Amanda Kool lives at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, a glorious part of the world surrounded by valleys, forests, walking paths and, most importantly, she says, wineries.
She writes in a little nook at the bottom of the house, closed off by a deep red curtain (her very own Black Lodge). In the summer, this is the only room in the house that is not in danger of combusting due to the sheer ambient heat.
Surrounded by the paraphernalia of whatever book she is writing (various tchotchkes, gewgaws, spirits, liqueurs, books, food stuffs and weaponry), she sits at her desk with a pot of freshly brewed tea and…according to her, procrastinates, avoids, trembles, and swears.
Despite all that avoidance, she’s seen her debut novel Tallwood published, as well as The paper Fox, an interactive story for IOS devices, and a bunch of other tales. Here, she takes us to a place familiar and intimate, and yet somehow all her own.
Precious Things: Amanda Kool
Like most people who will be posting here at Precious Things, I was a prolific reader at a very young age, devouring all manner of genres and losing myself in pages of mystery, adventure, and faraway worlds. My shelves are packed with science fiction, fantasy, crime, non fiction, and reference books that help me create the worlds my characters inhabit.
There are two books, however, that helped make me the writer I am today – equal in importance, but only one is my ‘most precious literary treasure’.
Watership Down is the first. I immersed myself in this world so completely that I saw the thoughts and lives behind every creature. Living in ‘the sticks’ as I did (and still do), there were enough rabbits and foxes and frogs and birds to make me believe that Adams’ world was real and I was viewing it from my bedroom window. I learned to put myself in someone else’s place, look through their eyes.
But my most precious possession? Well, that’s a cliché. It’s a trope. It’s kinda boring as a choice, because it is claimed by so many as a favourite, or a progenitor to their story-telling origins.
This particular, bible-paper-thin, 1077-page, wrapped in faux leather and embossed in faux gold, Guild Publishing edition of The Lord of the Rings.
I am not the first to claim the work itself (I’m looking at you, Michael Robotham!), but the only one to claim this particular edition.
As an adult, I have collected several other editions of this book; paperback, hardback, Folio, illustrated… But this one goes into the fire bag every summer with all my other, non-literary precious things, and is whisked off to my parents’ place for safe keeping until the danger passes.
Why this monstrosity?
I was 10 when I started reading it. In minutes, I was totally and completely carried away by the characters, the places, the looming dangers, and the whimsy within its pages. Names like Staddle, Combe, Mordor, Bree, and Rivendell swan in my head.
Just days into my journey to Middle Earth, in true Aussie tradition, I was at a BBQ and a cricket game started on the oval. I do not like cricket, but as a kid… Well, you went where your parents took you. I think it was some kind of afternoon get-together for my father’s work; all family members invited.
I could describe, in author-like detail, the crack of the bat, the missile-like blur heading for my pre-teen face, and the resulting agony as the ball struck my right eye, but… We’d be here forever.
As a result, my pupil was paralysed in a permanently-dilated state. I had an eye patch and was told by the doctor; “No strenuous activity, no lifting anything, and absolutely no reading for at least two weeks.”
Can you imagine?
I had just started this bible-paper-thin, 1077-page, wrapped in faux leather and embossed in faux gold, Guild Publishing edition of The Lord of the Rings.
The hobbits had met up with Strider (eschewing the best beer in Eastfarthing!), Dark Riders were scouring the land, and they were set to meet Gandalf at Weathertop.
Yeah. Screw that.
Tenting my doona with pillows each night, I waited for my parents to go to bed, turned on my torch, peeled off the eye-patch, and risked permanent and irreparable damage to finish the tale. Hard-core, neh?
It is not a pretty book to have as a Precious Thing, nor is it a remarkable choice.
But it is my Precious Thing and I have just packed it in the fire-bag ready to be whisked off to safety for another year.