Today I'm delighted to introduce you to Australian author whose debut novel The Tea Chest is published today in the UK.
Josephine Moon lives with her husband and son, and their extraordinarily large and diverse animal family, on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. She has a passion for horses, imported fine chocolate and gourmet teas.
Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and now co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down.
Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job; and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to start again.
When the three women's paths unexpectedly cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's magical vision for London's branch of The Tea Chest. But every time success is within their grasp, increasing tensions damage their trust in each other.
With the very real possibility that The Tea Chest will fail, Kate, Leila and Elizabeth must decide what's important to each of them. Are they willing to walk away or can they learn to believe in themselves?
Researching The Tea Chest
As a writer, one of my favourite aspects of a book’s journey is the research. I just love falling into a textbook, or a glossy book of photos, or skimming through the internet and stumbling across rabbit trails of information that hook me and transport me to another place or sensory experience. Words turn to images in my mind and images come together to form scenes, plot complications and motivations for characters. My characters passion is picked up by my characters and the story takes off in unexpected ways.
There were three main areas of research for the book: the teas; locations; and time periods. As far as the teas went, my true passions lie with herbs and fruits and flavours, so these became my greatest point of exploration. In the past, I studied aromatherapy, the basis of which is herbs, flowers and trees. So I had a wealth of knowledge in my head about that and many textbooks on hand to pull out when I needed to. It was tremendous fun applying the same aromatherapy blending techniques to herbal teas and I created many new tea blends in my mind, many of which made it to the pages of the book.
Another area of research regarded London. I have been to London, but only for a week, and it was a few years back, so I did a lot of Google Map walking of the streets of the city. I found it difficult to decide on a location for The Tea Chest. In the first draft, I had it in Portobello Road (famous for its markets) but I didn’t like the feel of it. I wanted The Tea Chest to be somewhere uber gorgeous and upmarket, both because that’s the vibe of the store but also because I wanted to put a lot of pressure on my main character to make the store succeed.
I’m quite ‘geographically challenged’, and Google Maps kept spinning me around and so I ended up hand drawing a map of Kings Road, my ultimate destination for the shop, and drawing in the shops around it. And that map sat on my wall for a long time.
Fortunately for me, I have a great friend, Kathleen, who lived in London for ten years. Possibly unfortunately for her, that meant I sent her dozens of annoying questions, including anything I thought was stupid but I should ask anyway, just in case. Like, does the sun still rise in the east (because, you know, water spins the other way in the northern hemisphere)? I just wanted to be totally sure! And she read my whole manuscript and vetted everything for me, which was a tremendous relief. My sister had also lived in London for a couple of years and she helped me early on to find all my characters homes, which was a great help.
Lastly, I needed to research different time periods so I could write flashback scenes for Judy and Simone. That was tremendous fun. I just love period research—the clothes, the food, the alcohol, the buildings. It really gives me a great boost and I always feel it somehow tethers me to a scene because it gives me strong boundaries to work within, rather than me rambling off in any direction.
All this research was time consuming, occasionally challenged my spatial abilities, but ultimately really rewarding and I think made my book much richer for it.
My next novel is about chocolate and I’m afraid the research there is not helping my waistline. So I’m thinking the book after that should be about celery so I can counteract all that chocolate.