Julietta Henderson on libraries, photography and writing
Sincerely, Me is a clever blend of humour, heart and honesty that will tickle your tear ducts and your funny bone. The scruffy and wayward hero, Danny Mulberry, lives in a garden shed at the bottom of his best mate’s garden, but when his drunken escapades are splashed across the front page of the local paper, his life takes quite the unexpected turn.
Henderson’s novel is an ode to family and friendship, with a lightness and camaraderie balancing out deeper issues like grief, addiction and mental health. After reading and loving Henderson’s debut The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, I had been eagerly awaiting her 2023 release, and just as I’d hoped, I laughed and snuffled my way through this enormous hug of a book. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes, Barbara Hannay and Minnie Darke.
Five fast minutes with Julietta Henderson
Do you have a good luck charm or a special token that sits on your desk/in your office?
I have a very small wooden Buddha that my sister gave me and for the past 25 years I’ve taken it all over the world with me. It always sits on my desk or windowsill. I’m not a Buddhist but it’s a really joyful little object (it’s a smiling version) and it always makes me feel at home. I also have a handwritten A4 sheet of paper stuck above my desk that says, ‘eat the elephant’, which is a reference and a reminder of that old question: Q: “How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.’ It’s there to remind me that the only way to get to the end of a book is to write your way there, one word at a time!
Favourite exercise to counteract all the hours sitting at the keyboard?
Walking, and lots of it! I live at the beach, so I tend to go out for a walk a couple of times a day at least. Sometimes I’ll keep going for an hour and other times I’ll only get as far as a coffee shop, but I always come back feeling fresher and (hopefully) inspired. Even though I tell myself I’ll think through a plot or character point on my walks, invariably my mind will stray and I end up thinking about shoes or dinner!
What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish?
My favourite quick dinner is oven baked salmon with asparagus and cherry tomatoes, all cooked in the same tray with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Everything is cooked perfectly at exactly twelve minutes (according to my taste!) and it’s the perfect colourful, tasty dish. I always thought I was extremely clever to have invented this quick and easy combination, until someone told me Jamie Oliver got there before me!
Which career would you choose if money wasn’t a factor and writing wasn’t an option?
Photography has always been a great love of mine, almost as much as writing, and I’d love to be a portrait photographer. I still might do it one day, I haven’t given up on that dream by any means. I also love the idea of being a musical theatre performer – but I can’t sing or dance so I sense a few issues with that one.
What’s your favourite thing about summer?
My favourite thing about summer is that every day is one step closer to winter! I’m kind of joking but not really – I’m definitely not a lover of hot weather, so summer is my least favourite season. That said, I do love the long days when it’s daylight from 5am until after 9pm. It feels like there literally are more hours in the day, and you can get so much more done. Although the downside is that you’re usually too hot to even think about doing anything!
Chocolate, potato chips or cheese?
Cheeeeeeeeese! I’ve rarely met a cheese I didn’t love and it’s literally one of my favourite things to eat. I’m also definitely very partial to a humble salt and vinegar chip, but to be honest I can take or leave chocolate.
Have you done anything special with any of your advances?
I guess the most important thing I’ve been able to do with my advances is to consciously allow myself to say ‘no’ to certain other kinds of paid writing work in order to focus more on writing books. When you’re self-employed it’s a very scary thing to turn down bread and butter money, but the payoff is that I’m spending more time on the work that really fulfills me and I also see it as an investment into my creative future.
Spot where you seem to get the best bursts of inspiration?
I actually have two lovely desks at home (in different places!), but I tend to spend a lot of time writing in libraries. I’m not sure if it’s being surrounded by all those books, but I definitely find them very inspiring spaces to work. I tend to get some ‘big ideas’ when I’m in the library – it’s very tempting some times to do a fist pump and a whoop, but so far I’ve resisted. I also have a very regular 2am wake-up call from my brain, so I’m often lying in the dark frantically typing notes into my phone and emailing them to myself. Sometimes there are 10 or 15 one-line emails waiting for me when I wake up!
Agent or no agent?
Agent. She’s absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me and I couldn’t do any of it without her. I had her pegged as my dream agent long before I submitted to her and I didn’t actually have a Plan B – she was the only one I approached. When she offered me representation it was literally my dream come true.
Do you have a writing ‘uniform’ (mine’s big earrings, cardigan and jeans)?
I ‘get ready’ for work every morning even though I work at home. I can’t start my writing day until I’m showered and fully dressed in what’s usually jeans or trackie pants and a cosy jumper (fluffy slippers optional). I also have to start the day with a takeaway coffee, so that’s a pretty big motivator to get dressed, because nobody wants to see a grown woman wandering the streets in her pyjamas holding an empty keep cup.
Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to this summer?
Ah, there are so many good Aussie books already out this year! I absolutely loved Meg Bignell’s Angry Women’s Choir and I’ve just bought 27 Letters to My Daughter by Ella Ward, which I’m really looking forward to. Others I’m hugely excited about reading are Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson, and Her Fidelity by Katherine Pollock. On the non-fiction side, I can’t wait to get my hands on Time of My Life by Myf Warhurst and A Question of Age by Jacinta Parsons.
Best one-line sentence from one of your book reviews?
That’s really hard because I’ve had some wonderful comments and reviews (many of which have honestly made me cry), but I think ONE of my recent favourites would be: “I read Norman Foreman and it opened my heart a little. Just what I wanted, needed and didn’t expect. Thank you.”
I also read one the other day about my new book, Sincerely, Me, which said “She certainly hasn’t suffered from the dreaded difficult second book syndrome, I think it’s even better than her first”. That means a lot as I’m still in the terrified early stages of post-publication.
Share a quirky habit or something readers might be surprised to discover about you.
I’ve probably got truckloads of quirky habits, but I think I just pass them off as my personality! But something that people might be surprised to know is that my middle name is Julia. Yup, Julietta Julia. My nickname of ‘Aunty JuJu’ used to be confined to my niece and nephew when they were very young, but it’s spread far and wide and I now have a whole ‘inner circle’ who call me JuJu!
Find Julietta online
On Instagram: @juliettahendersonauthor
On Twitter: @juliettajulia
Julietta Henderson was brought up in a book-loving family in the rainforests of North Queensland and has been writing professionally for more than 25 years.
Her work has appeared in books and publications in the UK, US and Australia. Her debut novel, The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman has been (or will be) published in six different languages around the world. Sincerely, Me, her second novel was published in Australia in 2022, with publication in the UK, Holland and Germany in 2023.
Julietta divides her life between her home town of Melbourne, the UK and wherever else she can find winter!
An uplifting and heart-warming novel about a family reunited, second chances and the power of forgiveness, from the critically acclaimed author of The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman. Danny Mulberry is the definition of a man who 'could do better'. He hasn't spoken to his sister in sixteen years, spends most of his spare time in the local pub and currently lives in his best friend's garden shed. But when the consequences of one drunken evening draw the attention of the press, a misleading article appears depicting Danny's less-than-perfect lifestyle as something covetable and wise. People start to think this apparently enlightened man could be the one with all the answers, and letters begin to flood in from strangers seeking his guidance. Wolfie is the teenage daughter of Danny's estranged sister, Lou. She's never met her uncle. But her mother needs help, so when Wolfie sees Danny's picture in the paper, she sets out to find him.
Within a week, Danny goes from being responsibility-free to a big brother, an uncle and an unwitting existential 'guru' to some very lost souls. Can he become the man they all need him to be?
WIN - WIN - WIN
Head to my WIN page for your chance to win a copy of Sincerely, Me thanks to Penguin Random House. Simply enter the contest HERE by 5pm Monday December 5. Aussie addresses and newsletter subscribers only, please.