From Tricia Stringer’s answers to the Starts at 60 questionnaire, it seemed her words revealed a “kindred spirit”. Who wouldn’t want to know a lady who loves “good coffee, expensive wine and chocolate” loves cruising and isn’t fussy about housework? Obviously a woman after my own heart.
It was with great pleasure that I met Tricia for a coffee, which became lunch, and which only ended when the cafe closed its doors. In a wide-ranging conversation, we discussed our idea for changing the course of history one good book at a time, family, authors we admired, books we loved. As a librarian and teacher, Tricia has many insights into the literary world which she is happy to share. So…
Who is Tricia Stringer?
“I’m a sixty-one-year-old woman, still married to the man I fell in love with as a teenager. I’ve worked most of my life as a teacher and a librarian. Now I write full time. We’ve raised three children who are all doing their own thing, have wonderful partners and have blessed us with grandchildren. At home these days it’s just the two cats, my husband and I living in rural South Australia close to the beach where I walk a lot, kayak sometimes and read while my husband fishes. We both love to travel Australia and beyond. I love good coffee, expensive wine and chocolate.”
What was your favourite book as a child and why?
“My first memory of a special book is Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter. I had a copy that I took to bed every night. I still love this story, the illustrations, the adventure and the consequences.”
What book made the most lasting impression on you?
“I honestly can’t pick one as I’ve read so many over the years and many books have touched me, educated me, expanded my worldview, but I still have vivid memories of my primary teacher reading us Colin Thiele’s, February Dragon. The joy of hearing a story that was set in Australia and touched on events that were within the realms of my understanding made me eager to read more Australian stories.
Is there a book you think “I wish I had written that?”
No. I read widely and I like to think I absorb certain styles of writing and add them to my own to create my own unique qualities. There are many ways of writing that are nothing like mine and I certainly admire the creative expression of the writer.”
What are you currently reading?
“Into the Night, by Sarah Bailey.”
What are you writing at present?
“There are two books in the pipeline at the moment. One in edit and one still in draft. I am always writing.”
Are you a planner or do your books form organically?
Organically. I know where my story begins and roughly how it ends but the characters drive the story. There are often surprises and lots of rewriting but it works for me.”
What was your first job?
“I grew up on a farm so there were always jobs to be done, collecting eggs, milking cows, shifting sheep, delivering smoko. My first paid job was in a café by the beach during summer break from teacher’s college.”
When I’m not writing I’m …………….?
“Walking on the beach, talking to my kids, reading, mosaicing and boring as it sounds, catching up on housework. My husband is a great cook but he’s more of an outdoors person. We have a beautiful garden and he volunteers in a few community gardens so mostly the housework is mine. Luckily neither of us are fussy about it.”
What is the most outrageous/bravest/silliest thing you have done in your life?
“Jumped out of a perfectly good plane. I had it on my 40th birthday list but it didn’t happen. Back in 2011, we travelled to New Zealand with our two sons. They were going to skydive over Queenstown and I decided to join them. I was terrified, especially when I had to sign the disclaimer that said people have died doing this. Once I jumped it was one of the most exhilarating and magical of experiences.”
What brings you joy?
“Family, friends and writing would be my top three but I try to find joy in most things.”
Is there a book you keep re-reading; something that never gets old for you or where you still find nuances?
“I have rarely re-read a book. I read Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, again recently and was disappointed. It has one of the best opening lines but I saw the content through very different eyes this time round. I read an inspirational book called Positive Thinking Every Day nearly every day. It has an inspirational quote for every day of the year so I keep reusing it.”
Is there a character you really identify with, either in one your books, or indeed another author’s work?
“There are often aspects of characters I identify with. In my current book, Table for eight, the main character is a little older than me. She’s a strong independent woman, who cares for the people she meets and always hopes to make a difference. That’s what I aspire to.”
Are you looking forward to ageing? Why/Why not?
“I never look too far forward. Where I’m at the moment is my focus. I still have so many things I want to do, books I want to write so I do my best to live the life that will enable me to continue to enjoy life. We are all aging every day. In my mind. I’m much younger than the woman I see in the mirror. The other day I met a wonderful reader in her mid-nineties who came along to one of my talks. She was active, quick of mind and loving life. A fantastic role model.”
Table for Eight the latest novel by Tricia Stringer is available from the publishers HQ Fiction.