I caught up with Felicity Price at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival yesterday. The author is here to promote her new book In her Mother’s Shoes which is available through Amazon and Felicity’s website.
Before we started talking about her new work, we had a chat about Felicity’s much loved Penny Rushmore series - Split Time, A Sandwich Short of a Picnic and Head over Heels. Penny is someone many of us can relate to. She’s a woman of a certain age juggling work, relationships, children and elderly parents and trying to keep sane in the process. She seems like a friend to me. I asked Felicity if she was a friend to her too.
Yes, she is. She is also part of me. Penny has to deal with some big issues. I seem to have had a lot to deal with like so many of us have. In A Sandwich Short of a Picnic Penny has a brush with breast cancer. I had a brush with breast cancer. There’s nothing like a threat to your health to make you look at what is important in life and slow down. As women, we try and do too much.
We need to take time to smell the roses.
The Dominion Post describes your work as ‘chick lit meets feminism’. Your work has a bright and breezy tone but holds a serious message.
I believe there must be humour despite the pain. Like life. It’s full of laughter and tears. Penny has to deal with aging parents. She sees her mother suffering from dementia.It’s hard but it does throw up some laugh out loud moments. Many of us are going through this. It’s hard being the sandwich generation. Just for the record, my own mother doesn’t have dementia – she wants to make it clear she still has all her faculties!
You say on your blog that you seem to be attracted to semi-autobiographical subjects. Could you explain this term?
The great novelists I’m influenced by use their life experience as a background for their stories. Take Dickens for example. Much of David Copperfield is written around events that happened in his life. AS Byatt and Margaret Drabble do a similar thing. It makes the story real. In Her Mother’s Shoes deals with adoption. I was adopted as a child and I wanted to write a book that confronts this issue in my life. I understand how hard it must have been for my birth mother to have come down to Christchurch to have me, she wasn’t even allowed to hold me, then head back up north and say nothing about her pregnancy. She wore a mantle of shame her whole life. In 1996, the law changed which enabled adopted children to seek out their birth mothers. My birth mother had told her husband about me but no one else. She was so scared of what would happen if everyone found out. When I came back in to her life, her family was pleased. They welcomed me. The shame fell away from her and she’s been so much happier since.
How did study at Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters last year impact on your writing?
It was wonderful. I wanted to write about this major issue in my life and I needed help to go about it. The course helped me to structure my writing. It’s a complicated story and needed a lot of organising.
Your publishers weren’t prepared to publish In her Mothers Shoes. Did this surprise you?
No, not really. The novel is not my usual style which they know will sell. The publishing market currently wants Fifty Shades of Grey and vampire romances. In her Mother’s Shoes is neither of these things.
Was it difficult to publish through Amazon?
It’s been really easy and Amazon have been incredibly supportive.
Will there be another Penny Rushmore novel? Has she said goodbye to you yet?
I don’t know. She may have more to say. We’ll have to wait and see.
Did you visit the library when you were a child?
Yes, indeed I did. I have many happy memories of going to the old library building on the corner of Hereford Street and Cambridge Terrace. It was so big and grand, built of red brick. To this day, I always enjoy visiting the library.
Felicity Price is appearing in the session The Stuff of Life with Joanne Harris and Nicky Pellegrino in the Geo Dome on Sunday at 2:00pm.