Antique shop inspires novel
The story behind Dominion Rd’s Antique Alley has inspired a new book.
Kirsten McKenzie decided to write a piece of fiction based on her family’s antique shop, after her youngest daughter started school. Her work was accepted by publishing house Accent Press after five rejections elsewhere.
‘‘Everyone asked me what I was going to do with my spare time, so I said I’ll write a book. They say write what you know, and I know about antiques, so I wrote about antiques.’’
McKenzie and her brother took over the shop after their father David Brettel died in 2005. The book Fifteen Postcards is about a girl named Sarah whose family owns an antique store. After her parents disappear, she travels through time to when the 15 vintage postcards were brand new.
‘‘My father had collected postcards – that was one of his passions – and a lot of them are just simple messages. ‘Meet you tomorrow at grandma’s house’, that sort of thing.’’
‘‘I just got thinking about how everything in our shop was once new and once loved by somebody.
‘‘By the time it gets to the antique store it could’ve gone through 20 different hands or it could’ve been in the family for a hundred years.
‘‘I just tried to weave the story of the antiques and their travels from when they were new to when they’ve now been discarded in the antique shop.’’
Similar to McKenzie’s own family, Sarah also grew up in the upstairs of an antique store, The Old Curiosity Shop.
‘‘The backstory of that shop is the backstory of when dad started Antique Alley in 1971. Mum and Dad lived upstairs so it’s almost a homage to my father.’’
With their permission, her customers’ stories are also briefly included in the story.
‘‘There’ll be one sentence about Ewan the postcard guy, one about Vicky the textile lady and there’s a chapter about Manos who is a collector of New Zealand pottery.’’
McKenzie also drew inspiration from her experience of an armed robbery.
She found writing about was ‘ cathartic’.
‘‘It just brought it all back. Writing that chapter felt again like I was on the floor behind the counter with a gun to my head.’’
The book spans three continents and two centuries, which meant countless hours spent in the library.
‘‘I have never been to India and a third of the book is set in India.
‘‘I spent lots of time at the library and paid many dollars in library fines because my books were always late back.
‘‘The New Zealand part is set in Bruce Bay in the West Coast of the South Island and I’ve never been there either.’’
She did work as a customs officer in London however, which is the setting for a third of the book.
The sequel is a work in process and a third book is also on the cards.
Kirsten McKenzie wrote Fifteen Postcards as an homage to her father.