Amanda Hampson grew up in rural New Zealand. She spent her early twenties travelling, finally settling in Australia in 1979 where she now lives in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Writing professionally for more than 20 years, she is the author of two non-fiction books, numerous articles, and novels like The French Perfumer and The Yellow Villa. Her latest novel is Sixty Summers.
Today, Amanda answers our Ten Terrifying Questions…
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in windy Wellington, New Zealand, but grew up on a dairy farm in the lush Waikato Valley. It was a quiet, uneventful childhood and the nearest town seemed a very cosmopolitan to a country kid. The tyranny of milking cows every day of the week meant that we rarely went far and our most exciting regular excursion was to the municipal library in town. Books and reading opened up new worlds way beyond an isolated farm in an isolated country, and I couldn’t get enough of them.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I wanted to be an author even as a child. The idea that you could order these little black marks on the page and bring a reader to tears or laughter seemed magical – it still does.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That women have to get married and have children. We were a very compliant generation of women and quite unaware that there were many different paths our lives could take, and we could choose.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald is often quoted as being influential to writers. I admire the depth and detail packed into a book of only 47,000 words. I’m inspired by the premise of the main character as the observer and the sense that we have stepped into one summer in his life.
I’m always fascinated by the line drawings of Picasso – so much conveyed with a few simple lines. It translates perfectly to writing and effort involved in being concise and making the complicated seem simple.
“Blue Bayou” by Linda Ronstadt was released in 1977, and when I need to write about that period I simply have to listen to that song and its nostalgic sentiments to be swept back in time in a multilayered sensory experience of the period.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
When Maggie, Fran, and Rose met in their youth, they had dreams and ambitions. Forty years later, the three friends are turning sixty, each of them restless and disenchanted with their lives.
In an attempt to recapture the sense of freedom and purpose they once possessed, they decide to retrace the steps of their 1978 backpacking trip through Europe and set off on an odyssey that will test their friendship, challenge their beliefs and redefine the third age of their lives.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope it revives memories of earlier adventures and inspires new ones. Women of my generation were sold the idea that we should forever serve others and that to do something purely for ourselves was selfish. I’m hoping for a quiet revolt as wives, mothers, and grandmothers, inspired by my characters’ journeys, decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
8. Who do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Tim Winton for his dedication to his craft over so many years and his skill as a writer.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My goals are encapsulated in a letter the British author Gerald Brenan wrote to a friend: “The qualities I most appreciate in writers: the lyrical gift, the warmth in human matters, the sense of the beauty in the world, of the delight of being alive.”
10. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read widely, write regularly, and don’t rush to be published.
Thanks for playing Amanda!
When Maggie, Fran and Rose met in their youth, they had dreams and ambitions. Forty years later, the three friends are turning sixty, each of them restless and disenchanted with their lives.
Fran works in a second-hand bookshop. Her lover, one of a long line of disappointing men, is drifting away and her future is uncertain.
Maggie married into a volatile family. Her beautiful, indulged twin daughters are causing havoc and her elderly mother-in-law has moved in and is taking charge.
Rose has been an off-sider for her hopelessly vague but academically brilliant husband and their two sons. Time is running out to find and fulfil her own ambitions.
In an attempt to recapture the sense of freedom and purpose they once possessed, they decide to retrace the steps of their 1978 backpacking trip through Europe and set off an odyssey that will test their friendship, challenge their beliefs and redefine the third age of their lives.