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  • Writer's pictureMaya Linnell

Public speaking, lunch habits and improv comedy with Katherine Collette

The Competition was another entertaining and perceptive story from Katherine Collette, who does an excellent job of putting unlikely characters together on the page and gently nudging them towards their strengths without sugar-coating their weaknesses.

Collette's humour was a highlight of the novel, as was her sensitive portrayal of key social issues, making me laugh out loud, nod empathetically and at one stage, gasp as a key piece of backstory was revealed. Having never attended a Toast-Masters (or SpeechMakers) meeting, I also very much enjoyed the insight into the world of competitive speaking.

It was easy to be swept up in the drama and cheer along as teammates Frances and Keith attempted to set things right, despite their vastly different personalities and motivations.

Five fast minutes with... Katherine Collette

Do you have a good luck charm or a special token that sits on your desk/in your office?

No, but I have a special mug. I use it for two coffees in the morning and spend the rest of the day wishing I hadn’t had the second coffee yet.

Favourite exercise to counteract all the hours sitting at the keyboard?

Swimming or pilates/yoga in a hot room.

What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish?

This chicken rice bowl, good for kids, good for adults. I make double the sauce and keep it to put on lunches. The sesame-soy combo, ugh so good.

Which career would you choose if money wasn’t a factor and writing wasn’t an option?

Part time professional horse rider, part time theatre / improv comedy

Chocolate, potato chips or cheese?

Chips all the way.

Have you done anything special with any of your advances?

No, but I wish I had! I always intended to buy a piece of art but aside from a celebratory dinner or two, the money went into the mix. It’s allowed me work a little less though, which I guess you could consider a form of reinvestment.

Spot where you seem to get the best bursts of inspiration?

The car. Maybe this is why writing on COVID seemed so hard, not enough travel time.

Agent or no agent?

Agent – Jacinta di Mase

Do you have a writing ‘uniform’?

I do – black leggings, old red flannelette shirt and a cap.

Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to in 2022?

So many but Lauren Chater’s The Winter Dress just came out and I am VERY excited to read it.

Best one-line sentence from one of your book reviews?

I struggle to read reviews, even the nice ones but Jessie Tu did review my book for the Age/Sydney Morning Herald this year and it was positive. I was happy because as a reviewer she can be very tough.

Share a quirky habit or something readers might be surprised to discover about you.

I am a creature of habit -- I had the same lunch every day for 10+ years (it was a roast pumpkin salad), then a couple of months ago finally decided I was sick of it.

Where can people find you online?

The Competition

Frances quite honestly isn’t that excited about the SpeechMakers annual national conference and public-speaking competition. What she’s excited about (relatively speaking) is that this year there’s a major prize. Frances has a few small problems and forty thousand dollars would go a long way to sorting them out.

Keith is Frances’s probably-ex-mentor, it’s hard to tell since she’s not talking to him, and he disapproves of the prize money. He thinks SpeechMakers should be about self-improvement, not self-enrichment. He wants to win the competition, though. He thinks it might help the situation with his wife Linda.

Neil doesn’t care about the competition at all but Judy, his mother and coach, does, so.

And Rebecca…

Actually, what the hell is Rebecca doing here? Rebecca belongs to Frances’s past, not her present. And certainly not her (hopefully) less-disastrous future.

BUY IT NOW or ask your local bookshop to order it in.

About the author

Katherine Collette is a novelist, podcaster and engineer living in Melbourne with her husband and two children. Her debut novel, The Helpline, was published in the US, UK, Germany and Italy. Her second novel The Competition was published in 2022. She also co-hosts writing podcast The First Time.


Head to the WIN page for your chance to win a copy of The Competition, thanks to Text Publishing. Contest closes May 8. Aussie addresses and newsletter subscribers only, please.


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