Welcome author Cassie Hamer! Cassie’s love of words turned into a career in television journalism, and now a best selling author after the release of her debut novel ‘After the Party’. Cassie joins us today to tell us about three things she learned while writing her new release ‘The End of Cuthbert Close’.
1. The cure for disconnection and loneliness is closer than we think
The beating heart of this book is the friendship that exists between the three main characters – Cara, Alex and Beth – who are not only great mates, but also happen to be neighbours living side by side in Cuthbert Close. In a case of life-imitating-art, as I was writing and editing this book, I started to develop much closer ties with my own neighbours. It began with the dad up the road. He started letting his kids play in our back lane, scooting up and down and generally having a ball. Of course, my three wanted to join in and it wasn’t belong before we were all part of a WhatsApp group – Back Lane Social – along with two other families.
When the coronavirus crisis first erupted, I was utterly horrified to see people brawling over toilet paper and pasta in the supermarket aisles. Fear was clearly the cause – but I also suspect these same people were acting out of loneliness and a sense of disconnection – they’d lost faith in our political leaders, and the community around them.
But the tide soon turned. We came to realise the only way through this was to stick together and the #kindnesspandemic overtook the actual pandemic. When I put out a message on Facebook about being unable to find a particular Gluten-Free cereal, I was inundated with offers of help. A day later, two of my neighbours turned up on my door step with the requisite weetbix. I’ve seen these same sorts of kindesses play out across Australia, with locals shopping and cooking for their vulnerable neighbours, even leaving flowers at the front door.
In writing The End of Cuthbert Close, I came to the conclusion that you don’t get to choose your neighbours, but you can choose whether to befriend them and I think we’re seeing now, as never before, the value of community connection.
2. Isolation can be wonderful … for your writing
Okay, so I’ve just said how important it is for people to feel connected to their community, but … self-isolation presents an undeniably wonderful opportunity to crack on with your writing. During the drafting of Cuthbert Close I was lucky to spend two weeks at the artist-in-residence program at Bundanon – the remote bush home of famed Australian painter Arthur Boyd. I cannot overstate how productive this time proved to be. On an average writing day at home, I can write 2,000 words. At Bundanon, I wrote 30,000 words in a week, averaging just over 4,000 every day.
I understand that going on a writers retreat is a gift and privilege not available to everyone. For me, the guilt of leaving my three young children for a fortnight was extreme. But I used this as motivation – I felt I owed it to them to use the time productively, and I did.
3. The importance of Kimchi in Korean cuisine
Food also plays a big role in this book and, as part of the research process, I did a one-day Korean food tour of Eastwood, in Sydney’s north west – a day that left my stomach overly and my wallet a little lighter thanks to all the delicious foods I found, including Kimchi. In Korean cuisine, a standard meal consists of rice, soup and lots of banchan (side dishes) the most important of which is kimchi – a dish where the vegetable (usually cabbage, but not always) is pickled twice with salt. To this mixture you add chilli, salted shrimp, garlic, and fish sauce. It’s thoroughly delicious and rather pungent. Apparently, in Korea, many families have a second fridge – just for kimchi – it’s the nation’s ‘hero’ dish, born out of the need to preserve vegetables through the bitterly cold winter months. Not only is it really yum, it also does wonders for gut bacteria. What more could you ask for?!
About The End of Cuthbert Close
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbours. (Trad. proverb, origin: Australian suburbia)
Food stylist Cara, corporate lawyer Alex and stay-at-home mum Beth couldn’t be more different. If it wasn’t for the fact they live next door to each other in Cuthbert Close, they’d never have met and bonded over Bundt cake. The Close is an oasis of calm and kindness. The kind of street where kids play cricket together and neighbours pitch in each year for an end of summer party.
But no one’s told Charlie Devine, glamorous wife of online lifestyle guru, The Primal Guy. When she roars straight into the party with her huge removal truck and her teenage daughter with no care or regard for decades-old tradition, the guacamole really hits the fan.
Cara thinks the family just needs time to get used to the village-like atmosphere. Beth wants to give them home cooked meals to help them settle in. Alex, says it’s an act of war. But which one of them is right? Dead guinea pigs, cruelly discarded quiches, missing jewellery, commercial sabotage and errant husbands are just the beginning of a train of disturbing and rapidly escalating events that lead to a shocking climax.
When the truth comes out, will it be the end of Cuthbert Close?
The end of Cuthbert Close is available on Amazon and selected bookstores
About Cassie Hamer
I was always the kid with my nose buried in a book.
Fast forward twenty years or so and my love of words turned into a career in television journalism, where I covered stories with everyone from Miss Universe to the Prime Minister.
Then I had children, and seeing the enormity of the creativity within such tiny brains convinced me that I needed to start doing more with mine. So, I went back to uni and got myself a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and started writing fiction.
My debut novel, After the Party, was an Australian bestseller and my second book, The End of Cuthbert Close, is out in stores now.
I’ve won several Literary Awards and Prizes incluyding the Shoalhaven Literary Award 2017 and several Australian short story prizes.
You can find Cassie at: