Joanita Wibowo

5 minutes with author Joanna Nell

5 minutes with author Joanna Nell

In 5 minutes with author, Over 60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Joanna Nell, author and GP based in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. She won an Emerging Writer’s award from the Henry Lawson Society in 2014, and has written short stories for a number of magazines, journals and anthologies ever since. Her debut novel, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village became a national bestseller, and its follow-up The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker is set to be released in October.

Over 60 spoke with Nell to talk about blind date with a book, her go-to authors for mood boosters, and why she consumes books in all forms.

Over 60: What is your best writing tip?

Joanna Nell: Keep a notebook and pen next to the bed. I’ve lost track of the number of brilliant ideas that have come to me in the middle of the night, ones that I was absolutely, positively certain I’d remember in the morning. And didn’t.

O60: What book(s) are you reading right now?

Nell: I’m reading the hilariously entertaining yet poignant Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, and for research purposes, dipping into the delightful Your Backyard Birds by Dr Grainne Cleary.

O60: What is your favourite literary character?

Nell: My favourite literary character would have to be the charming Count Alexander Rostov (recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt) from A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

O60: What book do you think more people should read?

Nell: People should read the book that they would never normally pick up. Experimenting with a new author or genre can take the reader of on the most unexpected and exciting journey. That’s why I’m a huge fan of “Blind Date With A Book” initiatives run by bookshops and libraries.

O60: Paperback, e-book or audiobook?

Nell: All three. I buy paperbacks to support my local independent booksellers, e-books when I’m travelling (or so impatient I can’t wait until the shops open), and listen to non-fiction and memoir on audiobooks whilst walking the dog or driving.

O60: What genre do you read for fun?

Nell: I read a wide variety of genres for pleasure – anything and everything. When I need an instant pick-me-up however, my go-to authors are humorists such as Alan Bennett, David Sedaris and SJ Perelman. The brilliantly observed Talking Heads monologues by Alan Bennett are my all-time laugh-out-loud favourite.

O60: If you could only read five books for the rest of your life, what titles would you choose?

Nell: Five? That’s tricky. Even Marie Kondo is more lenient! If however, I was forced (at gun point) to whittle my beloved books down, I’d chose The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, On Writing by Stephen King, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Five very different books for five very different reasons.

O60: Which trope grinds your gears?

Nell: I love a good crime novel but I’m tired of reading about young, beautiful dead girls. In 2019, I feel it’s time for authors to move on from violence against women and use their imagination when creating more original murder victims.