• Maya Linnell

Imagination, magic and books with Tabitha Bird

This gem of a novel is the quirkiest and most imaginative book I've read all year. The Emporium of Imagination introduces us to Earlatidge, Enoch and Ann - three grief-stricken residents of the small Queensland town of Boonah - and a very special shop that offers unique gifts with a side serve of magic.

Tabitha's writing had me laughing and crying, with her characters sure to stay with me for a long time. Part fairy-tale, part manual on grief and part therapy handbook, the story contemplates the things we leave unsaid, the chances we might take if we had a second shot at life and the beauty of forgiveness. It's out now with Penguin Random House in eBook, audio and paperback.


Keep reading for your chance to win a copy, the interview and details on Tabitha's new novel.

Five fast minutes with Tabitha Bird


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

I think my chihuahua would count as a good luck charm. She can be found tucked up in my arms or nestled behind my back while I write and has been there for every typed word of my books.


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

Yoga, meditation and walking my dog are my favourite ways to destress and refocus.


What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish?

We spend four nights a week sitting beside sports fields as my eldest son pursues his dreams of professional soccer. He is currently playing for The Brisbane Strikers and so we diligently drive a 3-hour return trip into the city for his training. I’d love to say that we prepared healthy home baked meals but most of the time it’s whatever takeaway we can grab. If I do get a chance to prepare something it’s Prawn Rice Paper Rolls as they keep well and don’t need reheating.


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

Art, art, art! I love to draw and paint and am currently upskilling in children’s illustration looking into ways to make art that sells.


I’d also love a career in house flipping or Interior design! I adore the process of taking something old and unloved and creating beautiful spaces and heartfelt renovations. We are currently loving our old Queenslander to life but the opportunity to turn renovating into a business would be amazing.


Favourite book from your childhood?

Hands down, The Faraway Tree! Oh the joy of magic in that forest and the delightful folk of the Faraway tree! I adored them!


Worst writing/book related injury?

Yes! Okay, I have to share this one. The injury was purely emotional but I think all creatives and readers out there will commiserate with me. The event began with a fish. I should have foreseen that the fish would not live long (fish never seem to, do they?) What I didn’t predict was the day I cried all over the Apple computer store worker. Katie the cat came into our lives when my middle son lost his beloved fish. Not being ‘cat people’ we were dubious about this new addition to our family. But my son’s teary face convinced us that a kitten was needed and a tiny piece of fluff entered our lives.

All seemed merry. At first.

When my son was at school, Katie would sit on the desk beside me as I wrote. I enjoyed her purr and her company. That was until the day we shall refer to as ‘Katie is Lucky She’s Alive'.

One morning I watched in horror as Katie batted my teacup and its contents all over my MacBook.

The screen went black!

A tearful trip to The Apple store revealed that my computer was indeed dead. RIP all of my computer files.

I’m sure that Apple store worker hasn’t forgotten the tears and mess of one emotionally destroyed writer!

Oh, the injury! Oh. The trauma! I’m still not sure I’m completely emotionally over this event.

And after the replacement of a MacBook, my bank account hasn’t forgotten how much Katie the cat really cost us either.


Which jelly bean do you eat first, and which do you leave until last?

The red ones go first and I hate the black ones so they don’t get eaten at all!


Have you done anything special with any of your advances?

I built a new bathroom with my win from the QLD literary awards. Does that count? We are sure loving our new rain shower. Now I can’t get the boys out of the bathroom! If you’re a mother of boys you know what a big deal it is to even get them into a shower so I feel this is a win all round!


Which book and ‘essential’ item would you pack if you won a week in the Whitsunday Islands?

I’d pack ‘The Lost Apothecary’ by Sarah Penner- I’m totally and beautifully lost in this novel right now. My essential item would be the magic lunch box found in my new book The Emporium of Imagination. This way I know I’ll always have the impossible close by and accesses to a powerful and quirky shop.


Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to in 2021?

Magpie’s Bend by Maya Linnell! I can’t wait to read this one. I’m also looking forward to Sandie Docker’s new release later in the year titled The Wattle Island Bookclub. Doesn’t the title sound divine? Sign me up for that bookclub! Note from Maya - Aww Tab, you're too sweet!


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

“This book made me feel love, grief and humanity. It’s a wonderful reminder that grief is a privilege, a precious gift and that our memories and stories of those we have loved are what connects us to them forever, and nothing can break that connection, not even death.” ~Tammy Klinger on The Emporium of Imagination.


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

I once boxed. Like, in a boxing ring. With other people! My eldest son was in grade two at the time and I’ll never forget the day he went to school and told everyone at show and tell time that his mum had been in a fight and got a bloody nose! He left out the context about it being an actual boxing match and I had a very concerned teacher approach me after class to see if I was alright or needed help!


I happen to win that particular fight but lost my next one and eventually had to leave because of injury. But I loved this sport for almost 8 years.

The Emporium of Imagination

From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People's Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.


Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.


But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store's long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying . . .


The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.


Like Enoch Rayne - a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret.


Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it's Enoch's father who dominates her thoughts - and regrets . . .


Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before - and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy . . .


'Prepare to immerse yourself in wonder, childish delight and dark, dark trauma in this unique novel from a new and important Australian literary voice.' Australian Women's Weekly on A Lifetime of Impossible Days

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Tabitha Bird lives with her family and chihuahua in Boonah, Australia where her magical novels are set. Her debut, A LIFETIME OF IMPOSSIBLE DAYS (Penguin, 2019) was the 2020 winner of The Queensland Literary Award- People’s Choice Book of the Year. Her second book, THE EMPORIUM OF IMAGINATION is also a work of adult fiction, heavily dusted with magic.

WIN-WIN-WIN!

For your chance to win a copy of this fabulous book, simply read the interview and answer the questions on the WIN page. Entries open April 3. The winner will be drawn Sunday, April 11 at 5 pm. Newsletter subscribers and Aussie addresses only, please. Thanks to Penguin Random House for the review and giveaway copies.

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