Interviews
October 10, 2018 posted by Unity Wellington

Leah McFall

Leah McFall

Leah McFall shared some excellent insights into her book-life in her author interview below. Leah will be launching her new book Karori Confidential: Selected Columns in-store on Wednesday 17th October 2018, 6-7:30pm. Read on for Leah’s interview and information about her forthcoming book. 


ABOUT THE BOOK
It’s a funny, touching love letter to Wellington’s suburbs. Award-winning Sunday columnist Leah McFall presents her debut collection in Karori Confidential: Selected Columns, proving that even a middle-aged mum with bad hair and catalogue jeans may know you better than you know yourself.

Read her sweet and bitter observations about the everyday lives of New Zealanders: our habits, heroes, marriages and quirks, and our shops, houses, streets and offices. Nothing and no-one is safe, least of all, herself. Who else will report from her own gastroscopy, lead a class of five-year-olds to town, or shamelessly investigate the claims of leak-proof pants?


WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?

Claire Tomalin’s 2012 biography Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life. Since I moved to Karori I’ve become more interested in Mansfield; my children go to her former school. The book empathises with her painful health and acknowledges her genius, but she still comes across as a bit of a wasp, to be honest. She was terrifying. I bought it after listening to the most remarkable podcast interview with Tomalin, who is now 85 and indefatigable. She’s just published a memoir about her life, which has been deeply sad at times. I’ll read that next.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?

My heroes are humourists. Bill Bryson was the first writer to make me laugh until I cried. I’ll never forget it: I was reading him in the Otago University Medical School library at exam time, and I basically collapsed into snorts and couldn’t stand up. Jane Austen, for mercilessly taking the mickey out of her own set. That’s brave. But my all-time, hands-down favourite writer is Nora Ephron; the virtuoso of the comic sentence. If she wrote it, I’ll buy it.

WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?

Bob Woodward’s Fear. A second-hand copy of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, which a friend saw in a skip and fished out for me. How touching is that?

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?

Pride and Prejudice. Come on! I’m a middle-aged Pakeha woman. What did you expect?

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?

Pride and Prejudice. I must read it every year. This makes me a cliché: I might as well have five cats.

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?

I really loved Samantha Morrow, the main character in Elizabeth Berg’s Open House. She’s a 42-year-old suburban American mom who has just been dumped by her husband. I had nothing in common with her when I first read it (I must have been 30) but now I’m older than she is. It’s such a warm-hearted book, with beautifully realised characters. It’s unashamedly middle of the road commercial women’s fiction and I loved it.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?

Anything by Joan Didion. People are so evangelical about her, but I’m just not that interested in bohemian seventies California, as lived by intellectuals. There’s something so lofty about it, I just can’t bring myself to pick it up. It will probably be the biggest regret of my reading life. I can be so wilful, when it comes to my own education.

WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?

Well they’d have to be lady columnists; I’d have so much to ask them. Camilla Long of The Sunday Times, Diana Wichtel of the Listener and Linda Burgess, most recently of The Spinoff Books. The latter are two of the funniest, most subtle and devastatingly clever women in print in New Zealand.

WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?

Cook? Gah! I’d be far too intimidated. No, no – I’d book a table at Rita. After all, special occasion.

HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?

My husband did the shelving; I’m not sure what metric he used. As I tend to re-read the same books, I know where my favourite ones are.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?

“Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.” Nora Ephron. I mean, no further questions, Your Honour. She was a genius; case closed.

A QUESTION FROM PREVIOUS AUTHOR INTERVIEWEE, Jennifer Andrewes:

“If you could live anywhere in the world other than New Zealand, where would it be, and why?”

Somewhere close to an English woodland. I spent my early childhood in England and love the flowers, trees and birdlife there. It’s all a bit Beatrix Potter, I know!


Author photo credit to Stuff/Victoria Birkinshaw

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