AUTHOR INSIGHT: MEET NELLIE BENNETT

After reading Nellie Bennett’s memoir Only in Spain, I just had to ask her some more questions. Except I forgot to ask…who does your hair? Who is your photographer? And where did you get that divine shawl?  Here’s what I did remember to ask:

Who/what inspired you to write a memoir? What was your reaction to the idea? Catherine Milne, who was at Allen & Unwin at the time, asked me if I would be interested in writing a memoir. And I thought, why not?
What was your publishing journey like? Any highlights/lowlights?
Publishing was a dream. I was blessed with a sensational team at Allen & Unwin who took my bundle of pages and turned it into a beautiful book.What sort of feedback have you had about Only in Spain?
So far I’ve had some very helpful relationship advice from readers who’ve been there and done that. It’s nice to know I’m not the (only) one who makes mistakes!

You finished Only in Spain dreaming of desert sands … is another memoir under way? Have you considered writing fiction?
I would love to write another memoir AND I would love to write fiction. Now that I’ve started scribbling I never want to stop!

What was the best thing about living in Spain? The worst?
The best thing was the food, and the worst thing was being so far from home.

A funny moment in Only in Spain describes how you reacted when you realised how hard it would be to be a vegan in Spain. Are you still a vegan? Or did Spanish food win you over?
No, I’m not a vegan anymore. Spanish food won me over completely. In Spain food is a celebration of life, and you’re either in or you’re out. There’s no vegan version of ‘fried milk’, and ‘fat from heaven’ is just that.

If someone wanted to take up flamenco dancing, what advice would you give them?
Do it. Now. Go tonight.

What’s life like for you at the moment? How do you spend your days?
Dreaming and scribbling.

What has been your biggest learning experience so far?
Realising that all along, all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a writer.

What would you say to a teenage girl about to leave school with no idea of what she wanted to do in life?
Life isn’t about ‘doing’ anything. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to live. So go and live a wonderful life, and the rest will follow.

What’s next for Nellie Bennett?
Next I want to learn to dance tango on the streets of Buenos Aires.

Five things that mean the most to you in life?
Dancing, music, food, love and toma que toma! (M: You’ll have to read the book for that one!)

Which book are you reading now?
The Spycraft Manual: The Insider’s Guide to Espionage Techniques. I’m up to the chapter on disguises.

Which book do you think all young women should read (as well as Only in Spain)?
I think everything a girl needs to know can be found in Kay Thompson’s Eloise. It taught me that getting bored is not allowed, and that an egg cup makes a very good hat.

Complete this sentence with five alternate endings: Back in my shopgirl days …
…I believed that purple was the new black.
…I learnt that ‘Water ruins silk. Steam is water. DO NOT STEAM SILK.’
…every season was the new season.
…they called me ‘Ironing Girl’.
…I dreamed of running away with the gypsies.

Have you found your heart’s desire or are you still searching?
I’m still searching.