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(photo credit: Lian Hingee)
North Melbourne Books: Eighteen-year-old Natalie’s world is coming apart. Out of the blue her parents announce they’re separating and two members of her close-knit group of friends have paired off. Natalie feels like the proverbial third wheel.
Then along comes Alex, who starts to take notice. Through a series of farcical mix-ups, the two get to know each other, but when Natalie finds out something from Alex’s past, she wonders if he can be the right boy for her.
The novel has an autobiographical feel. Did you use a lot of your own experiences for the plot?
Nina Kenwood: I definitely drew on a lot of my own neurosis and insecurities, as both a teen and an adult, to create Natalie’s internal voice. She is traumatised by her experience of having bad skin when she was younger, and I’ve had bad acne throughout my life, so that part definitely had autobiographical elements. Saying that, the plot and the characters are not autobiographical. Most of my friends and family have read the book, and while they’ve seen a few familiar moments or snippets of conversation, they didn’t find themselves in there! I think my sister was quite disappointed she didn’t feature in the novel, actually (I’ve promised her she’ll be in the next book.)
NMB: While Natalie has a smart sense of humour, she’s also quite introverted and obsessive. We don’t see that many clearly introverted characters in fiction. Do you think she’s quite original in that sense?
NK: I think she’s original in the sense that she’s got a distinctive voice and point of view, one that really carries the book. I assume a lot of writers (and readers) must be introverts, because you’re spending so much time on your own, in your head, so it would also make sense that a lot of characters in fiction must be introverts too.
I am a classic introvert, and I was interested in digging into what that means in my book, and exploring how introversion can be an excellent way to understand yourself and your limitations, but also how it can be used as a way of avoiding doing things you’re afraid of.
NMB: Jane Austen comes to mind when reading It Sounded Better in My Head. Natalie goes through a process of transformation throughout the novel. There’s also a touch of Pride and Prejudice, where Natalie thinks she likes the gregarious Owen (Mr Bingley) but soon prefers the subtler Alex (Mr Darcy). Did Jane Austen come to mind during the writing process?
NK: Ha! It did not, to be honest, but I love this and will take any comparison to Jane Austen that I can get. I like to think all books that focus on the everyday lives of women and their romantic interests owe a debt to Austen.
NMB: There are some hilarious, bedroom farce scenes in the novel where Natalie and Alex are thrown together. It’s all ingeniously done. How did you come up with these ideas for the plot?
NK: These were my favourite scenes to write. I love writing dialogue, and the appeal of writing a romantic plotline is, for me, figuring out ways for the characters to have to spend time together and then, inevitably, talk about their feelings. I knew I needed to throw Natalie and Alex together during this section of the novel, and I knew I wanted it to be nighttime, and I figured out the plot mechanics from there.
NMB: What books are you enjoying reading at the moment?
NK: I recently had a baby, and as it turns out, she’s not the biggest fan of sleeping, so I have been a little bit too sleep deprived to read all the books I had on my to-read pile for maternity leave. I recently finished Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, which is a really interesting essay collection, and now I’m reading Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell, because I’m a Rainbow Rowell superfan. I read Mem Fox’s Where Is The Green Sheep at least once a day at the moment, as it’s my daughter’s favourite book. I’m hoping to read some more non-fiction soon including Inside Out by Demi Moore (in large part because it’s ghost written by Ariel Levy, and I love Levy’s work), and Fair Play by Eve Rodsky.
It Sounded Better in My Head, by Nina Kenwood. Text Publishing. $19.99