Interview with Kelly Doust, author of Precious Things

Precious Things by Australian author Kelly Doust follows a handmade beaded collar through history to the present, touching on the women who owned it and wore it in the past. Kelly Doust joins us on the blog today.Kelly Doust

Thanks for joining us Kelly. How did you become interested in vintage clothing?
I fell in love with all fashion when I was really young. I was that kid into dress-ups who always wore weird stuff to mufti day with makeup applied on the bus, inevitably having to wipe it off when a teacher noticed. My local charity store and flea market first exposed me to vintage clothing, but I also adored my mum’s seventies denim flares, cork wedges and plunging velour evening gowns, which seemed so risqué and fun and spoke of grown-up adventures I was dying to become old enough for.

Do you believe that a garment or handmade item can carry part of the essence of the previous owner? (Do you believe an item can carry good vibes or bad juju?)
Not really, but I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I wore a refashioned eighties wedding dress for my own wedding and didn’t give it much thought at the time, although the true story behind why it ended up in a vintage clothing store probably isn’t the rosiest.

In most cases there’s no way of learning the history of a vintage garment. Does this make you sad or do you prefer the wonder and intrigue?
It’s a kind of sweet sadness, the idea of stories being lost but it’s also the natural way of things. I’m always visiting fashion exhibitions because they share photographs and plaques with all sorts of fascinating contextual information. The May 2016 issue of UK Vogue has this brilliant fashion story featuring costumes worn by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards during their years of touring with The Rolling Stones, but Kate Moss is modelling them with a thoroughly modern twist. That’s so inspiring to me.

The Crafty Minx Kelly DoustThis is your debut novel, but you’re certainly no stranger to writing. You’ve worked in the publishing industry and published a number of books (including: Crafty Minx, A Life in Frocks, Minxy Vintage and The Crafty Minx at Home) and I was wondering where you do most of your writing?
Usually at home, but last year we were renovating and I ended up writing in my local cafe most days. It was actually quite useful, because I tried to write as much as I could before ordering another coffee, which made me quite productive. I try to have only two cups a day, so it really focused my mind on writing quickly!

What are you reading at the moment?
Inga Simpson’s Where the Trees Were and Katherine Brabon’s The Memory Artist, which recently won the 2016 Vogel Award. Both are so beautifully written. Inga Simpson’s passion for Australian natural history just shines through in Where the Trees Were, and I love the premise of the novel, which slips from present to past to uncover the story of the trees her protagonist, Jayne, is trying to protect. The Memory Artist is also quite staggeringly accomplished, especially for a first novel, and its Russian setting is very evocative. I find myself reading it in awe.Precious Things Kelly Doust book cover

What’s next? Apart from promoting Precious Things, what are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a second novel. Not a sequel to Precious Things but another novel set in England with many similar themes. I also have a new day job, which involves choosing books to turn into audiobooks. It’s really thrilling – I’m reading so widely and love the idea of bringing authors to new readers or listeners.

Thanks for your time Kelly and good luck on your next novel!
Thanks so much for interviewing me for Boomerang Books, Tracey – I so appreciate it! ☺

* Photo credit: Amanda Prior & Ruby Star Traders

Player Profile: Kelly Doust, author of The Crafty Minx at Home

kelly-doustKelly Doust, author of The Crafty Minx at Home

Tell us about your latest creation…

The Crafty Minx at Home: 50+ handmade and recycled objects for beautiful living is about the things closest to my heart: living the handmade life and appreciating the beauty of vintage objects. It also shares the joy in making things yourself and sharing them with loved ones.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was raised mostly in Sydney’s Inner West which is where I live now, but I spent my twenties living overseas in Hong Kong and London.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

From the age of about six or seven I wanted to write and started making up short stories and prose for my family (most memorably, a poem imaginatively titled ‘My dog’ when our beloved childhood pet died). My dream of being a writer never really changed, but I’ve certainly had a few failed careers in the interim. I’ve finished exactly one year of a hairdresser’s apprenticeship, and I never quite cut it in the corporate world. I also thought that if I couldn’t write, I’d study to be a fashion designer. I might still do that one day.

crafty-minxWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

The next book I’m working on… I always think I can do better and I’m naturally still learning and improving with each book. I consider The Crafty Minx at Home the best book I’ve published so far, because my taste has evolved along the way and I think we’ve created a beautiful, visually-inspiring world for readers to fall in love with.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?

I’m pathologically tidy so I always clear my work area at the beginning of each day. That said, I write at the kitchen table so it’s important to get rid of any distractions before I start, such as the morning’s dirty breakfast bowls and my daughter’s half-finished craft projects. It’s also near the kettle and my digital radio, both of which I couldn’t live without.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?

I read in every genre, from autobiographies to investigative journalism and non-fiction, but my favourite indulgences are novels and beautifully-illustrated lifestyle books. Writers such as Jeannette Winterson, John Irving, Wally Lamb, Jonathan Tropper and Annie Proulx blow me away with their intelligence and talent.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?

Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Tolkein’s The Hobbit. As a child, I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than escaping to other worlds where magic and adventure existed.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?

Flora Poste of Cold Comfort Farm. She has a plucky sense of humour and made the best of herself in straitened circumstances. She’s my heroine.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?

Watch horror movies. Dance hip-hop. Put my body through stupid challenges like Tough Mudder, just to see if I can.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Pasta. My mother’s family is Italian, and despite being told I’m gluten intolerant, I can’t seem to give up the good stuff. Favourite drink would have to be red wine. Or mojitos. Or champagne (I have several favourite drinks).

Who is your hero? Why?

People who stay true to themselves but manage to do so with respect for others. In terms of famous identities, I really admire Jamie Oliver for his passion, ambition and success. He seems like a good
person to me. Ditto Barack Obama.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?

Definitely all the other forms of entertainment available to us. I remember being despondent if I ever found myself on a bus or in a waiting room without reading material when I was younger, but now I rarely travel with anything other than my iPhone and use it to watch videos, listen to podcasts and browse online instead. But I think there will always be people who want to sink their teeth into the meatiness of a full-length book. I don’t think anything can replace the beauty of books as objects to covet, touch and possess. Especially illustrated titles, which only grow more tailored and exceptional as time wears on.

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