Australian writer Kate Morton, who burst onto the bestseller scene with The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden and The Distant Hours, took time out of her busy book tour for her latest book, The Secret Keeper, to answer our Proust-style questionnaire.
Q: What is your first memory?
A: I’m with my sister in our backyard, eating gooseberries picked from a vine that scrambles along the wire fence. The sun is shining brightly and the day has lost all sense of time. We’re wearing skirts my mum sewed for us herself.
Q: What inspires you?
A: To write? England, old buildings, beautiful landscapes, history, mysteries, secrets, peeling wallpaper, the smell of dusty books…so many things! In life, generally? My family and friends, good food and music, kindness.
Q: What do you find attractive in a person?
A: Honesty, loyalty, sincerity, and a great sense of humour.
Q: What is the most romantic place you’ve ever travelled to?
A: I find the whole act of travelling romantic: packing up a suitcase, leaving normal life behind, stepping into the unknown. Your eyes are opened in a way that they’re not at home and your emotions tend to be more sensitive. As an Australian, long-haul flight is a necessity and although it can be tough to be in transit for 24 hours or longer, it also adds to the romance. When I arrive somewhere in Europe or North America, I really feel that I’ve slid down the rabbit hole and gone through the centre of the Earth in order to get there.
Q: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
A: Hmm . . . this question makes me realize how seldom I feel guilty about pleasure! I eat dark chocolate every night, I love a glass of good pinot noir, I feast on episodes of HBO and AMC dramas…but never guiltily.
Q: When is the last time you lied?
A: As a professional fabricator, I try to be as honest as I can in my normal life. I’m not a good liar, I never have been: my emotions tell far too easily on my face. If anything I have the opposite problem—it’s so important to me that I’ve explained precisely what I’m feeling or thinking—that I’m really, truly, exactly understood—that I fear I can be rather tedious.
Q: Where are you the happiest?
A: At home with my loved ones.
Q: What do you most dislike in others?
A: Duplicity, insincerity, unkindness.
Q: In yourself?
A: A tendency to overthink and to worry unnecessarily.
Q: What word do you most overuse?
A: It changes with every book, but for The Secret Keeper my go-to word was glorious. I had to remove or replace about 50 of them in edit!
Q: What do you hate about writing? Love?
A: I love creating another world and disappearing inside; I hate it when the writing’s going badly and my deadline’s getting closer; I’m ambivalent about the lifetime of distraction a writer must lead. On the one hand, I’d feel incomplete without my made-up world to muse upon; on the other, it would be nice sometimes to be one hundred percent in the moment.
Q: Which book do you wish you’d written?
A: I’ve honestly never wished I’d written anyone else’s book, no matter how much I loved it. When I find a book I adore it’s enough just to have read it. It’s a far more uncomplicated pleasure!
Q: What is the possession you love the most?
A: My MacBook Air: it allows me to work, and to see and hear my loved ones when I’m away. (Not to mention, it’s just so light and sleek!)
Q: What talent do you wish you had?
A: The ability to sing jazz like Ella Fitzgerald.
Q: What do you fear most?
A: Oh, that’s an easy one: harm to my children.
Q: Who or what makes you laugh the hardest?
A: My husband.
Q: What does your perfect house look like?
A: Stone walls, an attic, a chimney or two poking through the rooftop; set in the middle of a rambling overgrown garden, with hens pecking in the dirt and birds sitting in the trees. The sun is shining, but it’s never too hot; we know in winter there’ll be a regular but light dusting of snow. My family is inside.