Q & A on Wonderlust with Mireille Parker
Meet author Mireille Parker, an Australian who after having lived in Lucerne wrote a novel set here.
What inspired you to write a novel set in Lucerne?
Well, I moved to Lucerne in 2007 to be with my Swiss partner and at first, since I couldn’t work, I started writing a book. I had actually wanted to write about our relationship but I found myself waiting for us to have an argument to give me something to write about, so I decided to make it fictional instead.
So how much of Wonderlust is actually true?
It’s a combination of real conversations, my feelings, a mix of people I know and imagination. The places I visited in Lucerne are obviously where I actually went and used to hang out : Bodu, The Seebar, Starbucks, the cathedrals, Bachmann, the Bahnhof, the KKL, and Gutschwald amongst others. Actually, I used to live next to Gütschwald when I first went to Lucerne so things that happened there with the deer did happen. Also the German classes and the people I met in those are real.
One of the main themes of Wonderlust is the craving to create meaning and not simply consume; is that something you experienced too?
Yes, Wonderlust is about a 26 year-old Australian woman and I did feel locked out as an artist and creator too because I didn’t take art at high-school but had a few close friends who were artists. Writing felt like the way that I could secretly be creative, without telling anyone. And yes I often experienced this inner battle between the person I wanted to be and my bad habits. Plus, the desire to have meaningful conversation was real.
And now you made the cover too?
That’s right! I had an idea of what I wanted, the Queen of Luzern, Mount Rigi, and so I just did it myself. I like that you can interpret it any way you want to as well.
Oliver, the Swiss guy in Wonderlust, was the one who spoke of history and politics; does this reflect your experience with Swiss people too?
I did find that Swiss people, because of the direct democracy, did discuss history and politics more than what I’d experienced in Australia. Or at least my partner did and I found that very attractive and alluring, the mental stimulation. It was very interesting and I got the insider information on the country too. Although, unlike a lot of expats, I also had lots of experience with the Swiss because I was an English as a second language teacher from when I was 22 and worked A LOT with the Swiss teaching the Cambridge courses in Perth and then later as an English teacher working one-on-one for six months in 2009 in Lucerne.
Right! How long did it take to write Wonderlust?
Seven years! It was my education in writing. I did it for seven years, four days a week, two hours at a time. Now I write a lot faster and for longer at a time. But I had to find the story of Wonderlust. At first I only had feelings and the characters started to formulate over time. After three years I had it looked at and was told I had to find the story and decide whether it was a travel book about Switzerland or a novel. I kept some of the bits on Swiss culture but found the plot within.
So did you actually meet a bodybuilder in Lucerne?
No. I met a bodybuilder walking at the beach in Perth and there was something in his smile and energy that felt like he was trying to pick me up and it made me start to wonder about that and what it would be like. That’s where the character came from.
A major theme is food too, why is that?
Well, that was probably where my head was at at the time. Also, one of the first stages of culture shock is obsession with food and in my twenties, moving to New York, then Montpellier, France, and then Lucerne, I definitely felt that. Plus, when you’re travelling, food, bakeries, cafes and supermarkets are cultural experiences. I also find that when you’re on a budget, food becomes one of the only ways you can exercise your power of consumption and participate in the economy. Body obsession became a theme too because when you’re younger, you tend to think that once you look a certain way, life will be more perfect. Or when you’re questing for something, at least you have something. Also, when you’re not creating, the body becomes a form of creation, a way to express your creativity, if you’re not channeling this urge in other ways. That’s what I found anyway.
In Wonderlust, Sarah has a blog and you used to have a blog in Lucerne. Was that inspired by your experience?
No actually I wrote the book first and only in the sixth year, when I was teaching at a hotel school full time and didn’t have time to complete Wonderlust, I started the blog. I wanted to be blog famous, like Sarah. It looks so easy for some people. And also that idea that once you’re famous or celebrated, then your life will be interesting, that waiting, makes you miss the fact that in the creating, in the writing and experiencing, this is the interesting life you seek.
You left Lucerne five years ago, why are you releasing this book now?
Oh that’s a good story. Firstly, when I finally finished Wonderlust I had already joined this transformational coaching academy and then was running my business, so I had no time to pursue publishing it. I had breast cancer first in Lucerne and then after it metastasized and I had to have the brain surgery in Perth, I started writing my second book. Earlier this year I put my head down and finished that and was going to publish that first but then Life happened again. My cousin asked to read it last year and I was sure he wouldn’t like it but he loved it. Plus my friend had had the manuscript for years and I asked for it back and so she read it and loved it, so I started thinking maybe I would publish it. Then I met a guy at a café in Bali and he encouraged me to publish on Amazon, so as soon as I returned home, I started getting Wonderlust ready and within a month it was published.
Wow! How has it been revisiting Lucerne in the book?
It’s been great. Perhaps if I’d tried to do this before it would have been too difficult, given the circumstances of my leaving. I tried to forget about Lu and just focus on the present but after two years, she just started to flash before my eyes, like debris rising from the depths of my subconscious. Now, three years on from then, I felt very cosy revisiting all those places in Lucerne and excited to go back for a visit finally in 2020.
So that’s the end of this chapter in your life?
Well in a way yes but in another way, it was always my plan to come back to Lucerne every year for several months. That’s my ultimate goal. I’m also currently producing another book based in Lucerne as well. But that’s still a secret. I don’t think Lucerne ever leaves you.
Mireille Parker is an author from Fremantle, Australia. She worked for 18 years as an English as a second language teacher and has devoted the last twelve years to writing. She lived in Lucerne for four years between 2007 and 2014. Wonderlust is her first published book and her next book, the story of the past seven years, writing her way through losing her head in personal development to the brain surgery and bad relationships that brought it back, will be out in 2020.
Get Wonderlust here :