Welcome to my fun Q&A where you’ll discover new things about some of our favourite authors. I’m delighted to welcome the very talented writer, Kali Napier, to a blog series that celebrates another art form (as my new novel is a love story about a sitter and an artist!!)
Let’s start, Kali…
Q: As pose and composition are important factors for a portrait, choose what kind of ‘look’ would you like for your portrait.
- On a chaise lounge (Kate Winslet/Titanic style)
- Fully clothed in a rocker (Whistler’s Mother style)
- A close up of your face (Girl with the Pearl Earring style/Mona Lisa)
- In all your formal finery befitting your ‘authorly’ status (Regal style)
A: Other! My first thought was to be painted like Millais’ Ophelia, immersed in nature. Though not too immersed that I catch pneumonia. Maybe a blend of A and C? I dislike my smile, so I’d probably have a closed-lipped, enigmatic smile like Mona Lisa’s, and turn my head away like the GwtPE. And I would need big hair, to hide behind Cousin It-style. It would have to be a casual pose if I’m to sit still for a long period of time, and an antique chaise longue suits my ideal aesthetic (when the kids leave home and I can get rid of the grotty Ikea furniture).
Q: *Snap* I just took your photo as a reference for my portrait of you. Tell us where you are and what you’re wearing. (Be honest.)
A: Right now? As always, I am sitting in front of my laptop, wearing pyjamas though it is nearly lunchtime. The beauty and the drudgery of working from home – in all my incarnations, as a full-time student of creative writing, a novelist, and a work-from-home grants writer for a disabilities service provider.
Q: Given a choice, what precious item would you want to be included in a portrait of you?
A: For my portrait, I would need to be surrounded by books and plants. I don’t really hold onto ‘things’ – a product of a peripatetic lifestyle when young, and a flood that took almost everything else. (Except books. I am definitely a book hoarder.)
Q: With acquired savant syndrome* featuring in my next novel, I’m curious . . . If you were to wake up from a coma one day to find yourself totally obsessed and a genius (in something other than writing, of course) what would you want it to be? (music, painting, languages, maths, touching your toes while typing, etc)
A: I have always wanted to be a singer. As a child, I was tone deaf and spent choir practice in primary school in detention as they couldn’t believe I wasn’t singing so badly on purpose. In high school, I wanted to be an actress but those dreams were thwarted during auditions for the school musical. The school even paid to bring in a singing teacher for me as I’d been earmarked for a major role, but he said I was ‘unteachable’. I ended up being a puppeteer in that production.
As a 39-year-old engaged in a process of self-reflection following a redundancy, I remembered those early dreams and started singing lessons. At first, only air escaped my throat, leading up to a quiet whisper of my first notes, until sound came out. The singing teacher said I was an “alto soprano”. Just like that. As if I could sing. And I burst into tears for the rest of the lesson. After a year of lessons, I could hold a note and sang a reasonable version of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”.
I’d love a voice that sent shivers down people’s spines so that they couldn’t tear their gazes away from my face as I sung. Just as I was riveted by the voice of a young teenage girl at my kids’ music concert last month, when she sang “Flame Trees”, accompanying herself minimally on guitar. She had an extraordinary gift. Tears spilled down my face and I had to consciously hold my facial muscles taut so I wouldn’t break down.
Q: If you happened to wake up one day and be a genius with a paintbrush, whose portrait would you want to paint and why?
A: Another one of my fantasies is to be an artist of some kind, but I think only in temperament, rather than having to practise my craft painstakingly. Of course, if I was a sudden genius with a paintbrush, I would want to sit myself on a bridge in Paris and paint passers-by for a living. (Obviously another fantasy, as I’ve never been to Paris, and I imagine this sort of lifestyle is not as romantic as La Boheme would have me believe.)
Q: Your preferred medium would be?
- Oil on canvas
- Kiddy crayons
A: Pencil and ink so I could travel lightly, and whip out my implements when the muse strikes!
Picasso once asked the question: “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” In my next novel, the artists says to 58 y.o Ava, “A mature person has depth of character and it’s their layers, built from life’s lessons that interest me the most—when wisdom replaces curiosity and experience replaces youthful exuberance.”
Q: What two traits would you hope an artist captures in a portrait of you?
A: I always think that I wear my heart on my sleeve and that I have no filter. But the person I feel I am on the inside is never what I see in photographs – I suppose everyone feels this way. I would love an artist to capture the better version of myself I yearn to be: happier, more content, laughing and living life to its fullest, and connecting with others. Certainly not someone stuck in front of a laptop most hours of the day.
I still feel like the me I was at seventeen, and I would want that person to also show through in my portrait – an idealist, who only saw open horizons.
Q: Because every fireplace deserves a portrait, in whose house would you hang a portrait of you as a surprise and what would they say?
A: I would want it hung in my children’s houses after I’m turned to ash, so that they come to know me as a person rather than as just a parent.
Q: Keeping in mind that lucky recipient of your portrait, how would see yourself framed?
- Minimalist or no frame at all – just the canvas (take me as I am)
- Modernist – chrome, nothing too fancy
- Sophisticated – warm, wood, old world
- Flamboyant – go all the way and gilt edged!
A: I would go with warm, wood, and old-world. I have nostalgic tendencies.
Q: Finally, if someone was to add a plague/title your portrait, how would it read?
A: I would leave it blank. The people who are important to me would have their own words for who I am and what I mean to them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kali Napier is the author of The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge, released by Hachette Australia in February 2018. Based in Brisbane, she is an MPhil candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Queensland, and lives with her two children in a house that is slowly being reclaimed by the bush surrounding it. Fid her and her book:
Before you go, I have some more author portraits to celebrate the release of my 5th novel (March 19 in Australia/NZ and April 5 overseas) so you might want to subscribe to my blog (right) or check out my Book Room for info about A Place to Remember.
*Acquired savant syndrome, in which a person acquires prodigious capabilities or skills following dementia, a head injury or concussion, epilepsy or other disturbances.