Player Profile: Chris Muir, author of A Savage Garden

CM001_10Chris Muir, author of A Savage Garden

Tell us about your latest creation:

It’s a powerful, thought -provoking and action-packed thriller set in the lawless wilds of the Congo. A Savage Garden takes you inside the Congo’s secret wars and one man’s battle to save the child soldiers who fight them. I’m originally from Brisbane…about a bazillion years ago. I’ve lived in New York, London, Paris and Singapore but Sydney has been home for many years.

Layout 1Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I’m originally from Brisbane…about a bazillion years ago. I’ve lived in New York, London, Paris and Singapore but Sydney has been home for many years.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I always wanted to be a doctor but I sucked at things like maths and science and excelled at English. I guess it’s little wonder that I’m writing these days.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

Convention would have me say that my next book will be my best work but I think that nice little book set in a Boston mental hospital that I wrote about five years ago will find a voice one day…every story has its time.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I write in my office at my advertising agency. It’s packed with about 30 years of memorabilia…which is a handy euphemism for ‘mess’…but it’s my mess….and there’s some good stuff amongst it. By contrast, my desk is pristine.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I read just about everything from the back of the cornflakes packet to the Quran (which I’ve just read as research for my next book). The only genre I avoid is SciFi. My favourite book of all time is A Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry…you gotta read it!

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

The first proper book that I remember ie no pictures, was My Compass Points to Treasure by Lt. Harry E Rieseberg which was given to me as a prize for topping a temperance exam…go figure. After that Shakespeare’s work kind of got hold of me but that may have been because my father was a Shakespearean actor.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I was asked this question the other day and I said that I’m a combination of Huckleberry Finn, Robinson Crusoe, Jay Gatsby and Atticus Finch…which for all you amateur psychologists probably means that I like roughing it but like the finer things in life and a good argument.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I compete in ultra marathons (50-100kms) which probably means that I’m totally insane.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I trained in Paris for 2 years as a chef so I’m a bit fussy but I like fresh produce cooked simply that lets the real flavours shine through. Drinkwise, I’m partial to red. I remember once being given a forty year old Chateau Mouton Rothschild and putting it down to drink on some special day but I got home one night, ordered a pizza and drank it. Tres decadent.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I had a very mixed relationship with my father. We didn’t really get on but years after he died I had my own kids and I got to wondering how he ever managed to bring up the me and my 4 brothers and sisters when there was never any money in the house. He’s my posthumous hero.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

The next generation of readers will be used to consuming the written word in small bites. News reporting is going that way, web sites are doing the same thing and blogs are getting sharper and sharper…I’ve even made the chapters in my new book short and sharp and almost self-contained so that people can bite it off in manageable chunks. The future of the printed book? I still prefer paper to a tablet but things change and I think that generational predilections will take care of that in time. As hard copies of school books disappear so will ‘paper’ books. It will be a shame, but it will happen.

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Review – Aussie Day Reads

With only a few more sleeps till another day of flag flying and fly swatting, it’s time to dig out the meat pies, ice the lamingtons and chill the beers. Australia Day means different things to different Aussies but the sense of camaraderie is an underlying similarity in us all.

Midnight There are dozens of Australian based books to cheer about this week, but these two, whilst equally at home on ANZAC reading lists, deserve mention now because of their strong patriotic appeal.

The horses didnt' come home Midnight, The Story of a Light Horse by picture book duo, Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac and The Horses Didn’t Come Home by faction YA writer, Pamela Rushby, both tell the tale of the Australian Light Horse regiments that took part in ‘one of the last great cavalry charges in history’.

Each of these books deals with the campaign in the Sinai desert in a way that young readers will resonate with even though the story is over 90 years old.

Midnight is based on the true accounts of Lieutenant Guy Haydon and his jet black mare, Midnight. It begins with Midnight’s birth by the riverside at Bloomfield Station in the Hunter Valley, to the mare, Moonlight. All is cool and dark and yielding as reflected in the soft prose and passive illustrations.

Midnight enjoys a close bond with Guy as the two of them work the cattle in their high country home. But it’s the season of unrest, and overseas the first of the Great Wars intensifies. Guy and Midnight heed the call and ‘ride to join the Light Horse’ along with thousands of others.

Frane LessacThey enter a strange new world, hot, dry and aggressive; the deserts of the Middle East so beautifully rendered by Lessac’s gouache painted illustrations, and set course for a seemingly do-or-die finale at the ancient town of Beersheba. The 4th and 12th Regiments of the Australian Light Horse are rallied in a last desperate attempt to smash Turkish lines fiercely guarding the precious wells of Beersheba. Success seems unlikely; 800 riders against three thousand well-entrenched soldiers, but miraculously, after the order to charge is given, Beersheba is taken and the Turkish line of defence is broken, thus changing the history of WWI in the Sinai Desert forever.

Light Horse Cavalry charge Frane Lessac's Midnight

Mark GreenwoodI enjoyed Greenwood’s sparse yet expressive text. We are given just enough information to allow us to feel the full awful force of battle and share the heart wrenching bond between horse and rider. Young readers should not be frightened or disturbed by all the action-orientated facts and words however, because they are never delivered brutally or aimlessly.

The depiction of Australia’s historic war past has been visited by Greenwood and Lessac before with titles including Simpson and His Donkey, for example. Lessac’s humble yet honest, full page illustrations work well when coupled with the stark realisms of WWI history. I found the illustrations of the closing pages of Midnight particularly endearing. Although steeped in sadness, they transport us gently home to a place of starlit skies and moonlight.

Pam Rushby Pamela Rushby’s The Horses Didn’t Come Home treats this same slice of our past with equal sensitivity and respect. I was in tears by the end of the prologue and completely entranced by the tale of Harry and his campaign overseas, this time with a horse named, Bunty.

Bunty is another Australia Waler, hailing from the rugged Australian bush who actually belongs to Harry’s sister, Laura. Their story is told in alternating points of view through the use of letters home from Harry to his family, Laura and interestingly, letters from Bunty (courtesy of Harry for his sister).

You may know the history behind the poignant story. We all know the amazing outcome. The horses won the day. But Rushby tells it in such an absorbing way that the sting of the sun, the smell of horse sweat, the buzz of the flies and the tension of the parching patrols keeps you tethered to the desert long after the battle is over and the book is done. It is nothing short of superlative.

I especially enjoyed Rushby’s author notes at the end, sharing her discovery of Beersheba and highlighting the background to the story. Older aged primary school readers will find this an easily digestible, intriguing and deeply stirring read which in all likelihood will stimulate their appetite to explore our bold past further.

Both books highly recommended as classic Aussie reads.

Midnight, The story of a light horse Walker Books Australia February 2014. Available now here! Suitable for primary school aged.

The Horses Didn’t Come Home Angus & Robertson, Harper Collins Publishers Australia March 2012. Suitable for older primary aged readers and up.

Park of the Australian Solider in Beersheba monument
Park of the Australian Solider monument




Re-Reading The Little Friend by Donna Tartt


After reading The Goldfinch I knew I had to re-read Donna Tartt’s previous two books. After re-reading The Secret History it was The Little Friend’s turn.

A lot of people have commented to me that they loved The Secret History but were not fans of The Little Friend. I distinctly remember loving it the first time around so beyond the fact that The Little Friend was not The Secret History I was not sure why it wasn’t well received. I was also curious to see the influence of Charles Portis’ True Grit after reading that it was Donna Tartt’s favourite book growing up and was part of the inspiration behind Harriet.

9780747573647 (1)

As with my re-read of The Secret History my memory was extremely shoddy. I remember Harriet being very bookish and that she thought she could solve the murder of her brother twelve years earlier and that this led her to becoming entangled with local meth dealers. I also distinctly remember a scene with snakes. But of course there was so much more going on The other impression I remember having was that The Little Friend was somehow a darker, modern-day To Kill A Mockingbird. That impression I can dispense with completely now after a second read.

I can definitely see why some readers were unsatisfied with The Little Friend. It is a dense book and the central plot is never resolved and it is for these very reasons that I loved this book again the second time around. Harriet’s life is full of contradictions. Her life is both insular and enriched. Her family is privileged as well as meager. And she is fiercely independent while being totally unprepared for what that means.

A twelve-year-old girl is never going to solve a 12-year-old murder. And that isn’t the point of the story. But how one death can damage the lives of so many and what the consequences of that damage are years later is the territory Tartt explores. And explores so well.

I loved every part of Harriet’s world that Donna Tartt creates. You get the sense that everything in this world is deeply familiar to Tartt as it is also the place where she grew up. While I was looking for similarities in Harriet to Maddy Ross from True Grit I saw more similarities with what little I know about Donna Tartt, particular in the physical description of Harriet. I also got the feeling of a personal connection to not only the place but the people in the book in particular the three sisters (Harriet’s grandmother and aunts). These weren’t just characters she invented but inspired by people she knew and knows.

And the snakes! Forget a scene with snakes. There were multiple scenes with snakes. Each more terrifying than the previous one. Tartt uses them brilliantly both for their physical, actual danger and their symbolic threat.

If you haven’t read The Little Friend before don’t let the naysayers put you off. Donna Tartt is an exceptional talent and this is an utterly original novel.If you have read it before and weren’t a fan I suggest giving it another go especially now post-The Goldfinch.

Buy the book here…

Kevin Burgemeestre’s Kate

KateKate is Kevin Burgemeestre’s first novel. Mind you, Burgemeestre is no stranger to the publishing industry, having illustrated numerous books, including Hazel Edwards’s Antarctic Dad. He is an accomplished illustrator… but what’s he like as a novelist?

Kate is a YA novel about a teenage girl who unwittingly becomes the target of some pretty shady characters. What begins as an angsty teen drama quickly morphs into a taut thriller with chases and hideouts, criminals and drugs.

It’s a well-paced, interesting story with some great twists, tense encounters and edge-of-your-seat moments. But the real joy of this novel is the characterisation. Not just Kate herself, but her best friend Jess, her rescuer Mal and even her adopted dog Wilde. Wilde is, in fact, an important and surprisingly well-rounded character.

Burgemeestre also provides some illustrations for the book, as Kate is an artist. In fact, art is an important element of Kate’s character and how she deals with the world. Her preoccupation with famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo also adds a dimension to her character. So the four full-page illustrations add great insight, as they show how Kate sees things.

As I said at the start, this is Burgemeestre’s first novel… and there are some elements which, I think, could have been improved. There are a couple of awkward perspective shifts and a few moments where I did not get a good sense of the passage of time. But these are minor points and certainly did not stop me from enjoying the book.

As a first novel, Kate is pretty impressive. I look forward to Mr Burgemeestre’s next one.

To find out more about Kevin Burgemeestre, his art and this writing, check out his website.

Catch ya later,  George

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Turns a Popular Genre Completely on it’s Head

9780356502847Review – The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

What a book to kick off 2014! This book totally blew me away from the first page. It is definitely one of those books where the less you know about it the more you are going to enjoy it. So I am going to break my review into two parts: Spoiler free and Spoilerific.

What makes genre fiction so popular is the rules and lore past writers have created and passed on. Readers get to know and appreciate all the tropes, major and minor, and new writers get to play around with these rules, bending, braking, changing them as they see fit. Sometimes these changes don’t work or go too far but every now and again somebody changes a genre completely. Which is what M.R. Carey has done in The Girl With All The Gifts. He has taken a popular genre and turned it completely on it’s head. In doing so he not only breathes in fresh air but he has brought a whole new perspective to a very familiar scenario.

The book opens with 10-year-old Melanie. She is sitting in a cell waiting for the Sergeant who is going to strap her to a wheelchair and take her, under guard, to her classroom where she will learn about the world with the other children. Something has happen to the outside world and Melanie and her classmates might be humanity’s only hope.

If you loved The Passage you will love this even more, grab a copy now. If you want to know a bit more (spoiler warning) scroll a bit further down

SPOILER ALERT [you have been warned]

This a cross between The Passage, The Walking Dead and 28 Days/Weeks/Months/Years Later. Not only does M.R. Carey (Mike Carey) completely flip the zombie genre but he also brings more humanity to the genre than anyone else I can think of. Set in England, it has been 20 years since the ‘Breakdown’ which has nearly wiped humanity out (you know the drill). ‘Hungries’ roam the countryside and control the cities.

Scientists have been trying to figure out what has caused the infection, if it even is an infection, with no luck. But ten children seem to hold the answer. They aren’t like the other hungries: mindless, feeding machines. They are cognitive. However when they get the scent of food, in particular humans, their infected natures come to the surface. These children are part of a last ditch study to try and find a vaccine or even antidote.

The book is told mainly from Melanie’s perspective and she captures and breaks your heart in equal measure. The strength of Carey’s writing is in his characters and as we get to know the people around Melanie; her teacher, the Sergeant, the doctor in charge; we (and they) learn about what it truly means to be human. At the same time Carey keeps the story moving at a perfect pace. Not only are the the hordes of hungries an ever present threat but feral humans known as ‘junkers’ also put the vital research being done at risk. But the biggest threat is time itself which is running out.

The other part I really loved about the book is the science behind the hungries. Zombie stories have toyed with many different explanations, mainly virus or bacteria infection spread through blood or saliva (see biting). Nearly all zombie explanations rely to some extent on either a supernatural element or a slight (or major) suspension of scientific belief. Carey takes a different tack and uses elements already present in nature, namely fungi. The way this scientific element is woven into the story is the icing on an already incredible the cake.

Buy the book here…

Review – Lilli-Pilli’s Sister

Lilli Pilli's SisterNot another Zombie story! Well, not that I don’t mind a dose of eye-bulging, brain-slurping fun now and then, but, “When was the last time you read a really nice story about fairies?”, so asked my other half when reading Lilli-Pilli’s Sister for the first time.

“It’s full of heart and joy,” he added. “And I really like the illustrations.”

What else is there to say? End review. But wait, there is more.

Lilli-Pilli’s Sister by Anna Branford and Linda Catchlove is one of Walker Books Australia’s first, new sparkly picture book releases of 2014. And how it shines.

Anna Branford Anna Branford of the adorable Violet Mackerel series has spun and woven her word-magic into a beautiful tale about a strawberry-blonde haired young fairy named Lilli-Pilli, who is eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new sibling. Lilli-Pilli is convinced the new family member will be a sister, because she ‘can feel it in her wings’.

As Mum’s belly swells and the day draws nearer, Lilli-Pilli helps her be-speckled Dad make a crib for the new baby fairy. Regardless of their time shared together, Lilli-Pilli is impatient for her sister’s arrival. She can’t wait to have someone new to play with. She is also a tad concerned that the crib will be too wide for one little fairy baby, so on her Mum’s suggestion, she flies off in search of soft things to put inside the crib.

Kookaburra, the painted apple moth and the white-winged triller all come to her aid but each adds to her growing uncertainty about the new baby for each of them ‘feel a brother in their wings’, and their wings are seldom ever wrong.

Crestfallen and laden with doubt, Lilli-Pilli returns to her red-gum home with her bounty of soft things just in time to discover a tree-full of squeaking and squawking. It’s exactly what she has been waiting for, or is it?

Lilli-Pilli’s Sister is an appreciatively longer picture book than we’ve become accustomed to in recent times. However each of Branford’s carefully crafted word-images creates a pleasing sense of homeliness, warmth and fun. It is hard not to be swept along by the melodious narrative all the way to the delightful twist at the end. Primary aged readers will find the story full of allure but it’s the luscious illustrations that will captivate the very young (and 50 somethings as it turns outs).Linda Catchlove

Linda Catchlove has created a collection of water-coloured mini-masterpieces, each oozing with soft dreamy detail, reflecting all the charm of the Aussie bush and its characters in much the same way May Gibbs managed to capture their very essence with her pictures and stories.

Lilli-Pill’s Sister is definitely a picture book the whole family can and will enjoy and a cracker of a way to start off the New Year, unless you’re still more into zombies than fairies.

Available here from February 2014.

Walker Books Australia February 2014.



Review – Lulu Bell and the Moon Dragon

Memories of school holidays for me involved curling up in a cool corner somewhere in the backyard with my friends. I was pretty tight with Trixie Beldon in those days but always had more of an affiliation with animals than solving mysteries. If Lulu Bell had been around some 38 years ago, she would have definitely been in my inner circle of companions.

She’s extremely likeable, has long plaitable hair, a smile wider than a banana and best of all adores animals. She’s also the central character in the enchanting Lulu Bell series by Belinda Murrell and Serena Geddes. And now, finally, my seven year old past-self is able to befriend her.

Lulu Bell Cubby and Moon Dragon Lulu Bell and the Cubby Fort and Lulu Bell and the Moon Dragon are the third and fourth books in this series about the Bell family and their menagerie of friends, many of them of the furred or feathered kind. Each generously illustrated book centres on a new adventure or incident young Lulu encounters, often arising from her experiences at home and around her father’s work as a vet.

These books are ideal to read in succession or as stand-alone chapter books and are perfect fodder for the insatiable new reader.

L Bell Cubby Fort The Cubby Fort invites us to spend the Easter holidays with Lulu on her Uncle’s farm. The Bell family load up kids, dogs and tents and experience an eventful weekend surrounded by country, cows, cousins and mud. Lots and lots of mud. But when baby brother, Gus, goes missing, fun turns to fear and Lulu is forced to assume the role of Trixie Beldon to solve his disappearance.

L Bell Moon Dragon The Moon Dragon is an illuminating look at friendships and celebrating shared passions and different cultures. Lulu’s best friend, Molly, welcomes her to help with preparations for the Moon Festival. Together, they make dragon costumes, paper lanterns and mouth-watering moon cakes. Excitement grows faster than a full moon, swelling into a colourful parade involving the whole community and the two girls of course.

The language used throughout these books is bouncy and basic enough for young readers to digest whilst cleverly touching on gentle, non-invasive sub-themes such as Molly overcoming her social shyness. I also appreciated Murrell’s lovely sensitivity regarding ‘alternative’ views and thinking depicted by Molly’s mum who fills this year’s moon cakes with jam instead of the traditional red bean paste and salty eggs.

Belinda Murrell Belinda Murrell is a respected author for children with an impressive and solid stable of books including the Sun Sword fantasies and her fascinating historic time-slip tales, like The River Charm. Her convincing narratives draw discerning readers in from the start and in the case of Lulu Bell, have upbeat satisfying conclusions.

The Lulu Bell series draws on Murrell’s own experiences from growing up in a vet hospital and is wickedly good, old-fashioned fun for younger kids, whilst also tapping directly into one of the most keenly pursued topics of vocational interest for girls aged between 6 and 9.

Serena Geddes Serena Geddes’s lively black and white line drawings reflect each adventure perfectly, prompting readers as young as 5 and 6 to keep page flicking.

So I may not have fulfilled my dream of becoming a vet. At least I have made a new friend in Lulu Bell and am happy to see how her dreams pan out.

Fill up your child’s memories these school holidays with Lulu too. Two new enticing titles are due out early January 2014: Lulu Bell and the Circus Pup and Lulu Bell and the Sea Turtle, both available hereL Bell Circus Pup

Random House for Children 2013


2013 in Review

9781472200310Happy New Year, dear readers! At the end of each year I write a blog post summing up the year that was. Well… 2014 has begun and so it is time for me to look back on 2013. It was a busy year for me in terms of writing. But not a great year in terms of reading. What I chose to read was mostly pretty good… I just didn’t read as much as I would have liked. 🙁

Okay, so what did I read? Lots of picture books to my four-year-old. And quite a few books to my ten-year-old as well. We read a few of the Beast Quest and EJ12 books, which were okay, and a couple more Harry Potter books, which were great. For myself… I read some old stuff, some new stuff and, given that it was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, lots of Doctor Who stuff. Highlights? In no particular order…

Gamers Rebellion

There were lots of other great books, but these are the ones that really stood out for me.

As for writing… lots happened. Which is why this blog was so sporadic over the last 12 months. I was finding it harder and harder to fit the blogging in around all the books!

I wrote 14 education titles — mostly school readers, but a few reference books as well. And then there was the ‘secret project’, which I finally got to partially announce in December (see “The Secret Project”). Three of these books were written during 2013 and I’m currently working on the fourth.

I had numerous education titles published over the course of the year, but my 2013 publishing highlight was the release of Gamers’ Rebellion, the final novel in my Gamers trilogy. Having this book released into the world was VERY exciting! And in case you missed it, here’s the book trailer…

It was also a rather busy year on the speaking front. I love doing school visits and writing workshops… and in 2013 I did more than I’ve ever done before. The highlight was a weeklong tour of remote schools in regional Western Australia (see: “Touring WA”).

Of course, there was the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. As a slightly obsessed fanboy, this was a rather big deal (see: “5(ish) Highlights of #SaveTheDay”). And it was nice to have a few Doctor Who essays appear in some books over the course of the year (see: “Another Doctor Who post”). I also had the wonderful opportunity to speak about Doctor Who — here’s “A Letter to Steven Moffat”, a little piece I wrote and performed at a Doctor Who spoken word night organised by the Melbourne Library Services…

Now I’m all set for 2014 (see: “Hello 2014”). It will be a very different year for me. My youngest daughter starts school… so I’ll suddenly have a lot more time to write. And read. Which means, I hope, that these blog posts will become a little more regular again.  🙂

Catch ya later,  George

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Player Profile: Loretta Hill, author of The Girl in the Yellow Vest

hill, lorettaLoretta Hill, author of The Girl in the Yellow Vest

Tell us about your latest creation:

The Girl in the Yellow Vest. (Out Jan 2014) Set on the glorious Queensland coast, it’s all about falling in love with the wrong guy.

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I’m from Perth and I still call this city home.

9781742757377When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I have always wanted to be an author but I had a detour into engineering along the way. I think that’s why I’m so good at writing books set on construction

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

“The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots” will always have it’s own place in my heart as it was my first book published with Random House. But I really love, “The Girl in the Yellow Vest” and think it’s my best work yet.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I have a study but I share it with my husband. So it’s rather messy and there’s stuff all over the place.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

My favourite author of all time is Georgette Heyer. But I enjoy books by Sophia Kinsella, Judith McNaught, Jane Green, Jane Costello, Monica McInerney and many more.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

Those written by Georgette Heyer.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I’d be Elizabeth Bennet, pushing the boundaries of society.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

Run around after four kids.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Coffee and Chocolate. Both together is also a winning combination.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My mum. She’s such a giving, kind soul.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

Finding the time to get to everything you want to read.

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Player Profile: Candice Fox, author of Hades

24548-059Candice Fox, author of Hades

Tell us about your latest creation:

Hades is Book One of the Bennett/Archer series, and is available December(ish) 2013 with Random House. Hades Archer, the man they call the Lord of the Underworld, surrounds himself with the things others leave behind. Their trash becomes the twisted sculptures that line his junkyard. The bodies they want disposed of become his problem – for a fee. One night, a man arrives on his doorstep, clutching a small bundle that he wants ‘lost’. And Hades makes a decision that will change everything. Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there’s something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can’t quite put his finger on. Frank is now on the hunt for a very different kind of serial killer: one who offers the sick and dying hope at murderous cost. At first, his partner’s sharp instincts come in handy. Soon, he’s wondering if she’s as dangerous as the man they’re after.

9780857981172Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I grew up in Bankstown, but I’m now an Eastern Beaches girl. My family have been Eastern suburbs people from way back, and while I’m not a beach bum myself I do enjoy running, writing and drinking chilled wine alongside it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I’ve wanted to be everything you can imagine. At fourteen, I was determined to be a tattoo artist. I got my solo pilot’s license for a Cessna 150 at 16 and told everyone I was going to teach people to fly. I spent my late teens managing restaurants and bars and joined the navy at 18. So on the job front I’ve been around. But that was employment, and I’ve never considered writing possible employment. I’ve been writing and telling stories from a very young age and have used it at different times to actively create my own person, to escape from my chaotic world or to develop my skills in the hope of showing people into my little universes. It’s always been more of an instinct than a desire to be paid.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

I consider HADES my best work – thus far. I wrote four other novels before HADES that together accumulated 200 rejection letters, so I suppose HADES has been the only thing to break through into the public domain and I am proud of it for that. I am determined to improve as a writer and am excited to go on exploring my own tastes and interests, so I don’t have any plans for HADES to remain my best.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

My office is trashtastic. And it’s a part of the living room. So things fall over in it all the time and it’s constantly invaded by episodes of Dr Phil. It’s littered with water bottles and coffee cups and books and scraps of paper. The desk chair is covered in cat hair and you can hear the main road from it. But a more beautiful or ordered place isn’t available to me, and I don’t think it would help the work even if it was. When I was a kid, I shared my family home with five of my siblings and at times half a dozen of Sydney’s most dangerous and disadvantaged children, so noise was something I learnt to deal with. When I want to get out of here I wander down to a variety of busy beachside cafes and make a mess of the tables there. Watch people, insert them into the text. I think you have to go exploring now and then to keep the work fresh. People are far more unpredictable and complex than you imagine, and you only learn how by being among them as you write.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

Tragically at the moment I’m unable to read anything other than what’s necessary for my PhD, but I’ve been a big crime reader for many years. I’m a dedicated Peter Temple fan and have learnt much from him about masculinity and beauty and sorrow in the lives of cops.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

I grew up rummaging through my mother’s true crime collection while my friends were reading Goosebumps and the Chronicles of Narnia. There were scarce funds in our house for children’s literature so you read what you could get. I was a big newspaper reader.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I’d be Joe Cashin from Peter Temple’s ‘The Broken Shore’. When I was younger and more emotional I would have said Anne Rice’s Lestat DeLioncourt, but I don’t want to live forever.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I run. I’m a big of a fitness junkie at the moment but I’m sure it won’t last long. One of my favourite things to do is go to dinner with a loved one, drink and eat too much and fall into deep and philosophical conversations. Surprise you? Every now and then when the mood strikes me I strap some kind of funny hat to my cat and photograph him. Share these on Facebook with witty captions. I like to throw the ball for my dog at the local park. Lie around in the sunshine.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I suppose the proper measure would be my last meal. Salami/anchovy pizza, and a bottle of nice Merlot.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I don’t have a particular hero in mind. I believe as a society we’ve spent a bit of time normalising the idea that you should be considered a hero because of your place in the limelight, your celebrity, your grandiose achievements. I was watching one of those medical reality TV shows the other night and watched a guy stitch up some assault victim’s heart while it was still beating. I didn’t even catch the doctor’s name. He’ll win no award for it. I have a supreme respect for law enforcement and medical professionals.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

The competition of other forms of entertainment. It is getting extremely difficult to be bored at any given time any more. Riding the bus is becoming an orchestrated audio/visual experience. I’m concerned the humble book might get pushed aside by effortless and endlessly diverse hand-held and mobile entertainment.

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