I’m excited to welcome Lisa Walker to Book’d Out to celebrate the release of her newest novel Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing.
Lisa was born in Holland, spent her early life in Fiji and her teenage years in Brisbane. Following a stint as a barmaid on the Barrier Reef she became a wilderness guide in the Snowy Mountains. She then moved on to lecture in outdoor education and work in environmental communication. She now lives (and surfs, and writes!) on the north coast of New South Wales with her husband and two sons who tend to come and go. Back in the distant past somewhere she started writing. Many novels later, her ‘first book’ was selected for the Varuna HarperCollins Program. This book, ‘Liar Bird’ was published by HarperCollins in 2012, followed by ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in 2013. ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ is her third novel, published by Random House. She has also written a radio play, Baddest Backpackers, which was produced for ABC Radio National in 2008 and many, many short stories.
About Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing.
‘I watch the highway go by and ponder my situation. I am on the run from my husband’s divorce lawyer, my mojo is still missing in action and my demon ex-lover is lurking . . . But, all things considered, my pilgrimage is going well . . .’ Arkie used to be a trendspotter, running a successful business advising companies on ‘the next big thing’. Until she lost her marriage and her mojo along with it. Her eccentric new friend Haruko suggests a pilgrimage in Japan. But funds are tight, so instead Arkie’s going on a very Australian trip, to all the ‘Big Things’. With Haruko as her guide, magic is everywhere. A Buddha appears next to the Big Redback, the Big Macadamia rises from the jungle like a lost temple and inside the Big Shell she can hear a tinkling voice, reminding her of the child she never had. As her improbable adventure unfolds, realisation dawns: could it be that, despite her celebrated foresight, Arkie’s been missing what was right before her eyes? “A delightfully funny and inspiring novel about a very modern pilgrimage, and one woman’s chance to rediscover what she’s lost.
My thoughts about Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Best Thing can be read HERE, in the meantime please enjoy this guest post from Lisa Walker.
The Japanese Connection
In ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ my protagonist, Arkie, meets her friend, Haruko at Byron Bay railway station on New Year’s Eve. Haruko introduces Arkie to her own way of celebrating. First there is bingo at fourteen minutes past nine, then soba noodles at fourteen minutes past ten and a prayer at fourteen minutes past eleven. At fourteen minutes past midnight Haruko gives Arkie a present in a drawstring bag – the Seven Lucky Shinto Gods. These gods become a touchstone for Arkie on her journey. There is fat and happy Hotei, whose stomach you rub for good luck, Ebisu, the god of fishermen, Bishamonten, who heals the sick and Fukurokuju the god of wisdom. Arkie’s favourite, the only goddess in the group, is Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows, her shrines are usually situated near water. She is fertile and a competent wife. Everything I am not, Arkie thinks.
Haruko tells Arkie that every New Year’s night the Lucky Gods travel around to houses on their treasure ship. Arkie must draw a picture of the Lucky Gods and place it under her pillow. If she has a good dream then it will come true.
I was drawn to the Lucky Gods because I kept seeing them everywhere I went in Japan. Sometimes they were ancient statues covered in snow, sometimes little models for sale on the street. I began to notice how the individual god’s names popped up everywhere. Ebisu, for example, is both a brand of beer and a locality in Tokyo. I bought a model of the Lucky Gods and brought it home. It sat next to my computer while I wrote the novel and gave me inspiration when I flagged.
Haruko’s present becomes an integral part of Arkie’s journey but she also introduces her to many other facets of Japan. When Haruko writes a trendspotting proposal about pilgrimages she includes a picture of Tori gates – archways which guide you from the everyday world to the spiritual. The picture is from a temple near Kyoto where you walk through hundreds of Tori gates on your way to the shrine at the top of a hill. This shrine, called Fushimi Inari, is for the fox goddess, Inari, who is also associated with fertility.
Inari appears in my story in the form of a white foxy dog with a mysterious influence.
‘Inari possesses you through your fingernails,’ Haruko says.
‘What happens if you are possessed by Inari?’ says Arkie.
‘You go a little crazy,’ says Haruko.
Strange things start to happen. Each way Arkie turns she finds a little bit of magic. A dusty teapot picked up on the side of the road could be Tanuki, Haruko tells her. Tanuki is a racoon dog who is a bit of a trickster. Tanuki takes many forms and often turns himself into a teapot, Haruko says.
Under Haruko’s guidance Arkie’s pilgrimage becomes much more than just a journey to the Big Things. Two worlds merge and every day is filled with new revelations.
Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing is available to purchase from
and all good bookstores.