Today’s Kobo New Voices in Fiction feature is Hannah Tunnicliffe, author of The Colour of Tea. In her first novel Hannah shares many similarities with her main character Grace Miller, including both having lived in the tiny, bustling island of Macau. But as Hannah explores themes of female friendships, parenting and following your dreams, she admits that Grace sometimes has a mind of her own!
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Kobo: What drives you to write?
Hannah Tunnicliffe: I had always secretly dreamed of writing a book at least once in my life, in the same way other people might envision running the New York marathon or seeing Machu Picchu – it was on my bucket list! During a career break I decided to finally ‘grasp the nettle’ and complete my dream project, 1,000 words at a time. Once The Color of Tea was complete I worked on edits for several months before submitting it and receiving an offer to have it published. The transition from fantasy to reality and now working as a writer full-time, in between wrangling two young children, has been surreal and wonderful.
Kobo: Why did you choose to write about the particular subject in the book?
HT: The Color of Tea follows the journey of Grace Miller, who is struggling to find purpose and joy in her life after facing a diagnosis of infertility. She is living in exotic Macau, with her husband Pete when she decides to open a cafe selling macarons, the pretty French almond meringue cookies. Several factors influenced my subject choice including living in Macau at the time and being intrigued by macarons, which I first tasted in neighbouring Hong Kong. The book explores female friendships and parenting as well as following your dreams, all themes close to my heart.
Kobo: Do you feel your characters speak about different facets of your life?
HT: That’s a good question. I guess they do, each of the characters acting out different aspects of my own personality or experiences I have had or wondered about. Each of my characters have been somewhat inspired by a fascinating real person, shaped by my imagination and then gone off on their own accord to create their own path. They sometimes have minds of their own….!
Kobo: What is your relationship with your characters? Was it hard to let go of your characters?
HT: Absolutely, I still think of them fondly, and imagine them sitting in Lillian’s (the cafe in The Color of Tea) sharing a cup of tea, a plate of macarons and lots of gossip and laughter. Despite the obvious fact that they are fictional I have the strange sense that they are out there somewhere leading happy lives and getting up to new adventures.
Kobo: What books do you feel influenced you the most when writing The Colour of Tea?
HT: That’s a hard question because I think any kind of creativity is influenced by so many factors. Everything that you see and read and hear makes some impact, often rising to the top of your consciousness when you least expect it. I admire such a great number of writers including, but not limited to, Barbara Kingsolver, Marcus Zuzak, Ann Patchett, Amy Tan and Ruth Ozeki. The Color of Tea is for book lovers who enjoy reading about women’s lives, exotic places and delicious food, in a similar vein to Chocolat or The One Hundred Foot Journey.