'If you have nothing nice to say, say it twice.'
Such is Pree's motto in life. How different the sharp tongued Pree is to Katherine, a suburban housewife and mother. And yet both these women are intertwined mysteriously in a bond that will unravel as they face an unexpected death.
This novel details the coming together and ultimate disintegration of a group of friends, where major relationship changes follow seemingly insignificant events. Set in Melbourne against a backdrop of the Beatles music from the time, all is not as it appears in this darkly comic tale of misunderstandings and incidental hurt.
With plenty of laughs, drama and twists and turns, I Know Precious Little is an engaging first novel from author Joe Reich.
Joe Reich is an ophthalmologist practicing in Melbourne whose past writing has mostly been technical in the field of medical education or in preparation for a number of comedy debates. Shortlisted in the Women's Weekly Short Story Competition in 2009 this, his first novel, completes that story.
For more information please see: www.iknowpreciouslittle.com
I Know Precious Little
Author: Joe Reich
Question: What inspired you to write I Know Precious Little?
Joe Reich: Initially I wrote a short story for the Women's Weekly Short Story Competition at very short notice... only one day. The story surprised me by being a finalist so I decided that since I had some inspiration and encouragement I wanted to see where the story would take me if continued into a novel. So I kept writing for some months before I had a basic manuscript. The novel, which is totally invented, has a medical flavour which reflects the fact that as a doctor I felt I could put some fairly realistic medical context into my book.
Question: Are the character attributes of Pree or Katherine based on anyone you know?
Joe Reich: The main characters are very different but have similarities which are integral to the story. Pree is a stereotype, loud mouthed, self opinionated, bigoted and hopefully not really representative of modern Australian women (unless we embrace the values of Pauline Hanson). But she can be funny in her macabre self centred view of the world.
Katherine on the other hand is the seemingly ordinary housewife that was the destiny of many of the baby boomer wives. Giving up a career to raise a family. Both these women are pure inventions. However I suppose, like all writers must say, the people we know, have met and where we have been influence who we create as fictional beings.
Question: How much research went into writing about two completely different women?
Joe Reich: I wanted to write about middle class values, aspirations and the ageing of the baby boomers and the problems they face, including illness and the loss of a lifetime partner. The research was mostly from memory of time and place, for the Melbourne city and suburbs are a major part of how the women live and interact. Once I had their individual voices in my mind I felt they were able to tell me their story. The difficulty was with the similarities avoiding crossing from one to the other to maintain them as individuals.
Question: Can you talk about the difficulties getting your first novel published?
Joe Reich: My initial manuscript was submitted to a publisher for a manuscript assessment by my children as a father's day gift. The offer to publish followed and I have been impressed by the professionalism and editorial assistance of Sid Harta Publications. The hardest process was the number of revisions and drafts to finalise the book as it now appears while working full time as an eye specialist.
Question: Are you working on a second novel?
Joe Reich: While "I Know Precious Little" deals with illness, my next novel, which is still incomplete and is not a sequel, looks at a self deluded character (this time a man) who has so little insight into his inadequacies in both his professional and personal life. All in the course of a fateful week.
Interview by Brooke Hunter