It’s lovely to have Lisa Walker here today to talk about her new book. Over to you, Lisa.
1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.
Publisher: Random House – Bantam
Release Date: 1st February, 2015.
2. Why did you write the book?
This story started with the idea of a pilgrimage. Over the last ten years or so it has seemed like almost everyone I meet has just done, or is about to do, a pilgrimage. Those who have returned talk about it ecstatically – it was life changing, they say.
The idea of a pilgrimage attracted me. I visualised the experience as a chance to take stock and maybe change direction. Although I am yet to do one myself I still have a vague notion that at some stage I will head out on a spiritual journey from which I will return changed for the better.
Instead of a journey, my fascination with pilgrimages has produced a book. Arkie’s pilgrimage forms the backbone of a story about redemption, trust and finding magic in the everyday.
3. How long from idea to publication?
About four years. I tend to write my first draft quite quickly but then take a long time to revise and polish it.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
Finding the right concept and then sticking with it was hard. The novel started as a story about a woman walking the Shikoku pilgrimage trail in Japan. I bought a lot of books about the pilgrimage and became quite an armchair expert, but somehow I could never find the time to go to Shikoku and research it. Despite this obstacle the book was on a roll so, loathe to put on the brakes, I got creative and changed the setting. My pilgrim now travels no further north than Noosa and no further south than Sydney. She is a ‘do it yourself’ pilgrim, finding transcendence on the highways of our local area on her way to the next ‘big thing’. Throughout the writing process the concept of a pilgrimage to the ‘big things’ often struck me as a little wacky and I got quite shy trying to describe my story to others. My writing group was very good at encouraging me along to the next big thing.
5. Coolest thing about your book?
Probably the fact that I’ve managed to combine a pilgrimage, a mid-life crisis, big things, surrealism, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, spirituality and a dash of magic all in one book.
6. Something you learnt through writing the book?
As well as learning a lot about big things I also researched Japanese spirituality. I was particularly taken with the story of Tanuki the shape-shifting racoon dog. Tanuki is a trickster who pays for his food and drinks in money which turns to leaves as soon as he is out of sight. He can also turn himself into a teapot at will. When Arkie picks up an old teapot on the side of the road strange things begin to happen.
7. What did you do celebrate the release?
I had a launch party at the Northern Rivers Writers Centre in Byron Bay. The staff at the centre have been a big support to me over many years and every book is a huge milestone. You can’t let it go past without raising a glass of champagne.
8. And how will you promote the book?
For a start, I’m doing a blog tour! My son, who’s into film, has made a book trailer for me, which you can see on my website www.lisawalker.com.au. I’m doing two speaking events in Sydney (at Ashfield and Randwick), one in Lismore and one on the Gold Coast. You can find out more about these on my blog www.lisawalkerwriter.wordpress.com.
I also have an article about big things coming out in the Fairfax ‘Escape’ travel section across Australia and Random House is doing a TV ad on Foxtel, which is pretty exciting. I’ll be at Bellingen Writers Festival in June and Byron Bay Writers Festival in August and I’m sure some other events will pop up along the way.
9. What are you working on next?
I’m branching out. My current work-in-progress is a young adult novel about a Brisbane teenager with an obsession for Paris. It’s a coming of age story, tentatively titled ‘Paris Syndrome’. I’ve just been over in France doing some research, which was awfully tough of course.
10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
Thanks for dropping by, Lisa.