Gift giving, tea cosies and imaginary friends with Minnie Darke
It’s such a pleasure to sink into a romance novel with lashings of humour, warmth and a heroine that’s not only business-savvy and determined but arty and vulnerable. Minnie Darke’s new novel, With Love from Wish & Co, swiftly transported me to the fictional town of Alexandria Park and I spent a week happily immersed in the lives of professional gift-buyer, Marnie Fairchild and the seemingly perfect Charlesworth family.
If you’re after a sweet, clever tale about complex relationships, prickly consciences and following your heart, then wrap your hands around a copy of this novel. And if you’re keen to hear the story behind the story, then make sure you tune into Cassie Hamer’s interview with Minnie on the Writes4Women podcast. You can listen in as a podcast or watch the YouTube interview here.
Minnie Darke is the pen name of Danielle Wood; Danielle also writes children’s books as ‘Angelica Banks’ in a collaboration with her friend Heather Rose. When she’s not writing in a bespoke timber caravan in her Hobart backyard, knitting or sewing, Danielle teaches writing at the University of Tasmania.
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table:
I think there’s still a bedside table under that massive, teetering pile of books! One that I can’t wait to get into is Love and Virtue, by Diana Reed. Another is Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus.
Where do you do most of your writing?
In a bespoke timber caravan in my back yard. It has a view across the Derwent River to MONA (Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art) and is fitted out with two dog beds so my kelpies, Scout and Jem, can keep me company while I work.
Favourite Australian holiday destination:
I live in Tasmania, so I don’t have to go far to find myself at a magical destination. Bruny Island has a special place in my heart, but so does the Huon Valley, the south-west wilderness, and the beaches surrounding the north-east town of St Helens.
What’s your preferred drop?
Russian Caravan tea.
My current pet peeve comes from my life as a mother. I hear people say, ‘mothers can only be as happy as their unhappiest child’. I’ve decided to reject this pernicious little truism. I don’t think mothers should be made to feel as if their happiness or otherwise is harnessed to someone else’s, even if that someone else is a child they love, treasure and hold responsibility for.
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be?
Pencils (2B), sharpener and an unlimited supply of notebooks are essential, right? And books. They’re essential, too. Correct? Which leaves room for a dog and a cat.
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for:
Australian book you’re most looking forward to reading in 2022?
The Jane Austen Remedy, by Ruth Wilson. I thought I couldn’t read any more about people reading Jane Austen, but the premise of this memoir – a woman embarking on a new life in her late 70s – sounds inspiring.
Best thing about being a writer?
Imaginary friends. Unlimited.
Worst thing about being a writer?
The gap between what you can see in your imagination and what you can capture on the page.
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? What song/channel/podcast do you have on high rotation?
Silence, for writing, but when I’m not, I’m a complete audiobook junkie. Audiobooks are the secret to coping with domestic drudgery.
Alas, almost all perfumes smell like seaweed to me.
Diver Dan (played by David Wenham) in Sea Change. The character is the crush. Important distinction.
The best non-writing related prize I won was…
First prize in a tea-cosy knitting competition.
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
- Only writing is writing. Talking about writing, thinking about writing, planning to write, creating beautiful colour-coded spreadsheets mapping out when you will write your masterworks (ahem…) is not writing. It’s only when you have pen in hand or fingers on keyboard that you are actually writing, and there are things that will never come out of you until you begin to actually write.
- Trust the little fizzy feeling that tells you your creativity has just woken up and is paying attention. What makes you feel creative? (Going to an art gallery? Being in a garden? Seeing a particular kind of film? Wearing a certain kind of clothing? Using a particular kind of pen?) Whatever the good stuff is, do more of it. Also be aware of what frightens your creativity into its shell, or deadens it. (Reading book reviews? Talking to that wet-blanket relative who says ‘there’s no money in writing’? Looking at pictures of other people’s perfectly curated social media lives?) Whatever the bad stuff is, do less of it.
- Sometimes people say ‘write what you know’. That’s not terrible advice, but it’s not very interesting either. Other people say, ‘write what you want to know’. This is more interesting. What I say, though, is, ‘write what you love’.
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing?
I hope my readers see all my characters as complex and flawed, with reasons for doing the things they do. One of the great things about writing romances is that there’s no need for a villain. There are just people facing internal and external obstacles while trying to navigate the complexities of their emotional lives.
Proudest author moment?
I have a range of writing identities, and my proudest moment comes from my life as a children’s book writer. It was this: I went to my twins’ Book Week parade, and a child from their school was dressed as a character from one of the children’s books I write, with my friend Heather Rose, as ‘Angelica Banks’. The character was Vivienne Small, and the costume was wonderful. Sitting in the auditorium, I thought, ‘that’s it. I’ve made it. My life is complete. A child dressed as one of my characters for Book Week. Does life get any better than this?’
My favourite thing about writing romance is ….
I get to deliver, to my readers, that cathartic ‘aaahh’ at the end of a story. I get to provide them with an emotional journey that ends in a satisfying way. I get to make people feel hopeful.
If anyone gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them…
‘Come on, be truthful – you love a love story. We all love love stories. Nobody is so cool that they’re completely immune to the moment in the movie/binge-worthy TV series/book/friend-group drama when two people fall in love. Love is exciting, affirming, generative. Love is the point of this whole living business. Isn’t it?’
Share a fun fact readers might not know about you:
I am already Minnie Darke, Danielle Wood and half of Angelica Bank but I not promise not to create more alter-egos in the future.
WITH LOVE FROM WISH & CO
Marnie Fairchild is the brains and talent behind Wish & Co, a boutique store that offers a bespoke gift-buying service to wealthy clients with complicated lives. Brian Charlesworth is Marnie’s most prized customer, and today she’s wrapping the perfect anniversary gift for his wife, Suzanne … and a birthday present for his mistress, Leona. What could possibly go wrong?
For years, Marnie’s had her heart set on moving Wish & Co to the historic shopfront once owned by her grandfather. When the chance to bid for the property unexpectedly arises, Marnie – distracted – makes an uncharacteristic mistake.
Soon Brian is in a fight to rescue his marriage, and Marnie is scrabbling to keep her dreams alive. With the situation so complicated, the last thing Marnie needs is to fall for Brian and Suzanne’s gorgeous son, Luke. With Love from Wish & Co is a heart-warming novel about what we are prepared to give, and give up, in the name of love.
Out now with Penguin Random House. Purchase HERE.
Find Minnie onlinewww.minniedarke.com