Professional Reader

The Botanist's Daughter

I was lucky enough to ask author Kayte Nunn about book cover design and the inspirations for her as a writer and for her latest book release. The Botanists Daughter.

Firstly, the book cover for The Botanist’s Daughter. WOW! It captures the feel of your book perfectly and it’s just beautiful. Did you have any input into the design? 

Thank you – it is beautiful, isn’t it? In the course of researching the novel, I had created a Pinterest board where I saved images that helped to inform and inspire me, and I shared this with my publisher and the designer. The designer then actually incorporated one of the images I’d saved in the final cover design. I was given plenty of opportunities to comment on the cover as it progressed, and particularly in the choice of background colour – that it is one of my favourite shades of blue is so pleasing!

Writing historical fiction is hard enough with all the research, yet The Botanist’s Daughter also has an abundance of botanist scientific terms. Do you have a passion for flora and fauna, or was this added research?

I’ve always loved the sound of botanical names – from a young age I would walk with my grandmother in her garden and she would tell me the names of plants and to me, they often sounded like poetry. When I moved to Australia about 25 years ago, there were a whole host of new plants to learn about, with even more fascinating names. While I was writing, I did, however, have to make sure I got the names of plants correct, that they would be blooming in the season the story was set, so I did double-check them as I wrote!

I imagine a lot of time was spent in the Royal Botanical Gardens, did you also get to visit Kew Gardens too as part of your research?

Yes – I made a couple of visits over the course of writing the book and was thrilled to discover the Marianne North Gallery, which showcases the botanical paintings of this 19th-century artist and adventurer – that she was similar to my imagined character was such a bonus. I also read letters from the Kew Gardens archive that told of plant-hunting expeditions and the conditions the explorers encountered, as well as seeing for myself the tools of their trade.

How difficult is it to navigate a dual timeline storyline? Was it hard to switch between centuries? Particularly the language?

As I began to write, I sought advice from Kate Forsyth (whose book Bitter Greens I particularly love, and which employs a dual timeline). She suggested it would be easier to write one timeline at a time, and I did that, only weaving the two together at the end. I was conscious of making the language more formal in the historical sections, to help differentiate it as well as make it more true to the times.

What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?

I read voraciously and widely – my local library knows me well! Writers whose work I will always seek out include Maria Semple, Liane Moriarty, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Chris Cleeve, Geraldine Brooks, Tim Winton and Robert Galbraith.

Recent favourite reads include The Geography of Friendship by Sally Piper, The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning, Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan, The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton, I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin.

Thanks, Kayte for the interview and the wonderful The Botanist’s Daughter.  Buy your own copy here, or gift it to a bookworm you know who loves a stunning book cover!

The Botanist's daughter
Published JUL 31, 2018 | 9780733639388 | RRP $29.99