Q&A with Nina Kenwood

Cover of Unnecessary Drama by Nina Kenwood, designed by Imogen Stubbs.

Unnecessary Drama follows the adventures (and misadventures) of 19-year-old Brooke, who has recently moved into a share house to start her new life as a university student. What inspired you to write a novel around this pivotal stage of young adulthood?

It’s a time of lots of change, and uncertainty, and anxiety, and joy, all of which are excellent ingredients for a novel! I like writing about the time of life when you are on the cusp of adulthood, moving between that first feeling of glorious independence and wanting to run home to your mum.

Moving out of home for the first time can be freeing and exciting, but also incredibly challenging. How does Brooke’s newfound independence shape her? Does it result in self-growth?

She is a very structured person, so she initially misses the structures of home and school, and she is anxious about making new friends, doing well at university, and ‘achieving’ in her new life. Throughout the book, she learns how to relax into her new life a little more, and how to make new friends and find a group of people who will make her happy.

Two young women moving into a new house, carrying boxes.

Two young women moving into a new house.

What are some of your experiences with moving out?

Like Brooke, I moved from a small town to Melbourne for my first year of university, and I was definitely homesick a lot that first year. I had grown up by the beach and I missed the ocean, and my family, and it took me a while to adjust to living in a city.

Can you tell us any share house horror stories? We all have one, right?

The recurring mouse in the book is inspired by the many mice I have encountered over the years of living in various houses! I also was inspired by a lot of share-house stories I observed around me – I knew someone who lived in a share house where one of the housemates was paying rent to essentially sleep in a space between the couch and the wall. I knew another share house of all young men who were pretty much nocturnal, playing video games all night, rarely showering and consuming a diet of 90% pizza. There are few little nods to these stories in the book.

Claudia Karvan, Deborah Mailman and Samuel Johnson in the 2000s Australian drama, The Secret Life of Us.

Claudia Karvan, Deborah Mailman and Samuel Johnson in The Secret Life of Us. Image: Network 10/IMDb.

Brooke’s relationship with Jesse is tumultuous to say the least. Can you tell us a bit more about their ever-changing dynamic, and what Brooke learns from it? (Potential spoiler alert!)

When Brooke moves into her share house, she thinks she’s going to be living with two strangers, but then she discovers one of her housemates is actually Jesse, her friend-turned-enemy from high school. Brooke and Jesse had a falling out when they were fourteen, and Brooke has never gotten over it, so she is dreading living with Jesse. But over time, they become friends and then something more, and Brooke learns about forgiveness, and trust, and what it means to let yourself fall in love with someone.

Brooke struggles a lot with anxiety. Why was it important for you to explore this in your novel? Do you think young people today are properly equipped with knowledge about how to manage anxiety?

I wrote the book during a very anxious time in my life (I had just had a baby, and the world was thrown into a pandemic), so I was definitely channelling my anxious brain into Brooke’s. I am a very anxious person in general, and we live in a world that tends to make anxiety worse, so it was a part of my life I wanted to explore through Brooke (who, it should be noted, has very different anxieties to mine). I know anxiety is a huge issue for young people today and while I think there are more tools available for managing it than ever, that in itself can increase anxiety. Knowing which approach is best for you, feeling like a failure when you are still anxious, and just navigating your mental health alongside the pressures of being a young person are all very real and difficult challenges and I have a lot of empathy for anyone going through that.

A young woman with her hands on her hand. She appears anxious.

Image sourced from Uday Mittal on UnSplash.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to your 19-year-old self, what would it be?

Travel more, read more, and take more photos.

Are there any books that inspired you in writing Unnecessary Drama?

So many books inspired me in so many different ways – I was inspired by the dialogue in Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi, the voice of Nora Ephron, the ambition of The End of the World Is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell, the dark humour of Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, the character dynamics of Sally Rooney’s work, the intimacy of Helen Garner’s diaries.

What are some YA books you’ve read recently that you would recommend to Rosie readers?

The Gaps by Leanne Hall, The Museum of Broken Things by Lauren Draper, The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough, Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell by Tobias Madden, The Cult of Romance by Sarah Ayoub, and Where You Left Us by Rhiannon Wilde.

Nina Kenwood’s novel Unnecessary Drama is now available at bookstores and online.


Nina Kenwood is an award-winning author living in Melbourne. Her debut YA novel, It Sounded Better in My Head, won the Text Prize and was a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C Morris Award, a CBCA notable book, as well as being shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Queensland Literary Awards, the Russell Prize for Humour Writing, the Indie Book Awards and the Australian Book Industry Awards. It Sounded Better in My Head has been published in six languages, and optioned for film.

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