filed under Author Interviews.

As soon as I thought of the idea for this blog series, I knew I’d have to have Kirsty Manning as my guest. Her writing outlook is spectacular, and definitely worth sharing. She’s also offered a signed copy of her new book, The Midsummer Garden, to one lucky person who comments on this blog post. So sit back and enjoy this tour of Kirsty Manning’s writing spaces!

Where Stories Are Made - Kirsty Manning

1. My stories are made …

At home, mostly. I have a home office that has French doors on a deck high among my chestnut trees. It feels a little like writing in a treehouse. Mostly the doors stay closed. I live on a mountain outside Melbourne … enough said! In summer I throw them open and it’s magic.

A couple of times a week I’ll go to a cafe and write. Or I’ll sit upstairs in a beautiful, quiet room at our restaurant, Bellota, in South Melbourne.
That’s the trouble with writing books describing lots of food … I’m always hungry.

I also have a large table overlooking the turning circle and giant chestnut tree in my garden. It catches the morning sun and I’ll often sit there with a coffee overlooking the garden and do some work.

So that’s my ideal ‘where I write!’

The reality is I will spend many hours writing each week beside basketball courts and swimming pools. We have to leave home at 4.20 am (that’s not a typo) for my son to make his swimming training, so I’ll fumble my way onto a bike at the gym and listen to a podcast, or lie on a yoga mat ‘stretching’ and watching the clock until 6 am …when I’ll stagger into the coffee shop and do an hour of work.

Kirsty Manning

2. My stance on notebooks is …

Yes, I buy a new notebook for every book. And then I promptly lose it. So I end up with a couple. I make copious notes with set pages for characters, place etc and then by halfway through the book it’s just basically a download and lots of messy questions. I also write notes on post-its, receipts and index cards, and then stuff them into my notebook too!

I just pulled my notebook off the shelf for The Midsummer Garden. I have interview notes with chefs and marine biologists, notes about motivations for characters, scenes I’d like to incorporate, a glossary of some medieval words and some notes on mushrooming in my area! There are also some random scribbles from my kids, a couple of shopping lists, line sketches of some herbs, feedback from my agent and beta readers and contact details for experts I interviewed.

Perhaps the most surprising element is that at the back of my notebook, like an afterthought, I’ve jotted down the central philosophy for what has become my current WIP! So I obviously had some ideas for the next book while I was writing the last one, and just made a note of it so I wouldn’t forget (and I did, until now!)

I tend to scribble in my notebooks non-stop. But when I’m actually writing the novel, I don’t refer to them much at all. Just dip in and out a bit to touch base with my original thoughts. It’s like a dream-catcher for my brain and it seems to be the process of jotting things down that commit it to my memory.

Kirsty notebooks

3. I am … tidy or messy?

When I start a new book my office is immaculate. I even pulled the books off the shelf and wiped and dusted everything before I started this WIP.  Last week I was in a writing frenzy and I couldn’t see my floor, or desk! But I needed to rein in the chaos, and so it is very neat again. Often I’ll have lots of reference books open around me, so it looks worse than it actually is!

Kirsty Manning

4. I like … noise or silence?


We built our house when my children were just tiny toddlers and babies, and my office connects with the living room. I had the architect cut a giant hole in the wall, so I could see and interact with the family while I was working sometimes while they did lego or bounced on the floor etc in front of me. It seemed so idyllic …

Obviously that was the worst idea I ever had!

As any mother will tell you, when you are working from home, or doing a phone interview (I worked as a freelance journo for a while) the kids NEVER play peacefully with lego. They are much older now and I have a mighty piece of customised double-glazed glass between my office and the living room!

Usually, I hate listening to music when I’m writing. But sometimes in the evening I don’t mind something mellow, like Birds of Tokyo.

Kirsty Manning

5. On my desk, I must have …

A vase of herbs, usually rosemary, from the garden. I find the scent keeps me concentrating and it’s just really lovely! It’s an old habit I actually picked up when I moved into my first share-house at university. I read somewhere that rosemary kept you really stimulated and helped you to concentrate when you study. I’m a bit of a daydreamer, so I’m not sure there are enough herbs in the world to stop that!

I also have water, and sometimes a burning candle. The warm light keeps me calm.

Kirsty Manning

6. My walls are covered in …

Three walls are all bookshelves. The wall above my desk (under above-mentioned window) is filled with personal family photos, cards and letters my kids have written, invitations, funny cards or quotes and a lot of post-it notes reminding me to do something.

Kirsty Manning

7. I love my writing space because …

It’s so warm and inviting! It’s filled with natural light at all times of the day, it feel way more spacious than it actually is. I adore being surrounded by amazing books. It’s a happy space, quite near the heart of our home. I secretly love that the kids pop in to ask me a question (most of the time!!!) , or the littlest will sneak in for nothing except a snuggle and just to be near me. All three kids try to overtake my office for their homework, because even though they have their own desks, mine is a lovely place to be.

Kirsty Manning

Win a Copy of The Midsummer Garden

Kirsty Manning’s debut historical novel is The Midsummer Garden. To win a copy, all you need to do is leave a comment below. The winner will be drawn by the random number generator at midday, June 23. Here’s some more info about the book:


Artemisia is young to be in charge of the kitchens at Château de Boschaud but, having been taught the herbalists’ lore, her knowledge of how food can delight the senses is unsurpassed. And all of her talents are needed as she organises the final preparations for the sumptuous wedding feast for Lord Boschaud and his bride. But after the celebrations are over, Artemisia dares to believe that her future lies outside the Château. But who can she trust with her secret?


There is nowhere else Pip Arnet would rather be than on the mudflats of Tasmania foraging for native clams. Pip is an expert in predicting threats to healthy ecosystems. Trouble is, she can’t seem to strike the right balance in her own life. She’d thought that her fiancé Jack understood her need to make a real difference in the world of marine biology, thought that he knew she couldn’t make any plans, even his tempting trip to Italian vineyards, until her studies were complete. But lately, since she’s moved in with him, he seems to have forgotten everything they’d discussed.

When a gift of several dusty, beautiful old copper pots arrives in Pip’s kitchen, the two stories come together in a rich and sensuous celebration of life’s choices, family and love, passion and sacrifice.

If you’d like to find out more about Kirsty, you can find her website here, or you can chat with her on Facebook, or see more of her gorgeous pictures on Instagram here.

The Midsummer Garden

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44 Responses to “Where Stories Are Made: Kirsty Manning”

  1. Debra Croxon

    I liked the idea of having a vase of rosemary on my desk. I am going to do that too.

  2. Angela M.

    It must be so quiet where you live. It looks like a very inspiring place. 🙂

  3. Karen M

    I love books that incorporate the past and present. Sounds a very interesting read

  4. Jay Hicks

    I adore the idea of a jar of rosemary for clarity. I have a beautiful bush as a companion plant to one of my heritage apple trees – the bees go crazy trying to decide whether they prefer the electric purple spikes or pink-tinged apple blossoms. If I could only chase them to taste the honey. Now I’m getting hungry too, but I live 50km from a restaurant. Pass the saladas.

  5. Shell Parsons

    We had our bookclub meeting last night where we discussed your beautiful Her Mother’s Secret Natasha. Everyone loved it! At the end of the night, we picked our next book. You guessed it, The Midsummer Garden!! When one of our bookclubbers got home she messaged me saying ‘check out Natasha’s latest post…it’s about our new book.’ If that’s not serendipity, I don’t know what is. Stunning writing space Kirsty and laughed about the double glazed window. Can’t wait to read your new book

    • Natasha Lester

      Oh that’s fantastic! I’m so glad your book club enjoyed Her Mother’s Secret – thank you all for reading it – and wonderful that you’re reading The Midsummer Garden next! I’m sure you’ll love that too.

      • Shell Parsons

        I’m sure we will Natasha!! I was so excited to get your email saying I had won Kirsty’s beautiful novel. I have just arrived home from a weekend away and let out a squeal as I checked my emails😀🎉

    • Kirsty Manning

      Thanks Shell,
      I am so pleased to hear you chose The Midsummer Garden as your next bookclub read. I’m happy to attend, via Skype if you like? I’ve done this for a few bookclubs and talked them through the writing process, answered a million questions and given a sneak preview into my research. PM me via facebook, or contact me through my website I’d love to come!

      • Shell Parsons

        OMG Kirsty!!! I can’t believe your generous offer 🌺 That would be absolutely amazing 😀🎉🍾 I will PM you. I had just arrived home from a weekend in Bowral (NSW) and was checking my emails when I saw Natasha’s email saying that I had won a signed copy of your beautiful novel. I can’t wait to read it and discuss it with you and our bookclub which is called Cupcakes, Champers & Bookchat 🎂🍾📖 Much love, Shell. Xx

    • Natasha Lester

      Hi Shell, the radom number generator has chosen you as the winner of Kirsty’s book! Congratulations – I so hope you enjoy it. I will send you an email with details.Thanks so much to you and everyone else for entering.

  6. Sharni Alexander

    Good morning from Latrobe Tasmania!
    I was looking at your book in the bookshop a couple of days ago and I ooohed and ahhed about it for a lengthy period of time…I walked out with Moby Dick lolol…
    Anyhow I love your bookshelves and your space sounds soothing and inviting.
    Your world sounds lovely (apart from the inhuman time you get up!)
    I’m really looking forward to reading your book Kirsty, it’s been on my to read list since it came out!!!
    P.S. thanks for the rosemary tip, I need all the help I can get with my studies 🙂

      • Sharni Alexander

        Thanks Natasha! I sort of ended up in the bookstore today and bought Kristy’s book and have sort of started that instead of Moby Dick lol… the whale can wait!!!! X

    • Kirsty Manning

      Well! Moby Dick is an excellent book – can’t argue with that. I do hope you enjoy The Midsummer Garden when you get to it. Part of it is set in Tasmania (I married one, dear reader!) and I really tried to capture that pristine environment and the special relationship Tasmanian’s have with their landscape. It’s a special place to be Sharni. Hopefully I will run into you at a book event down there one day.

  7. Jenni Shaw

    I’m looking forward to reading, The Midsummer Garden. I’ll make sure to have a posy of herbs beside me to enhance my reading experience.

  8. Lisa Pahl

    I love the way you use notebooks, Kirsty! I do exactly the same. I find jotting down all those early thoughts just seems to crystalise things in my mind for my writing and especially gets me thinking about my characters’ motivations and backgrounds. I’m also in awe of your and Natasha’s ability to fit writing around family life – this is something I’m still struggling with! (Thanks Natasha for the many great interviews with mother-writers on this blog.) Thanks to you both for sharing these insights into your creative lives 🙂

  9. Alyssa Mackay

    What a beautiful setting to write beautiful stories. I also love Kirsty’s description of her notebook as ” like a dream-catcher for my brain.” I’d love to read The Midsummer Garden and hope the random number generator looks favourably on me.

  10. Matilda Whitworth

    What a wonderful interview. Going out to pick a posy of herbs for my desk right now!

    Sounds like an excellent book too. Adding it to the reading list xxx

  11. Carolyn Paul Branch

    Love your writing space! The idea of feeling like you are writing in a tree house among the chestnuts sounds wonderful. I couldn’t manage facing into the living room through the glass, though. Too distracting.

    I use a notebook for each book, too. I always get one with pockets in the cover so I can tuck innotes I make when I’ve forgotten to carry it with me. It’s full of extra stuff stapled or paper clipped to pages – messy, but essential.

  12. Cath G

    I love the rosemary idea. Definitely going to try it.

    The book is added to the TBR list 🙂

  13. Bambi Ward

    I loved this interview, and the photos. It’s inspired me to get back to using an aromatherapy burner when I write. I also love writing in different notebooks and have a collection of different Moleskines with different covers.

  14. Sonia Bellhose

    The rosemary on the desk – can’t wait to try it- sadly we just had to remove a rosemary bush – so must plant more.Meanwhile the supermarket will have to provide.

    The bit that intrigued me the most was the expert not being expert in her own life.

  15. Margot Wiburd

    Have just read your post lying in bed listening to rain thunder against the window in my current abode in WA…but am in the throes of homesickness! I lived the most exquisite 2 1/2 years of my life alone (though with a ghost, and later an enormous dog, as companions) in a tiny miner’s cottage in the midst of a paddock in Rochford, near Mr Macedon…and spend much of my working life (in the film industry) in Albert Park, with South Melbourne just a stone’s throw away. So I can relate to your heavenly life…despite the horror of rising at 4.30am! Look forward very much to reading The Midsummer Garden. (And Her Mother’s Secret, Natasha!)


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