by Kim Kelly


Millthorpe pop up flowers



 Our Millthorpe Pop-Up is a celebration of Australian writing, our books all gathering together in a little gold-rush era village with stories whispering from every wild colonial verandah post. So tell us, Lisa, if you were to set a tale in Millthorpe, with its many layers of history – from the Wiradjuri wars to boutique stores – what sort of a tale might you tell?

I love writing about small towns. Liar Bird and Sex, Lies and Bonsai are both set in small north coast towns. I’ve branched out a bit since. Paris Syndrome is set in Brisbane and Melt in Antarctica, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have too much trouble setting a story in Millthorpe. I think I’d like to write a cosy mystery with a young girl as the investigator. She would be snooping around Millthorpe to discover who has it in for the chocolate shop owner whose quality chocolates have created a wave of food poisoning. (I’m sure that doesn’t really happen in Millthorpe, by the way!)

Ha! You never know… Please tell us about the wonderful tales you’ll be bringing to the Millthorpe Pop-Up from far and wide.

2018 is a big year for me, as I have two books coming out.

Melt is my fourth adult novel. It’s a romantic comedy about climate change set in Antarctica – yes, you heard it right! It’s the story of Summer, a TV production melt coverassistant who is shanghaied into impersonating a science superstar in Antarctica. Her liaison officer in Antarctica, climate scientist Lucas Nilsson, isn’t at all happy about playing babysitter. Baffled by Lucas’s explanations of ice monitoring, glacial retreat and sea temperatures, Summer must attempt to master the science to keep her job. Thrust into a world she doesn’t understand, she relies on soap opera plotlines to help her through. The novel features a killer seal, a crazed politician and a sultry night in a snow cave. I had a lot of fun writing it.

Paris Syndrome is my first Young Adult novel. It is the story of Happy, a seventeen-year-old girl, who has just moved to Brisbane. She dreams about living in Paris with her best friend Rosie after they finish Year Twelve. But Rosie hasn’t been terribly reliable lately. When Happy wins a French essay competition, her social life starts looking up. She meets the eccentric Professor Tanaka and her gardener Alex who recruit Happy in their fight against Paris Syndrome. This is an ailment that can afflict over-zealous and idealistic fans of Paris. ‘Paris Syndrome’ is a coming of age story about finding your place in the world, dealing with grief and falling in love with someone unexpected.

In addition to these two, my previous novels Liar Bird, Sex, Lies and Bonsai and Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing will also be making their way to Millthorpe.

What’s your favourite Australian story – be it a novel, a film, or legend? And why do you love it?

It’s hard to choose just one, but Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko springs to mind. As the name suggests, it is set in my local area.  It’s about an Aboriginal woman who uses her divorce settlement to buy a block of farmland. She sees this as her own way of reclaiming Bundjalung country and returning it to health.

I love the book for its cheeky humour and its insights into Aboriginal culture. Melissa uses Bundjalung words throughout the novel and this adds richness to the story. The difficulty of maintaining culture and links to land is a central theme.

Mullumbimby can be enjoyed simply as a well-told yarn, but it offers a window into the living Bundjalung culture and meaning of Country which I found both moving and enlightening. It’s also a page turner – highly recommended.

Describe the view from your storytelling window today.

Today I have just moved offices as my son, who has been living at home, set sail for Sydney. My new desk has a view past some bangalow palms to the sea and Broken Head. There has been some nice wildlife action today. A water dragon jumped off the roof onto the deck outside my door and the noisy mynas and blue-faced honeyeaters are splashing around in the birdbath. Luckily, I have learnt to focus on the task at hand and not be too distracted by attention-seeking wildlife. Except for the butcher bird. The butcher bird is particularly charismatic.

Wonderful! Now, if you were to write the Great Australian Novel, where might you begin?

Oh dear, that sounds like a lot of pressure. I think I’d begin by having a cup of tea. I’d then decide to write a Perfectly Enjoyable Australian Novel instead.

Nice answer. And since this Q&A has been all rather exhausting, too, time for a cup of tea immediately. Fortunately, Millthorpe has plenty of options, from country pub to hatted restaurant, and several gorgeous cafes. So what’s your yen? Coffee and cake? Beer and chips? Coq au vin and Pinot Grigio?  And while we’re here, which Australian author would you like to invite to your table?

There’s nothing that makes me feel more festive than champagne and cheese. I’m sure Millthorpe can deliver on that beautifully. And I’d like to share that with you, Kim Kelly, because you’ve so kindly brought my books to Millthorpe and you’d be sure to fill me in on all the juicy local gossip.

Awww. And cheers to that! Thanks for bringing your story love to Millthorpe, Lisa.

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Find out more about Lisa Walker here.