The Weight of Words

A much loved friend of mine died earlier this year. She had cancer, but, even so, her death came as a shock. Once, I might have phoned my friends and family with the sad news, or even written a letter. … More

In Defence of Christmas Letters

I was ten when I first read a Christmas round-robin letter. My eyes widened at the writer’s account of her family’s exam successes, sporting triumphs, job promotions and exotic holidays. Did such a perfect family exist? How were they able … More

A Conversation with Monica McInerney

(Questions by Ellen Edwards, my editor at Penguin Random House in New York.) Hello from the Gillespies begins with a Christmas letter gone awry—how did this irresistible premise inspire the book? I’ve been fascinated by the idea of Christmas letters … More

The Real-Life Railway Children

‘They were not railway children to begin with,’ starts Edith Nesbit’s classic The Railway Children. Not in our case  – we seven McInerneys were always railway children, our father the railway stationmaster in the Clare Valley of South Australia for … More

Teenage Angst

‘I’m on canteen duty next week.’ My Mum said it so casually, but the words struck fear into my heart. I was 14 years old, at high school in rural South Australia. Life as a teenager had come as a … More

The Statues of Dublin

In the centre of O’Connell Street in Dublin there’s a statue of the man who used to own the vegetable shop in my childhood hometown in Australia. On North Earl Street, a drinking crony of my brother is immortalized in … More

Sweet Charity: Behind the Scenes in Charity Shops

My name is Monica McInerney and I am an addict. My drug of choice? Charity shops. As I push open the door, my fingers start to tingle. My eyes start to dart. What might I find in here? A vintage … More

The Technological Times are A-Changing

I have a confession to make. At 46 years of age, I’m behind the technological times – not with the younger generation, but the older. I use a bulky desk computer, not a slinky laptop. I have an old mobile … More

Locations, Locations, Locations

Sometimes being a novelist is like having a film crew living in your head. There’s a casting agent picking characters, a wardrobe mistress dressing them, a scriptwriter developing plots and dialogue. And before anything can really get going, you need … More

Burned to a Crisp

Will my citizenship be revoked if I confess I hope never to experience a full Australian summer again? If I admit that three months of hot, dry days and hot, tossing-and-turning nights is my idea of weather hell? If I … More

The Consolations of Cooking

I have a friend who goes running when she is feeling down. Another takes a long bath. Another reorganises her linen cupboard. I cook soup. Great big pots of it, made from scratch, using all the vegetables I can lay … More

The Aunt’s Story

The first time I tasted garlic prawns was at my Aunt Jacqueline’s house. I was thirteen years old, a country girl, the middle of seven children, raised on a diet of chops and three vegetables during the week, and roast … More

Apartment Highs and Woes

I never expected to spend my first night in San Francisco wishing I could levitate. Or that instead of having good walking shoes for the hills and a warm coat for the fog, I had a suitcase full of rubber … More

The Expatriate Life

I think it’s time for a new word to describe someone living in another country. Expatriate – defined as out of one’s country – doesn’t cover it any more. The word speaks to me of isolation, separation and distance, yet … More