Vanessa Carnevale is a Melbourne-based author and mentor whose second book has just been released. When we spoke, Vanessa was excited after the photoshoot for her new book, saying, “it’s starting to feel real again!” Vanessa made the change from a corporate job a few years ago and is happy in a creative world. She started out with freelance nonfiction writing and now works on two things she loves: writing novels and helping others with their own writing. Vanessa studied life coaching and later developed her writing retreats: “I love supporting other writers, I love it when they have their lightbulb moment, I love it when they leave feeling inspired and confident. It’s just a joy to be able to give back to the writing community,” she said.

Vanessa is one of those talented people who can come up with a concept and some characters and then start writing, as she explained, “The magic of writing a novel is listening to your heart, listening to the characters and letting things unfold on the page. And that’s often where the best writing happens, when you’re letting the characters lead.” The Memories that Make Us follows Gracie, who is involved in a car accident resulting in amnesia. The scenario is a jumping off point for a question that Vanessa wished to explore in her writing, ‘If I had my time over would I live the same life twice?’ Vanessa explained, “it was very fascinating to me to think about life and crossroads in life.” Vanessa deliberately has Gracie defy convention by choosing to learn nothing about her past, which leads the story in some unexpected directions.

The Memories that Make Us has a lovely theme of growth and flower growing, with Gracie leaving the city for her late mother’s abandoned flower farm in the scenic town of Daylesford. Vanessa was very open about her (lack of) gardening experience, saying, “I always joke that before writing this book, I couldn’t even keep a cactus alive.” Vanessa said, “Research tells us that flowers are connected to positive emotion and can also help with memory.” Along the way she learned about the slow flower movement – people growing a small number of flowers in a sustainable environment and selling them locally – and began to successfully grow her own flower garden.

Vanessa said that she’s always considered herself first and foremost a reader: “I was in love with story. I’ve carried that love of reading through into my adult life. For me it was always a love of books that led me to writing.” It took a full year between the first draft of The Memories that Make Us and delivering the finished book to the publisher, as Vanessa said, “It’s a lot of work, but enjoyable work.” She loves what she does and feels honoured if people take the time to read one of her books.

“The Memories that Make Us” is published by Harlequin Press and is available now.