hate marketing hype and like to avoid the books everyone is talking about, but I’m the opposite. If a publishing company is excited about a book, I want to know why. If everyone is talking about it, I want to eavesdrop on their conversations without spoiling myself. I love getting excited about books, and I seeing other people excited about books, whether it be because of a prize, pre-publication hype, word-of-mouth or discovering a forgotten gem.
What does your book collection look like?
While I have previously been a fan of the rainbow bookshelf system, my books are currently shelved by category: I have a fiction bookcase, a non-fiction bookcase, a YA bookcase, and a ‘special books’ shelf which contains some of my most treasured titles, and the ones I like to dip into to for inspiration when writing. No matter how good my intentions to keep things neat and organised, I usually end up with piles of books all over the house: books I want to read (I don’t like mixing brand new yet-to-be-read books with already-read-books on the shelf), books I have started and then stopped reading but I might go back to, and books I have just finished and haven’t yet put on the shelf. At my parents’ house, I still have a bookcase of my childhood books, including my all important collection of The Saddle Club and The Babysitter’s Club series.
I have a fiction bookcase, a non-fiction bookcase, a YA bookcase, and a ‘special books’ shelf which contains some of my most treasured titles.
What’s one book you found critical to the writing of your own book?
Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Actually, anything and everything by Nora Ephron. Reading her fiction, essays and screenplays is a masterclass in voice and comedic style. I’m not great at plot, so I always knew the success of my book would hinge on the voice, dialogue and characters, and Ephron was the perfect inspiration.
If you had to pick one book to live in for the rest of your life, which would it be
I would live in the Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody. I reread the first three books in this series so many times as a teenager that I know Carmody’s world with a lasting intimacy. And yes, it’s a fairly grim post-apocalyptic series of books to live in, but I spent a lot of time imagining which misfit powers I might have and what guild I would belong to, and I don’t want to give up my chance to live out those dreams (Farseeking/Beastspeaking powers, and I would belong to the Farseeking guild, for the record. )
It Sounded Better In My Head is available now at Readings. Nina Kenwood will be appearing at various launches and events in Melbourne and Sydney throughout August, as well as the Melbourne Writers Festival.