Good Reading : October 2016
COVER STORY GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING OCTOBER 2016 26 In On the Blue Train, Christie cautiously for ms relationships with fellow hotel guests, including the Jackmans – an elderly couple mourning the loss of a daughter – and the despondent, enigmatic Har ry McKenna, to whom she is irresistibly drawn. Undercur rents of tension reinforce the precar iousness of Christie’s physical and emotional state and underscore the ever-present threat of discovery by the author ities. Kristel’s first novel, Night Street, for which she won several awards, including The Australian/Vogel Literary Award and the Dobbie Literary Award for a first published work by a female writer, also explores the imagined life of a creative woman in a histor ical setting – the early 20th-century Australian artist Clar ice Beckett, whose moody landscapes earned little recognition dur ing her lifetime yet are now highly regarded by cr itics. ‘I’m not sure that one novel was harder to write than the other – each had its own unique challenges and each took several years,’ Kristel says. ‘Explor ing an English character felt like a new, interesting adventure, although the two books also felt somehow linked, because I was dealing with creative women, inspired by histor ical women and with a similar historical setting in both, so there was a sense of continuation, which was nice.’ Kristel’s own creativity is the result of a disciplined approach to a structured writing process. ‘I’m quite strict with myself. Ideally, I write six days a week and I always begin in the mor ning, r ight after breakfast – with a cup of caffeine. I aim to give at least two or three concentrated hours to fiction before I move on to other projects – email, research or other work-related reading,’ she says. ‘If I’m travelling, I wr ite anywhere – on trains, in parks, in cafés. And then I tend to use a notebook instead of a computer, and I often find that things come faster, more fluidly, that way.’ Her literary influences include Virginia Woolf, Patrick White and Alice Munro, and Kristel also reads in languages other than English. She has a BA with honours in French and Italian from the University of Sydney, and she attained MA and PhD qualifications in English and creative wr iting. Her husband, a professor at the University of Rochester, is Mexican, and they speak Spanish at home. ‘At the moment, I’m a bit obsessed with Proust, because I spent most of the American summer working my way through In Search of Lost Time, in French – which was quite an undertaking. I love the r ichness and density of the language and the way he explores thought processes – it’s really breathtaking.’ When she’s not writing novels, essays, poetry, short stories or reviews, Kristel is a passionate swimmer, and she welcomes opportunities to dip in the ocean, or into Lake Ontario, which is not far from her home. She also enjoys exploring places on foot, and maintains fluency in French, Italian and Spanish by watching films and reading books in those languages. While her studies and her husband’s work have taken them to Italy, Canada, Mexico, Finland and the US, Kristel’s relatives and some good friends live around Sydney, and she’s looking forward to catching up with them while in Australia to promote On the Blue Train. Her third novel, which she is quite a long way into and which she says ‘might be quite sprawling’, is set in Australia and the US in three time per iods. It explores expatriate life and childhood memories of inner-city Sydney and the ‘complex connections between five friends’. On the Blue Train by Kristel Thornell is published by Allen & Unwin, rrp $29.99.