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Hot on the heels of that very flattering intro to my interview on Monday, I’d like to call for a drumroll….
I present Hannah Tunnicliffe–doesn’t that name alone make you think classy author, maybe windswept hills and high tea? Okay, maybe that’s only my mindscape. But she IS all of those things, and more! I count Hannah as one of my closest friends, which is kind of a miracle because it’s not that often that you make such a good friend when you’re, well, not so young anymore. She’s one of those people who is fascinating and generous at the same time. She’s got enough stories to keep you entertained all night, and I don’t just mean her published fiction. This girl’s been around the world; travel is a way of life for her. And she loves to give–presents, time, food, comfort. It’s a revelation.
As you may already know, Hannah and I met in a writing class eons ago in Vancouver and very quickly became friends. I got to watch proudly as she sent out her first novel manuscript, got a contract, got rave reviews, got an agent, another contract…and her huge success continues. It’s been such a thrill to witness. Her talent is one of those things that makes you believe in “being born with it” (not the Maybelline kind). She’s just a natural, gifted writer, the kind that the rest of us should feel lucky to have stumbled upon. I have been blown away by how she manages to get it all done and raise two kids with a (wonderful) man who sometimes has to work overseas for weeks at a time. I still don’t know her secret there…
Her debut novel, The Colour of Tea, has been published in Canada, the US, Europe, Australasia and who knows where it’s going next! Hannah has created a novel that is suspenseful, tasty and satisfying all at once. Just take a look at the table of contents; you will drool (and then rush out to find macarons). The story is Grace’s, a woman devastated by infertility and the crumbling of her marriage. She and her husband, Pete, live in Macau, China, with its brash colours, intoxicating energy and culture contradictions. As a way to manoeuver through her grief, Grace opens a cafe, and in doing so, forges friendships with women from all walks of Macau life. The Colour of Tea made me remember how vital women’s friendships are, and how delicious life can be if we take the time to taste it.
Hannah lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, Matt, and their two adorable and charming daughters, B1 and B2 (thankfully not their real names). She’s currently working on her second novel and I can’t wait to read it!
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Strangely enough that is a hard question to answer. I’m not sure. Being a writer, actually being a writer, feels like winning the lottery most of the time. That is not to say it isn’t hard work or without its challenges but I do think it is the best job in the world. So I always wanted to do it, in the same way I always wanted to have a million bucks and look like Elle MacPherson. I just didn’t think it was a real thing you could actually have. [And no, I don’t look like Elle MacPherson. No lottery win there. Doh.] So I guess the answer is: always and never.
What is the first writery thing you ever wrote (i.e. not a shopping list)?
Oooh, I can’t remember! I do remember writing poetry in my final year of highschool though. A few of my friends had won awards at the annual school prizegiving, some many years in a row. I got it into my head I should win something in my final year (seeing as I’d not managed it till then!) so I entered the school poetry competition. It seemed within my scope; as opposed to say suddenly, miraculously, becoming a top gymnast or scholar or artist. I wrote the required number of poems for entry, the first I’d ever attempted, and won. Beginner’s luck. I pretty much didn’t write again for eleven years.
Where is the most inspiring place you’ve ever lived?
You are the Queen of tough questions, Ria Voros! I’m tossing up between London, England, Macau, China or a campervan called Fred. London is so rich with history, so busy, so beautiful in it’s own slightly depressing, grey-sky way it really is a writer’s paradise. Conversely, Macau is bright, glittering, and moving faster than a speeding bullet, you can’t escape unchanged after living there. And Fred? Well, he wasn’t a speeding bullet, that is for sure (ask my travelling companion, Brad Coles!) but he was dependable and sturdy and allowed me to spend three months exploring Western Europe. See? Too hard to answer. I’m splitting my vote three ways.
If you could have lunch with any dead writer, who would you choose?
Lucy Maud Montgomery. I was (okay, still am) obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and collected all the books in the series. I would be completely star-struck by her and might not be able to eat my scone and jam. I mean, clearly we could be sharing a high tea, that’s how I imagine it!
What do you think is the most important attribute of a writer?
Curiosity. I think a writer needs to be curious; especially about people. Our loves, our lives, our fears and our lies. You have to be intrigued by this crazy place we live in and you have to notice.
What makes a good meal?
Good company and honesty. And by that I mean honest ingredients and honest company! Add a drop of New Zealand wine (ahem, personal bias) and you have yourself a very, very good meal.
Summer food or winter food?
What about autumn or spring? 😉 I’m a fruit monkey so I guess I would have to choose summer. So much great fruit and vege is in abundance. Sorry, winter, you know I love you!
What food do you really hate and why?
I’ll eat almost anything but I have to admit I am not keen on capsicums / peppers. Then again, I tried them picked fresh on Saltspring island at Foxglove Farm and I was pretty impressed. So maybe I will just eat anything as long as it’s fresh and a rugged looking organic farmer waves it under my nose?!
What is the most important thing in your kitchen?
My husband, Matt. He’s a much better cook than me and he loves it. His face lights up when he’s cooking, he doesn’t even mind chopping onions. Sigh. My hero.
What is your favourite fruit and why?
A really fresh, perfect apricot. I love effortlessly splitting them in half, the skin that is fuzzy but not as much as a peach, the perfume of them, the way they fit in the palm of your hand….
If you could only take one cuisine (Italian, Indian, Mexican, etc) with you to the proverbial desert island, which cuisine would you choose?
I am kind of nuts about Japanese food. I think it is beautiful, delicate and more diverse than some people imagine. Good Japanese food (like any good cuisine, no matter what ethnicity) seems to really honor its ingredients. The flavours are celebrated rather than masked, the food is often treated as simply as possible. I like that. Runners-up would be Mexican and Thai.
Sum up your life right now in three words.
Full up, baby!