1. MMATM took 2.5 years to write
And about half that time to edit. Chapter 3 was the hardest and had to be revisited and revised many times throughout that year (which sucks given that when you’re querying your novel, most request the first 3 chapters, so your first 3 chapters have to be pretty bloody good).
2. The café cat’s identity is yours to decide
The Melbourne’s little grey cat is whoever you interpret him to be. Whether he’s simply a stray cat looking for a kindly stranger to take him in, or Eve’s guardian angel visiting her in feline form, his identity is left deliberately vague so that you can attribute your own meaning to him. Many people find the presence of animals soothing, and many attach meaning and significance to certain things when grieving or feeling lost or alone. Why not a magical cat? It had to be a cat, I’m definitely a cat person (but too allergic to have one myself so I’ve written about them instead).
3. Barista-ing in Melbourne is really hard to get into
On my gap year in Australia I found it far easier to return to a professional day job than it was to get a job as a barista at a café. It really was as fiercely competitive as it sounds, but Melbourne coffee is unparalleled so they have some very high standards to maintain. I’m just as terrible at making coffee as Eve was to begin with, only there has unfortunately been no improvement on my part, as my family can attest.
4. Robert is close to my heart
All of my novels have at least one character named after a loved one, and in MMATM, Eve’s father is named after my gorgeous late granda.
The character of Eve’s closest Melbourne friend is an amalgamation of some of the friends I made when I first arrived in Australia. In particular, I was really struck by how socially conscious young people over there seemed to be, and Bex represents that for me.
6. Paulo wrote himself into the novel
There were no plans to include a Paolo when I started writing MMATM but I find him quite the lovable rogue and I’m so pleased he conjured himself up (and Gianni) because the story seems to be all the better for it. Paolo’s story, and that of his parents, Gianni and Giuliette, are explored in a lot more depth in the sequel to MMATM.
7. MMATM was written between Newcastle and Melbourne
I usually write alone at a café with my laptop, and this novel was written at some of my favourite haunts across Melbourne and the North-East. Writing is quite a solitary occupation, and though I never feel lonely when I write, it’s good to feel immersed in the wider community when doing so.
8. Eve and I both faced our own overseas crossroads
Eve’s story was inspired by my own ‘What If?’ moment, but our endings are very different. Eve chose to leave her Aussie love to return home and start afresh. Throughout my time in Australia I shared the same level of pull for home as Eve did, and even went home for a year at one stage, but while I was there I planned our wedding and returned to my new husband in Melbourne where I’ve remained ever since.
9. O Holy Night
Eve and Thom share their first kiss to the backdrop of O Holy Night. My husband and I had a Christmas wedding, and I’d hoped to walk down the aisle to the instrumental version of this beautiful, emotive carol. It unfortunately wasn’t permitted for our civil ceremony, so I thought I’d commit it to paper anyway and weave it into the fabric of Eve and Thom’s story instead of our own – that way it’s still close to the heart.
10. The Taxi driver
The Taxi driver who collects Eve from the airport represents every taxi driver who has ever collected me from Newcastle airport since I moved to Australia. They are always somehow aghast that I would return to this beautiful island that’s always been home to me, and have an unusual tendency to in one breath express what a miserable place it is whilst in the next defend it to the hilt. They all have some relative or other who they think I’ll have bumped into over there, and they all seem to have thought of moving over until arachnophobia deterred them. It might not be obvious, but the driver who collects Eve from the airport is the same driver who later collects James.
You can purchase your copy of Meet Me at The Melbourne in paperback via The Chateau’s website here or via Amazon (UK). 10% of every sale is donated to Plan International, a global charity driven to advance children’s rights and equality for girls.
A sample chapter is available here.