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Q&A with Hannah Tunnicliffe, author of The Colour of Tea

In The Colour of Tea (2012), a most heartwarming novel, the main character, Grace, is a macaron baker.

She bakes all these fancy flavours in her new cafe, pouring her heart and soul into it and through this project gets to re-discover who she is in the middle of her mess.

The book got to me because, like I said, it was all heart and clearly written from a place of passion for food, writing and creativity – all the areas that I’m exploring with you on the smart foodie site.

Then I read Hannah Tunnicliffe’s biography and was spell bound by her courage to leave a corporate career to pursue her writing dream. She dared greatly as  Dr. Brene Brown talked about recently on Oprah’s Life Class.

I wanted to know more about how she was able to dare greatly and follow her heart.

By the time I got around to the interview last week, the self-confessed nomad had moved from Vancouver to Australia, where she’s living with her beautiful family and writing her second novel.

I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am by Hannah’s love affair with life, to take the next step in realizing your dream.

How did you get into writing?

Like you, Tasleem, I spent a long time in a corporate career. I worked in Human Resources for many years and finally hit a wall and became burnt out. I left my job to “explore my natural enthusiasms” which, at the time, included writing, career coaching, some volunteer work and surfing the net!

Over time writing became the activity I was most enthusiastic about and after writing 1,000 words for many days I finally had a draft novel. The Colour of Tea was that novel and I guess you could say the rest is history?! I’ve been really, really blessed and believe I have the best job in the world. Not without it’s challenges, sure, but the thing that makes me feel most like myself.

How did the inspiration for the first novel come to you?

When I wrote The Colour of Tea I was living in Macau, China. It’s such a rich, fascinating place to set a novel that aspect was a no-brainer. Then two ideas came to me at once – Grace’s character and the challenges she faces with regard to infertility as well as Grace’s Mama and their complicated relationship.colour of tea

The other elements stitched themselves into the story as I wrote it – Marjory and Gigi, Yok Lan and Rilla, and of course, macarons. Dreaming up macaron flavours (which title each chapter in the book) was possibly the most enjoyable part of writing The Colour of Tea. I can’t tell you how many macarons I have eaten as research. See – best job in the world!

What was different about this idea that compelled you to leave your daily job and make it true?

hannah_familyGreat question. My story is that I quit first and figured it out later. It seems reckless when I reflect on it like that (!) but for me it was the right decision.

I had a strong sense that this was my opportunity to do something completely different, to find my true purpose, and that I might not have this moment in time again. Or not for a very long time.

My husband, Matt, was extremely supportive and understanding, I had saved some money, I was in a unique place with a unique opportunity so I grabbed it and…..jumped.

You love baking. What’s the best smart foodie dish you’ve made…recipe please!

I am a huge fan of Sarah Britton from My New Roots. Who isn’t?! My absolute favourite recipe of hers is The Raw Brownie, it is so simple to make, tastes great and keeps well in the freezer. Runner up would be her cashew dreamcake, which I made and photographed on the food and writing blog I co-author, Fork and Fiction.

Do you believe there’s a connection between the food you eat and your level of creativity?

Yes. Although until you posed the question I had never really thought about it before. You have gotten me thinking..!

For me it’s all about being inspired, about eating food that someone was passionate about making. When I eat great food (it doesn’t have to be “healthy” per se but made with care and flair and thought) I get very excited. It’s a sensory experience that not many other experiences can come close to. And, great chefs are a strange combination of artist + mad scientist and I find them and their talents really inspiring.

Cover image credit: Good Reads

All other images courtesy of Hannah Tunnicliffe

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