Tasha Harrison on The Thing About Lemons and the metaphorical lemonade

Tasha Harrison is here to chat about making amends and forgiving people


Ori Reynolds has just made the biggest mistake of her life. Now, she has lost all but one of her friends, and had all her summer plans with said friend group cancelled. And, as if things couldn’t get any worse, she now has no choice but to go on a road trip with her estranged grandad Claude to his home in the French countryside. Talk about life giving you lemons! But that’s the thing about lemonsyou can make lemonades! Tasha Harrison is here to chat about making amends and forgiving people.

First of all, tell us about the trick to make the best lemonade.

If we’re talking literally, then I reckon the lemon-to-sugar ratio is a fine art that comes after much experimentation and glugging of lemonade! But if we’re talking metaphorically, then I guess some of the best words of wisdom I’ve ever come across are from Eckart Tolle: “Accept this moment as if you had chosen it.” It’s a really counter-intuitive thing to do as we’re hard-wired to resist what we don’t want, but when you surrender and let go, as Ori ends up doing, I think we can make way for good things to happen.

And actually, other than lemonade, what can we make when life gives you some lemons?

I think that when life isn’t going our way – either because of bad luck or because we messed up in some way – there’s always an opportunity to learn something that helps us get better at dealing with life’s challenges. I like to think that something good always comes out of something bad!

Ori kissed her best friend’s boyfriend, and in general is an angsty teenager. Were you worried that readers would judge her too harshly and be put off by The Thing About Lemons?

Yes, that was a worry. But I think it’s really important to read about characters who make mistakes – because we all make mistakes, and I think it helps to be reminded that everyone says or does the wrong thing from time to time, and that rather than drowning in a pit of self-loathing and despair, we can learn from our mistakes and grow wiser, kinder and stronger.

Ori’s grandpa Claude almost speaks his own language, using many fun phrases like “knackers and piss” and “negatorai”. What was the process like creating Claude’s dialogues? Did you have to research what people of Claude’s age would say?

Claude is a fictional mash-up of my dad, my uncle, my husband and even me! Those two expressions are regularly used by my husband. However, Claude’s accent comes from my 75 year old uncle who’s lived in Germany for decades (his granddaughter even calls him Grandpa Germany). Expressions like “crapadoodledandy” could be mine or my dad’s. We all have a similar sense of humour so sometimes I’m not even sure whose voice I’ve borrowed from, but creative expletives (some stronger than others) are definitely a running theme in our family!

And regarding languages, how did you pick which words the characters would say in French, and how much to say in French, for readers to understand what’s going on?

I think there needed to be enough French language to make the character of Odette seem authentic, without confusing readers – who I hope will get the general gist of those words, even if they don’t know their exact meanings. I’m a quarter French but I’m not fluent and if I don’t speak it for a while, I can start to lose a lot of vocabulary, so having a French-speaking character has been good practice for me!

The major theme in The Thing About Lemons is about making amends. Do you think there’s such a thing as “too late” to make amends?

No, I don’t think it’s ever too late. But maybe sometimes, particularly if years have gone by, making amends might not feel appropriate, or it might not be well received. In those cases I think it’s enough to write that person a letter of apology without necessarily sending it and simply send them loving kindness in your heart. But in all other cases, if it’s likely to help that person heal, it’ll help you heal too, so amends is a wonderfully powerful thing to practice.

And of course, any advice for those who find it hard to say sorry, and for those who can’t find the balance between “forgive” and “forget”?

I think saying sorry is such a healing thing to do, but it takes courage, as it can make you feel very vulnerable. But the more we practise feeling vulnerable, the easier it becomes and the less vulnerable we feel. As for forgiving and forgetting, situations aren’t always black and white. If you can forgive someone for hurting you, that’s great, because it’s a healing thing to do for yourself as well as for them. But you don’t necessarily have to continue a relationship with that person if you think they’re likely to disregard your boundaries again. And if you can’t forgive someone for hurting you just yet, that’s OK. As with Odette, sometimes it can take decades to find forgiveness.

Thank you for having me on United by Pop!

The Thing About Lemons is out June 3. (UCLan publishing)
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