Win a SIGNED Ricky Ponting Cricket Bat

6445_Ponting_OnlineBanner_C1D1 (1)

 

pontingWell, there hasn’t been too much to write home about when it comes to Australia’s sub-par performance in the Ashes in England, but here’s some writing that cricket lovers need to get their hands on – Ricky Ponting’s new autobiography, to be launched on 1 November, just in time for the return Ashes Test series here in Australia.

And if you pre-order the book from Boomerang Books before 1 November, you will go into the draw to win a signed Ricky Ponting Kookaburra bat.  That’s one bat exclusively for Boomerang Books customers – that means that the odds of landing the bat are very high!

Why not get ahead with your Christmas shopping and pre-order a copy of At the Close of Play by Ricky Ponting today – and you could score yourself a timeless piece of cricketing memorabilia in with the bargain!

Pre-order At the Close of Play by Ricky Ponting…

Here’s the blurb:

Ricky Ponting is one of the greatest Australian cricketers to have worn the baggy green. His autobiography details his journey from his childhood protege, to the highs and lows of an extraordinary international cricket career, to retirement. Test captain of Australia in 2004 until handing the job to Michael Clarke in 2011, he is the highest Australian run-scorer of all time in Tests and one-day international cricket, behind only India’s Sachin Tendulkar among batsmen from all countries. Ricky’s awards in cricket include ICC Player of the Year (twice), Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World, Cricinfo Player of the Decade and Allan Border Medallist (four times). This autobiography of a very private man and one of Australia’s most public figures will resonate with lovers of cricket as well as anyone who strives to reach the top of their chosen field. Off the field, Ricky and his wife Rianna have raised in excess of $10 million since 2002 to help young Australians and their families beat cancer. In 2008 Ricky and Rianna established the Ponting Foundation to provide focus to their fundraising efforts.

And the teaser video:

Pre-order At the Close of Play by Ricky Ponting…

Player Profile: Shady Cosgrove, author of What the Ground Can’t Hold

shady_cosgroveShady Cosgrove, author of What the Ground Can’t Hold

Tell us about your latest creation…

What the Ground Can’t Hold is about a group of people stranded in the Andes because of an avalanche. They are from all over the world (Australia, the United States, Germany and Argentina) and each one is grappling with a secret that links them to Argentina’s Dirty War. It’s about the ghosts that won’t stay buried. The novel has involved extensive research and travel, and has taken seven years to write. It’s a tricky thing, writing a novel like this, because I want to do justice to the complexities and atrocities and humanity of the stories I’m telling.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born on a small island off of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It was an alternative community, accessible only by boat, and I grew up with people who had names like Unity, Kwab, Sunshine and Rosebud. I was privileged to have had that kind of wild and artistic upbringing. My mother is a tile artist, and so I grew up around kilns and glazes and mosaics. I went to the local public school until University, where I studied English, Creative Writing and Women’s Studies at Vassar College in New York. I loved the inspiration and intensity of studying there. I remember writing short stories until three in the morning and comparing sentences and paragraphs with my housemate, a fellow writer and night owl. I came to Australia as a Study Abroad student and was initially skeptical of Wollongong; but I felt this inexplicable loyalty to the place anyway – to the ocean and the escarpment, especially – and I’m not surprised that I still live in the Illawarra. Choosing a home so far from my family, I find I’m most grateful for my friendships and the sense of community here. I spent some time in
Canberra, studying for my PhD at the ANU but was drawn back to Wollongong. It’s home now.

What the Ground Cant Hold CVR.inddWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a storyteller. I thought this was a valid form of employment in and of itself. At university, I wanted to be novelist but it’s taken many years. The best thing for my writing was to teach writing. I fell into some teaching work at the University of Wollongong and it radically changed the focus of my life. Because I had to articulate writing strategies and conventions, it forced me to really reckon with the material. The amazing thing about teaching is that the sum of us in the classroom – teacher and students – is greater than the parts. As a group, students and I can brainstorm and pick apart writing strategies and workshop pieces and get so much further than we could on our own. I find this collaboration inspiring. I’m lucky because my writing feeds my teaching and my teaching feeds my writing.

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

What the Ground Can’t Hold – it’s the most ambitious thing I’ve written and has taken the longest to write. It operates on a number of levels and bears up to re-reading (the test of a good book).  And all of the narrative levels are well integrated: it’s driven by both character and plot; the point-of-view is inseparable from the sense of voice and the characters; the structure is dictated by the point-of-view; the setting is intimately connected to the plot. This is a story that couldn’t be told in any other way.

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

I’m a lucky writer because I work in a boxed-in veranda/sun room with a view straight to my neighbours’ front door, and I love those neighbours like family. So when I’m alone in front of the computer, facing into the tough slog of re-drafting, I can have a chat through the window when they’re arriving home with groceries or checking the mail, and it’s not enough to break me away from the task at hand but it alleviates feelings of isolation.

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

Ann Patchett. Colum McCann. Michael Cunngingham. Richard Ford. Haruki Murakami. Chuck Palahniuk. Jeanette Winterson. Ian McEwan. Jean Rhys. Charlotte Bronte. Langston Hughes. Eduardo Galeano. Alessandro Baricco. Jhumpa Lahiri. Anthony Macris. John Scott. Tim Winton. Julia Leigh. Keri Hulme. Virginia Woolf. Christine Howe. Bernhard Schlink. Yusef Komunyakaa.

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

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Speckled Band’. Roald Dahl’s ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’. CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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

I’d love to be a heroine from one of Haruki Murakami novels but I don’t know that I’m that cool.

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

I love to quilt. I love to escape to the bush. I’m not much of a horticulturalist but I’ve just planted 36 blueberry bushes and I take care of them.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Fresh fruit (peaches, blueberries, pineapple, mangos, raspberries, strawberries); Warm bread from the oven; Quality tequila

Who is your hero? Why?

I look up to my mother and older sister. They are both courageous and resilient.

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

As a culture, we seem to be battling time-poverty – without time, we won’t have readers.

Player Profile: Maggie Scott, co-author of Just Between Us

Maggie Scott, co-author of Just Between Us

Tell us about your latest creation…

Quite literally, my latest creation is my son George, who was born a month ago. My latest literary creation is ‘Just Between Us’, an anthology of short stories and fiction that I co-edited and contributed a short story to. It’s about the difficulties of female friendships, especially when they fall apart.

jsut-between-usWhere are you from / where do you call home?

In the big picture, Melbourne, Australia, the World is my home; in the smaller picture, I call the illustrious suburb of Moonee Ponds home, or the Moo Poo, as insiders fondly refer to it.

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

From memory I wanted to be s glamorous roller skating stunt person.

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

Perhaps my review of ‘The Golden Girls’ 9/15/319/) – because it’s a subject close to my heart and was fun to write. I could write about TV all day every day.

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

At the moment it’s a small laptop wherever I can plug it in – couch, cafe, kitchen or library. I have learned to block out most white noise.

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

I go through phases. Currently I am in a short attention span phase, so I’m reading bits and pieces from journals I subscribe to; Meanjin, Griffith Review, Kill Your Darlings, Lucky Peach, The Believer. I also read blogs on my phone – in particular longform.org for great alternative journalism, The Atlantic for episode re-caps and The Conversation for Aussie news.

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

‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philippa Pearce. My first real foray into this thing called literature.

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

Once upon a time I would have said Lucy Honeychurch from a ‘Room With a View’ by EM Forster, but I’ve grown up too much since then. Not sure who I would say now.

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

At this very moment, it’s all baby wrangling. I do things like write a profile for Boomerang Books in my spare time.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Cereal is my favourite food, it’s a comfort thing. Drink – all manner of rose wines, especially that first chilled glass of the summer.

Who is your hero? Why?

Lena Dunham, writer and director of the TV show ‘Girls’. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

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

The rapid evolution of screen culture and all the devices and waning attention spans through which people read now. It’s exciting for the dissemination of content but very challenging for the good old long, beautifully crafted, slow moving novel at the same time.

Follow Maggie

Website URL: http://pictureskew.net/
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/maggie.scott.33
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/picture_skew

Player Profile: Andrew Mueller, author of It’s Too Late To Die Young Now

muellerandrew01Andrew Mueller, author of It’s Too Late To Die Young Now

Tell us about your latest creation…

It’s called “It’s Too Late To Die Young Now”. It’s a memoir, both bemused and grateful, of my late teens and early twenties, which I got to spend being a rock journalist. It’s also an acknowledgement, roughly equal parts mournful and gloating, that there’s now very little opportunity for people to mis-spend their youths in the same way.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born in Wagga Wagga and grew up in various parts of Australia, and have spent most of my adult life in London or hotels.

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

When I was a kid, I wanted to play for Geelong, and would assuredly have done so had my
ambitions not been cruelly thwarted by a complete lack of athletic ability. Writing was very much a fallback option.

too-late-die-youngWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

I’m roughly equally partial to all three of my books – the other two, “I Wouldn’t Start From Here” and “Rock & Hard Places”, are available in all good stores, etc. But I’m possibly quietly proudest of the racket I’ve raised with my band, The Blazing Zoos, and of “The North Sea Scrolls”, an album I made last year with Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlan – two of my favourite songwriters.

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

I do most of my writing at the dining table in the sunroom of my house in London – the designated office upstairs has become mostly a repository for unsold copies of The Blazing Zoos’ tremendous debut album, “I’ll Leave Quietly”. So I’ve a pleasant view of the garden, which is somewhat incongruously dominated by a vast wattle tree, and in which woodpeckers, magpies, finches, starlings, frogs, squirrels and foxes caper distractingly.

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

I generally favour non-fiction. According to my agent, I’m literally the only person in the world who buys anthologies of journalism.

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

Ach, too many. But I think in terms of properly setting me off in the direction I went, I have to acknowledge the journalism of P.J. O’Rourke and the “Flashman” series by George MacDonald Fraser, both of which I first found towards the end of my teens. This book, however, is substantially the story of how my life was changed by reading Melody Maker, the British music weekly I went
on to work for.

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

Flashman, on the strict understanding that there is no Hell.

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

I play guitar and sing in a country band. Although this won’t surprise you, as I’ve already said so.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Respectively, steak and red wine.

Who is your hero? Why?

I never know what to say to this. There are plenty of people who do stuff I admire, but the uncritical worship of human beings
never works out well, at a micro or macro level, for the reverent or the revered.

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

The fact that technology has made it possible for people to steal things without retribution. The internet has enabled us to learn a
great deal, but it has taught no lesson more starkly than how many people are willing to shoplift if they think they’ll get away with it.

Follow Andrew

Website URL: www.andrewmueller.net
Twitter URL: @andrew_mueller

Player Profile: Fiona Wood, author of Wildlife

fiona-woodFiona Wood, author of Wildlife

Tell us about your latest creation…

‘Wildlife’ is set in a boarding term at a co-ed school’s outdoor education campus. It’s a story about friendship, first love, jealousy and betrayal. It follows the stories of Sibylla and Lou. Sibylla is in the early days of a new romance. She’s not sure about the whole girlfriend ‘thing’, and doesn’t need the added stress of the boarding school scrutiny. Lou (from ‘Six Impossible Things’) is a new girl, determined to keep to herself. But as Sibylla’s so-called best friend Holly starts acting like a trouble-making Iago, Lou decides to get involved and help Sibylla work out what friendship actually means.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

Melbourne

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

If anyone ever asked I always said I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. But when I left school, the first thing I did was to study law.

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

I’ve written TV for a number of years but it is my two novels ‘Six Impossible Things’ and ‘Wildlife’ that are my best work because with them I was free to write whatever I wanted and so their characters and stories and themes are close to my heart.

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

I work in a tiny space about a metre and half wide. It’s quite tidy apart from the piles of books. With my chair in the right place I can see sky.

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

There is such a big group of writers whose work I love, it’s not possible to make a list without leaving off far too many. But I think William Trevor and Penelope Fitzgerald both write with a thrilling understated brilliance.

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

During school years I came across writers such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, EM Forster, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett for the first time.

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

I still have a secret yearning to climb the Faraway Tree. But the gender stereotyping of those characters doesn’t appeal, so I guess it’s more a literary destination.

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

I love cooking. And eating. And mooching with family and friends. And parkour! (That’s the surprising bit.)(Also, it’s not true.)(But if you haven’t heard of parkour read Tim Sinclair’s ‘Run’.)

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Again – too, too many to name. But right this minute I’m eating a great sandwich from The Woodfrog Bakery in St Kilda – rare roast beef, horseradish, spinach, onion, and beetroot relish on sourdough rye. It’s a party in my mouth. And I like making fizzy water with my SodaStream because it has reusable bottles.

Who is your hero? Why?

There are so many varieties of heroism. Anita Sarkeesian is doing a great job in raising awareness of gender inequities in the media and popular culture and her blog Feminist Frequency is worth visiting.

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

A healthy industry means as many publishers and as many outlets for buying books as possible. As readers we need to keep buying
books and borrowing books from libraries and talking about the books we read and giving books as gifts because as long as demand is strong good books will keep getting published.

Follow Fiona

Website URL: www.fionawood.com
Twitter URL: @f_i_o_n_a_w_

Player Profile: Robert Schofield, author of Heist

robert-schofieldRobert Schofield, author of Heist

Tell us about your latest creation…

HEIST is the story of Gareth Ford, an engineer working on a remote gold mine in Western Australia.  Left for dead in the desert, framed as the inside man in a bullion robbery at the mine, and fearing that his daughter and ex-wife have been abducted from their home in Perth, Ford has to cross a thousand miles of wilderness to find his family, pursued by crooked cops, murderous bikies, and heavily armed mercenaries.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born, raised and schooled in the suburbs of Manchester, England, and studied at Cambridge before spending some years travelling.  I stopped moving when I got to Perth at the turn of the century, and have been raising a family here ever since.

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

I came to writing late in life.  I grew up with a talent for science and mathematics, did a degree in engineering and have been working as a chartered engineer all my life.  Writing was just something I did to keep a restless mind busy, and I never thought it would be anything more than that.

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

That one’s easy for a debut author:  my current book is my first, and most definitely my best.

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

I tend to write on the run.  I have a full-time engineering job, and three young kids, so I carry a notebook and a laptop and write whenever and wherever I can.  I have a shed at the bottom of the garden where I can  occasionally shut out the world to write, but it is also home to my scooter and is full of bikes and tools, as well as piles of books, so I’d say it was on the chaotic side.

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

Most of my reading time is taken up with non-fiction research for my next book, but I try to read some fiction too to inspire me.  I am an omnivorous reader, happy to pick up anything, but I read a fair bit of crime fiction, and like the great Americans:  Elmore Leonard, James Crumley, George V. Higgins.

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

I was also a broad reader at school.  I couldn’t pick a defining book or books, but as a teenager I was reading Hesse and Vonnegut, and had a fascination with Zola.

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

My favourite literary character is Tom Ripley, but I’m not sure I would ever want to be a sociopathic murderer.  But then again, he never got caught…

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

What spare time?  Full-time job, three kids, novels to research and write, I’m lucky if I get to turn on the TV.  But I do have a vintage Vespa scooter, and if I get a spare hour I start her up, put my face to the wind, and ride until my head is clear.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

A lamb roast, potatoes and pumpkin and whole roasted garlic on the side, a bottle of Moss Wood cabernet, and a tarte tatin to finish.  Then maybe a nice malt whisky, maybe something from Campbeltown.

Who is your hero? Why?

I have never been one for hero worship.  I believe we are all flawed individuals just doing the best we can.  There are people I love, and there are people who have certain characteristics that I admire, but I’ve never had a hero.

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

The continual encroachment of the 21st Century:  expanding work hours, TV, internet, social media, smartphones, and all the other inconsequential noise that bombards us, means that we seldom get the space and peace to sit with a book.

Follow Robert

Website URL: robertschofieldauthor.com
Blog URL: robertschofieldauthor.com
Facebook Page URL: http://www.facebook.com/robert.schofield.581

Player Profile: Therese Creed, author of Redstone Station

therese-creedTherese Creed, author of Redstone Station

Tell us about your latest creation…

‘Redstone Station’ is a rural romance set on a 110 thousand acre cattle property in Central Western Queensland. It is not a pure ‘romance’, the romance is only one aspect of the story that explores everyday life on a cattle station, including cattle work, horsemanship, dog handling and other day to day activities. The characters are well developed, and span the generations, the story is both humorous and moving in places, and gives an insight into life on the land in the contemporary world.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I live on a 17,000 acre cattle property south of Rockhampton, Queensland, with my husband and 4 sons.

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

I went through lots of phases, at times I wanted to be a writer, but most of the time I wanted to be a vet.

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

Redstone Station. It is my only work so far!

redstone-stationDescribe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?

We live in a tiny 3 roomed cottage that is actually a kitchen building removed from a larger house. I use one corner of the main room for the computer table, and write by night through a haze of insects. We have no screens on the windows!

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

Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and especially Elizabeth Goudge.

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

The Narnia Chronicles (CS Lewis) Roald Dahl, The Secret Garden, The Wizard Of Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin).

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

Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, because she is ladylike, intelligent and Gutsy all in one. She gets her point across politely without resorting to rudeness or abuse. She held her own in the male dominated society of her era.

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

Teach my sons school by distance education (daily commitment); Feed animals, cattle work (mustering and yard work); Train my working dogs, break in and ride horses.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

My favourite food is nuts of all kinds. My favourite drink is tea (sorry to disappoint).

Who is your hero? Why?

My hero is My uncle Father Paul Hanna, who works with the most unfortunate human beings on the face of the earth, restoring some of their dignity.

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

The greatest threat to books and reading is the diminishing concentration span of the human race. We are constantly seeking instant entertainment and gratification. People wanting a quick fix miss out on the joy of a subtle, slowly unfolding story that requires some level of thought and reflection from the reader. I am hoping that the novelty of these less substantial, quick fix forms of entertainment is going to wear off and that people will rediscover the joy of a challenging read.

Player Profile: Christie Nieman, co-author of Just Between Us

Christie Nieman Head shot B&WChristie Nieman, co-author of Just Between Us

Tell us about your latest creation…

Just Between Us: Australian writers tell the truth about female friendship. This book is an anthology put together by myself and four other women: Maggie Scott, Miriam Sved, Maya Linden and Natalie Kon-yu. We are all friends and writers and at some point it dawned on us that the female friendships we saw on television and in films and literature were not at all like the friendships we experienced, friendships which were more rewarding and difficult than they were effortless or catty. We each wrote our ‘real’ take on female friendships, and invited our favourite female Australian writers to do the same, and voila!, Just Between Us was born.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I am from Osbornes Flat, which is near Yackandandah, which is near Wodonga, which is on the Victorian side of the Murray. For the past 20 years I’ve been a Melbournite (what a great city!), but just recently I moved to  central Victoria, so now I’m a Goldfields girl. Every day I’m visited by a billion beautiful tiny woodland birds. It’s lovely.

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

David Attenborough was my hero when I was a kid, so for a long time I wanted to be a biologist or a zoologist. Even as an adult I took time out of writing to go back to study environmental science. But I found that every time I
had to write a report about an animal or an environmental impact, I’d end up writing a story about it instead. Some things just can’t be resisted. So I kept on writing and married a zoologist instead of becoming one.

jsut-between-usWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

Aside from Just Between Us? Well, while I was studying environmental science I came across the concept of ecological disturbance. I’ve written a young adult novel where grief and ecological disturbance run parallel and interact. I think it is my best work, but no-one’s seen it yet as the ink hasn’t yet been pressed to the page. So aside from that, I think my play Call Me Komachi has been one of my favourite works, because there is something about actually seeing an audience respond to your words: you don’t get that with fiction. It’s like watching a group of people read your mind: it’s an incredible connection to make.

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

My house is chaotic, my garden is chaotic, my car is a nightmare; my desk space is … relatively orderly! (The operative word there being ‘relatively’.) It does, however, tend to accumulate a lot of clutter related to tea-making and tea-drinking.

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

I like to read natural history, young adult fiction, nonfiction, literary fiction, pop science, environmental philosophy, and anything at all written by Margaret Atwood.

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

At the age of sixteen I read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I have never had an experience like it before or since. A light bulb flicked on in my head. It was very much as the great woman herself wrote in Negotiating With The Dead: ‘When I found I was a writer at the age of sixteen…’

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

I’d love to be someone cool, like Sherlock Holmes or witty, like Elizabeth Bennett, but actually, if I’m talking in terms of Jane Austen I’m probably more like a strange and unlikely mix of Lydia and Mary Bennett: loud and inappropriate one moment, and too serious and bookish the next.

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

As I may have let slip earlier, I’m an incurable bird watcher. Moving to a box-ironbark bird-paradise was probably not a great move for my career – I will never get any work done now! I’ve also taken up the banjo, not to be
kooky, but because I really love the sound of the thing. It is hard to feel sad when watching a bird really enjoy a bath, or playing a tune on a banjo.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Blue cheese and tea. Not together.

Who is your hero? Why?

I know lots of ecologists and environmental scientists who work with endangered species and threatened ecosystems. They go quietly about their work, conscientiously collecting data, creating projections of future impacts, caring about species that no-one else has even heard of, and they keep working even though their work is often heartbreaking: often the species or ecosystem they are working with disappears before their eyes. But they keep going, working towards understanding the next species, the next ecosystem, and then trying to protect them. They are my heroes.

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

I’m an optimist here. I think language and storytelling are so basic to human beings, that whatever the form, there will always be stories made out of words by some people, and read, listened to, watched by others. The narrative arts are very robust I think.

Follow Christie

Website URL: http://christienieman.com
Blog URL: http://christienieman.wordpress.com
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/christie.nieman.9
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/UrbanPlover

Player Profile: Felicity Volk, author of Lightning

Felicity Volk, author of Lightning

volkfelicity01Tell us about your latest creation…

On the surface, my debut novel, Lightning, is the tale of two people (Persia, a grieving mother, and Ahmed, a refugee fleeing his past in Pakistan) who have suffered extraordinary losses and who discover in each other the healing of shared tenderness. But more broadly, the book is an odyssey – across continents and centuries – that explores grief, identity and connection.  It’s a road trip novel, a love story, and a meditation on finding hope in the rubble of our lives. As the cover blurb says, Lightning celebrates the way our stories and their telling keep us alive when all else is pulling us under.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born in Geelong, then lived in Melbourne till I was ten, after which my family moved to Brisbane. That’s where I completed my secondary and tertiary studies (an Arts/Law degree with an English Literature major).  When I joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra after graduating from the University of Queensland, life became even more peripatetic.  I lived as a diplomat for three years in Bangladesh and for five years in Laos.  These days, my geographic home is Canberra, but, as Ahmed, my protagonist in Lightning and a refugee from Pakistan says, “…home is a person, not bricks and mortar; not tribe, nor custom, nor bloodline, but a person.”  My heart home will always be where my daughters are – currently Canberra.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer but I’ve also always wanted to have a range of other occupations simultaneously.  As a kid, in addition to envisioning a life as a writer , I saw myself as an archaeologist.  Being a novelist is rather like archaeology: tenderly unearthing hidden worlds and cajoling their stories from them.

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

Lightning, my debut novel, is my most ambitious work to date and I hope my best.  But among my shorter fiction there is one piece of which I am particularly fond, “No place like home”, a story about a homeless woman in Tasmania.  After many years of adversity and rejection, she finds a sense of purpose and healing in contributing to wildlife rescue efforts following a coastal oil spill. I love the main character, Carol. She’s resilient and funny and tender.  I consider her story to be one of the best pieces I’ve written and it was a prizewinner in The Australian Women’s Weekly/Penguin Short Story Competition.  External endorsement always boosts confidence that you’re on the right track in your writing.

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

If I’m feeling calm within myself, and on the happier end of the melancholy spectrum, I contentedly write at home, surrounded by books and bottomless pots of green tea.  I write at a dining table beside two large walls of window.  I need light and I need a vista to write most contentedly.  Looking out into a wide open space provides somewhere for my thinking to unravel, for imagination to take flight.  I don’t like to feel hemmed in when I write, either physically or emotionally.  That said, some significant chunks of my novel were written in bed during daylight hours.  It was cosy and intimate and very convenient for power naps!

If I’m blue, I need to have people around, so I migrate my writing desk to the Main Reading Room of the National Library of Australia, a place where minds are busy and the air is thick with other people’s intellectual energy.  The simple presence of others engaged in creative, contemplative endeavour is soothing and nourishing for me.  And these days, so much of the research materials writers rely upon are waiting at the end of a wifi connection, so the mobile writing desk is a convenient approach.  But the options for napping comfortably in the National Library are somewhat limited.

My favourite place to write is Varuna, The Writers’ House in Katoomba, the Blue Mountains. Any of the writing anterooms on the upper storey of the former residence of Eleanor Dark and her family, provide warmth, light and sanctuary.  The muffled sounds of writers in neighbouring rooms is a welcome constant reminder that the community is close at hand.  And the view out over rambling cottage gardens never fails to reassure that every seed planted with care will yield a harvest.

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

I primarily read literary fiction – novels and short stories.  I’m very fond of magic realism which is possibly why there are elements of this genre in my novel, Lightning. I spend a lot of time taxiing my kids to and from sports
fixtures and other activities, so these days much of my ‘reading’ is listening to audio books.

No matter how long the list of favourite authors I might devise, there’ll be significant oversights.  So with that as the caveat, I’ll offer up Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, William Styron, Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julian Barnes and A.S. Byatt as a starting point.

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

If there’s a literary equivalent of a geologist, I’m sure she or he would be able to identify distinct layers in the sedimentary rock of generational reading. I was in the Enid Blyton and C S Lewis stratum(the Faraway Tree series, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and the Narnia Chronicles).

Probably the most defining books of my childhood were the ones Dad used to read to my brother and me each night.  Books like “The Wind in the Willows”, “The Lord of the Rings” and the Bible.  At a very young age, these gave me a sense of the rhythm and beauty of language.

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

I’d be Stingo in William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice” or Nick Carraway in “The Great Gatsby” because both get to tell the story – every writer’s obsession!  Stingo and Nick are observers and narrators, each with enormous acuity and eloquence, and a great capacity for compassion for the people whose lives they are recording.

I’d also like to be the rose in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince”, because for all her flaws, she was loved with unwavering constancy by a kind, wise and charming character.

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

There is no spare time between working as Adviser to Australia’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls (at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), ‘gardening’ my two lovely daughters, reading, writing, movie-going,
and keeping two dogs, a bunny and a guinea pig alive. But…my favourite sporadic forms of entertainment are hot air balloon rides and chasing firework and light installation shows (like Enlighten Canberra and Vivid Sydney).

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

My favourite food is food cooked for me by people I love (for starters, my daughter Bella’s risotto, and my youngest daughter Poppy’s pancakes). Two delightful friends, Sally and John, had me over for dinner to celebrate every milestone in the path to publication for Lightning, and their signature dish is a haloumi, cucumber and tomato salad with a rice wine vinegar dressing.  It’s simple, fresh and evocative of celebrating important moments with loving friends.

My favourite drink is the Brooklyn Bee cocktail served at a famous French seafood restaurant in New York called Le Bernadin.  The Brooklyn Bee contains absinthe and lavender oil, among other ingredients, and it’s best drunk in the company of my dear Wisconsin-based friend, George.  As I get to drink cocktails with George very rarely, I should offer up freshly squeezed orange juice as my favourite standard beverage.

Who is your hero? Why?

I admire anyone who transcends adversity and emerges from it with compassion and wisdom. In that regard, top billing goes to my sister Sam.  Also because she can solve nine letter word puzzles in 15 seconds flat.

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

The biggest challenge is the shifting of neural function, the changing wiring of the brain as a result of exposure to new technology and new media.  But I’m optimistic there will always be a critical mass of readers to keep the industry alive, and hopefully even enough who love books as artifacts to keep the printed book industry kicking too.

Follow Felicity

Website URL: www.felicityvolk.com
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Felicity-Volk/188757377944335
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/felicityvolk

Player Profile: Kim Lock, author of Peace, Love and Khaki Socks

kim-lockKim Lock, author of Peace, Love and Khaki Socks

Tell us about your latest creation…

One sultry October morning in Darwin, hemp-wearing army wife Amy Silva grips a trembling fist around two pink lines on a plastic stick. Struggling to come to terms with her rampant fertility,  disillusioned with a haughty obstetrician, and infuriated by an inordinate amount of peeing, Amy finds solace in a decision to homebirth. After all, it worked for the cavewomen, right? But as a tropical cyclone threatens to whip down the main street, Amy finds herself facing more than biology. Peace, Love & Khaki Socks explores what it is to be a woman, an expectant mother, a lover and a friend in a patriarchy. Sometimes horrifying, sometimes hilarious and always honest, this unforgettable story is one woman’s struggle to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

After growing up in country South Australia, I have lived in Darwin, Melbourne and Canberra, and now reside in the beautiful Barossa Valley with my military husband and two young children.

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

For as long as I can remember, I have been writing. I have always wanted to be a published fiction author. However, there was a while in high school where I the idea of becoming a doctor, or perhaps a vet … but once I realised the maths grades I would need, I quickly abandoned that idea. Professionally, I have spent the past 14 years as a graphic designer.

peace-love-khaki-socksWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

My best work is my children … but I assume you mean writing? In that case, my debut novel, to be released in May 2013, is the work for which I feel the most pride.

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

With two small children, I work anywhere above about waist height! My laptop usually sits on the kitchen table, or a bench top, or I write outside under a tree while the kids play on the trampoline .. anywhere. I write when I can, wherever I can, and I have to be happy with that!

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

Absolutely anything. I have a huge range of fiction genre that I enjoy—from fun chick lit to thriller and drama. I tend to have favourite books rather than authors, however I favour strong female  protagonists and writing with feminist undertones.

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

The Nancy Drew series. I loved those books.

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

I don’t know!

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

I love to knit, and I like to pretend I’m good at it.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

My Mum’s roast chicken and gravy. Gravy is a drink, right?

Who is your hero? Why?

Jack Reacher. Because he’s Jack Reacher! He’s good hearted, but so very, very tall.

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

For new authors to be published. There is a lot of great writers out there fighting for attention on the slush pile, but may never see the ink of a printer while publishers need to publish what makes
money—and that is authors they know will sell.

Follow Kim

Website URL: www.kimlockauthor.com
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/kimlockauthor
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/kimlockauthor

Player Profile: Jenny Spence, author of No Safe Place

jenny-spence-smallJenny Spence, author of No Safe Place

Tell us about your latest creation…

‘No Safe Place’. It’s a thriller set in Melbourne and Sydney. The central character is not a detective – just a woman who is unexpectedly thrown into a crisis and has to use all her wits to solve the problem and stay alive.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I’m from Melbourne originally, but Sydney is home now.

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

I always wanted to be an author, but I didn’t think that was a full-time job. I had all sorts of wild ideas about the sort of job I would do, but it usually involved making things. I ended up working in IT for 25 years.

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

My best work is the book I am writing now, but the one after that will be even better. I hope I will never stop improving.

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

I can’t say my desk is tidy, but my computer is, with all my files properly sorted and grouped in sub-folders.

no-safe-place

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

I read everything: crime, ‘highbrow’ books (such as Proust, George Eliot and so on), contemporary fiction (I love Hilary Mantel, Cormac McCarthy and numerous others) and anything else that’s well-written.

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

The book that had the biggest impact, because I was so young when I read it, was ‘Great Expectations’. I also read and loved classic children’s books: ‘Little Women’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘Seven Little Australians’. We got all our books secondhand, so it was a long time before I saw anything new.

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

I could be someone from an AS Byatt book, or from one of the Brontes – but they all led tragic lives. I think I’d rather be myself.

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

I daydream a lot, but that’s part of the writing process. I do Pilates, go for long walks, knit and sew, try to learn languages (Swedish is the latest) and read up on renovating old houses, as that is  something we are about to start doing.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Of course that depends on how I’m feeling. Our favourite restaurant is South-East Asian, and the must-have dish there is Miang. As for drink, I can’t go past fresh, pure, cold water.

Who is your hero? Why?

Tom Uren, the former MP who lives in Balmain, the same suburb as me. He is a great socialist, humanitarian and champion of the environment, who survived hell as a prisoner of the Japanese in WW2 and is magnanimous towards his captors.

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

Surely we will always have books, even if they are in digital form – a pity, because I get much more pleasure from the hard copy version. But with this craze for doling out information in bite-sized snippets, will there be people with the attention span, the ability to concentrate and the will to sit down and read them?

Player Profile: Jessica Shirvington, author of Between the Lives

jess-shirvingtonJessica Shirvington, author of Between the Lives

Tell us about your latest creation…

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ‘other’ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she’s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she’s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other. With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she’s always wanted… But just what – and who – is she really risking?

Where are you from / where do you call home?

Sydney, Australia

between-the-livesWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

When I was a kid I wanted to become a vet.

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

Always my most recent work because I feel like with each book I am more developed as a storyteller.

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

I have an office at home. It is extremely disorganised and messy, but somehow I know where everything is.

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

I read a lot of YA and adult. I love contemporary, paranormal, fantasy. I’ve been reading quite a bit of magic lately and I like the odd dystopian.

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

As a kid, I loved Alice in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia – still do!

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

I really don’t know. (sorry!)

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

Ski! I love the snow. Hang out with my family (boring but awesome!). Try to avoid the gym.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Favourite drink is probably Coke although I have a love hate relationship with it! Favourite food…I’m a big fan of soft, runny cheese.

Who is your hero? Why?

My mum. She raised me and my three siblings. Anyone who can put up with us and manage to still have a full headcount by the time we were all adults is pretty incredible!

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

Defining them somehow. I think we need some kind of coding system informing readers of age appropriateness, content, if published by a publishing house or self published, etc. I think readers deserve to have more information and know what they are paying for.

Follow Jessica:

Website URL: http://www.jessicashirvington.com/
Blog URL: http://www.jessicashirvington.com/blog/
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/Shirvington?ref=hl
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/JessShirvington

Player Profile: Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites

lowres3Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites

Tell us about your latest creation…

My debut novel is called Burial Rites, and takes place in Iceland, in the early nineteenth century. It tells the story of Agnes, a servant woman who has been sentenced to death for her role in the brutal murder of two men. In the absence of a prison, she is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on a northern farm. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoid
speaking with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed as her spiritual guardian, is compelled to try and understand her. As winter descends and the hardships of rural life force everyone to work side by side, the family’s attitude to Agnes starts to change, until one night, she begins to tell her side of the story, and they realise that all is not as they had assumed.

Burial Rites is actually based on true events. I lived in Iceland when I was a teenager, and heard the story of the murders then. Not only was I fascinated by the crime, but I became very curious about one of the women involved: Agnes. Writing this book was my attempt to more fully understand this mysterious historical figure. Many historical records tend to demonise Agnes, which I disagree with. My motivation to write the book came from a desire to explore her humanity, and her complexity.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was raised in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, where I’m now living again after a few years in Melbourne. I loved the inner-city life – the buzz and culture – but there’s something to be said for having a veggie patch, fruit trees, and a lot of wildlife on your doorstep. It’s nice being close to so many wineries too…

burial-ritesWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

I can’t remember not wanting to be an author. I’ve always wanted to write, although I understood from an early age that I’d probably need another job to pay the bills. So, I’d go from wanting to be an author and a teacher, to an author and a geologist, to an author and a doctor – but the aspiration to become an author was constant.

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

I’m not sure that I’ve written enough to be able to consider what might be best! I’m very proud of my debut novel, Burial Rites, but I’m also looking forward to challenging myself and improving as a writer.

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

I wrote Burial Rites in a converted walk-in wardrobe in Melbourne, and my current office is not too dissimilar! I have a large desk (important for when I need to spread things out) squeezed against a window. I need a source of natural light. There’s a lot of things up on the wall – maps, photos, notes – and I have a few bookshelves close to hand. It’s not too cluttered, but I do have piles of reference books everywhere, which I frequently knock over by accident. I’m quite clumsy.

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

Whatever is at hand! Whether I’m writing or not, my reading habits remain the same. The only difference is that I might be reading extra material for research when writing. Oh, and I also read more poetry when I’m writing – it reminds me to pay attention to the rhythm of my prose. As for particular genres, I tend to read literary fiction, although occasionally I’ll let someone persuade me into reading a crime novel, or speculative fiction, or fantasy. I’m currently reading a lot of fantastic Irish authors – Emma Donoghue, Colm Toibin. It’s getting me in the spirit to start my next book, which will be set in Ireland.

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

I was a very big reader of Enid Blyton as a child, and ‘Little Women’ was really important to me in my formative years. I went through a stage where I would read it once a month, just because I loved the characters so much. I saw myself in them.

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

A certain six year old in my life recently told me that I’m exactly like Hermione in Harry Potter. He’s probably right. I’m a bit of a know it all, I don’t brush my hair very often, and I could imagine nothing better than spending hours and hours in a library.

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

I’m learning Swedish at the moment! I like to learn practical skills. I’ll go through a phase of bread baking, then I’ll decide I want to build a worm farm, then I’ll make a lot of jam. I don’t usually admit to it, but I also play the tin whistle, and I’m learning the guitar. I’m not always so industrious though. I do spend a lot of time watching films and frittering hours away on the internet.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

That’s a hard one. I’m a big coffee-drinker, and I do love a nice glass of red. Sometimes the simple things can be the best. I can get very enthusiastic about a well-buttered piece of toast.

Who is your hero? Why?

I have many heroes, and all of them are kind, gentle, curious people who make the world a better place through the little acts of compassion they perform every day. None of them are famous. You wouldn’t know them if you saw them. But they’re extraordinary in the way they give to others and lead by example.

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

Ooh, tough one. I’m not one of those who like to go around prophesying the death of the book. I don’t think humans will ever be able to quench their need for storytelling, nor do I believe we will every stop reading. I do think, however, that it is crucial for bookstores, publishers and authors to evolve and adapt to suit changing technologies and reading habits. Adapt or perish – I think that’s a good motto for these uncertain times we’re in.

Follow Hannah:

Website URL: www.hannahkentauthor.com
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/HannahKentAuthor
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/HannahFKent

Talk Like Shakespeare Day – April 23

talk-like-shakespeareApril 23 is Talk Like Shakespeare Day!

How to Talk Like Shakespeare:

  • Instead of you, say thou or thee (and instead of y’all, say ye).
  • Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
  • Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
  • Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
  • Don’t waste time saying “it,” just use the letter “t” (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).
  • Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
  • When in doubt, add the letters “eth” to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
  • To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
  • When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say “Get thee to a nunnery!”
  • When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne

Take a look at the Talk Like Shakespeare website here…

Children’s Book Council Awards Shortlists Announced for 2013

cbcaThe shortlists for this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards have been announced.

The shortlisted titles in each of the categories are:

Older Readers:

  • The Ink Bridge (Neil Grant, A&U)
  • Sea Hearts (Margo Lanagan, A&U)
  • The Shiny Guys (Doug MacLeod, Penguin)
  • Creepy & Maud (Dianne Touchell, Fremantle Press)
  • Friday Brown (Vikki Wakefield, Text)
  • The Wrong Boy (Suzy Zail, Black Dog Books).

Younger Readers:

  • Pennies for Hitler (Jackie French, Angus & Robertson)
  • Other Brother (Simon French, Walker Books)
  • After (Morris Gleitzman, Viking)
  • Children of the King (Sonya Hartnett, Viking)
  • Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend (Steven Herrick, UQP)
  • The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk (Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King).

Early Childhood:

  • The Terrible Suitcase (Emma Allen & Freya Blackwood, Omnibus)
  • With Nan (Tania Coz & Karen Blair, Windy Hollow Books)
  • The Pros & Cons of Being a Frog (Sue DeGennaro, Scholastic)
  • Too Many Elephants in This House (Ursula Dubosarsky & Andrew Joyner, Viking)
  • It’s a Miroocool! (Christine Harris & Ann James, Little Hare)
  • Peggy (Anna Walker, Scholastic).

Picture Books:

  • The Coat (Ron Brooks, illus by Julie Hunt, A&U)
  • Tanglewood (Vivienne Goodman, illus by Margaret Wild, Omnibus)
  • Herman and Rosie (Gus Gordon, Viking)
  • Sophie Scott Goes South (Alison Lester, Viking)
  • Lightning Jack (Patricia Mullins, illus by Glenda Millard, Scholastic)
  • A Day to Remember (Mark Wilson, illus by Jackie French, Angus & Robertson).

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books:

  • Python (Christopher Cheng & Mark Jackson, Walker Books)
  • Lyrebird! A True Story (Jackie Kerin, illus by Peter Gouldthorpe, Museum Victoria)
  • Topsy-turvey World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers (Kirsty Murray, NLA)
  • Portrait of Spain for Kids (Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art)
  • Tom the Outback Mailman (Kristin Weidenbach, illus by Timothy Ide, Lothian).

New Tim Winton book Eyrie coming in October

wintontim01New novel by Tim Winton to be published by Hamish Hamilton in 2013

Ben Ball, Publishing Director, Penguin Books Australia has revealed a new novel by Tim Winton will be published on 14 October 2013.

“I’m delighted to be able to announce that on October 14 this year we will be publishing a new novel by Tim Winton, his first since the Miles Franklin Award-winning Breath. Each new work from Tim is a major event in Australian publishing and a privilege to be involved with. Eyrie is one of the very few books I’ve ever read that can genuinely be said to change the way you look at the world. It goes straight at the big questions, and like the greatest contemporary novels, expands its readers’ understanding of what it’s like to be alive now.

Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely, a man who’s lost his bearings in middle age and is now holed up in a flat at the top of a grim highrise, looking down on the world he’s fallen out of love with. He’s cut himself off, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman he used to know when they were kids, and her introverted young boy. The encounter shakes him up in a way he doesn’t understand. Despite himself, Keely lets them in. What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting – populated by unforgettable characters. It asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.” – Ben Ball, Publishing Director, Penguin Books Australia

Eyrie by Tim Winton will be published by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books on 14 October 2013.

Player Profile: Lisa Forrest, author of Inheritance

website photo with glassesLisa Forrest, author of Inheritance

Tell us about your latest creation…

My latest creation is a YA fantasy novel set in the circus called, INHERITANCE. I started my career as an author of YA fiction but my last book, BOYCOTT (a non-fiction account of the controversial months before the 1980 Moscow Games when PM Malcolm Fraser tried to stop Australia from attending the Games; I was 16 and captain of the women’s swim team), had been quite a gruelling experience and I knew that if I was going to write another book I really needed to write something fun!

As a teenager, I liked the stories of Trixie Belden and her teenage team of super-sleuths, the Bob-Whites and I was keen to head in the direction of mystery-and-adventure-with-friends. Then I interviewed John Flanagan.  We (my son, husband and I) loved his Ranger’s Apprentice series. Since the series had been inspired by John’s son it got me thinking: my own son was too young at the time to inspire a teenage series but my niece, a circus girl who lives in Wollongong, had just crossed the teenage ‘threshold’. At the time she was a reluctant reader so I started researching with her in mind. I discovered that our word circus came from the Latin word of the same name which was Romanised from Greek word, kirkos, meaning circle or ring.  So I started playing with the spelling of the two words, circus/kirkos and threw into the mix the first circus in Rome, Circus Maximus, and began to imagine an ancient circus troupe called the Cirkulatti, always led by a woman, known as the Eminence, who it was said could whisper to the minds of her audience. Her powers – and those of her troupe – were so coveted by rulers of the various civilisations that they honoured the ascendance of each new eminence with a piece of jewellery, which together became known as the Curios of the Eminence.

What if my Wollongong circus girl had one of these curios and people were after it?  Who might they be? Perhaps the Cirknero, the dark side of the Cirkulatti who were not content with supporting the throne but instead wanted to control it? If my Wollongong circus girl had the curio did that mean it could help her overcome those who are chasing her? And if she’s in possession of a curio, does that means she’s linked to the eminence – or possibly destined to be the next eminence?

At first I’d intended to write a fictional eminence. Then, reading E.H. Gombrich’s, Little History of the World, I learned about Theodora, empress of the Holy Roman Eastern Empire in the mid-500’s, who ruled as an equal with her husband, Justinian. She, apparently, rose from the circus to be Justinian’s wife, and during her lifetime was a hugely influential and important figure. The coincidence was too perfect.

So, INHERITANCE is about a girl called Tallulah who’s always known she’s different – she has the gift of communicating without speaking, a secret she shares only with her childhood nanny, Irena. But, when she joins Cirque d’Avenir (which she thinks is just a local holiday circus school) she finds she isn’t the only one with a special gift.  As she gets drawn further into the Cirque d’Avenir ‘family’ she discovers a world of dark ancient powers and centuries-old greed that requires her to call on all the skills Irena taught her – as well as the protection of a mysterious cuff her nanny left with her for safekeeping.

But what is the secret power of the cuff – and why are men willing to die to possess it? Tallulah has always understood that being different is dangerous – but will that stop her from accepting her true inheritance?

9780733328923Where are you from / where do you call home?

I grew up on the northern beaches of Sydney. I now live in the inner city but we still spend a lot of time on the north side – the beaches are the best!

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

My first ambition was a small one – to swim for Australia at the Olympic Games!

I joined Dee Why Ladies Amateur Swim Club when I was 8. My younger brother wanted a fibreglass surfboard but Dad said he couldn’t upgrade from the foam Koolites we rode until he could swim 400m. He joined Dee Why Men’s, got his name in the results section of the local paper, The Manly Daily and not  to be outdone I followed him down there the next week. Apparently, I cried all the way to the 25m finish line of my first race (a sort of combination dog-paddle, over-arm freestyle) but it mustn’t have been too distressing because I was down there again the next week. That winter, as Dad took me to Killarney Heights once a week to learn to do freestyle with my face in the water, Shane Gould, Gail Neal and Bev Whitfield saved Australia’s sporting pride at the 1972 Munich Games by winning 5 gold medals between them (Australia won a total of 8). Shane was 15, Gail and Bev were 17 (back in the 70’s we still thought that 16 was the age girls ‘peaked’ at). A few weeks after Munich, Gail Neal arrived at my primary school with her gold medal. That was all the inspiration I needed. I made the calculation: in 1976 I’d be 12; in 1980, I’d be 16. Even better I’d be in Year 11. Since Mum’s big thing was education I thought she’d be happy that I could squeeze the Olympics in between my School Certificate in Year 10 and my HSC in Year 12. The timing couldn’t be more perfect!

I eventually started my international swimming career when I was 14.  The first trip I went on, to the Commonwealth Games in Canada, included a four week training camp in Hawaii prior to the Games, and the possibility of an extra few weeks on the other side of the Games – if we swam well enough – for the World Championships in West Berlin. I won a silver medal at the Games in the 200BK so I was away for a total of 12 weeks.  So I was on the other side of the world for long periods of time and I suffered from homesickness very badly but my parents only had the budget for me to call
home once a week. That’s when I started to write. In the days before email I wrote letters like books. It was the journalists who travelled with the Australian team who recognised I was a ‘writer’ and suggested (since I was always talking to them about my favourite footy team, Manly) that I should be a sports reporter when I retired. I worked for more than fifteen years as a broadcast  journalist/presenter before I had the confidence to tackle a novel.

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

INHERITANCE. It’s my fifth novel – so I expect it to be better than anything I’ve written just because I’m more practised! But the scope of INHERITANCE is also just so much more ambitious than
anything I’ve written in the past. I’d never written fantasy – but that turned out to be just one of the many challenges of this book. Turning the idea of an ancient magical circus troupe reforming in modern times into a narrative meant I quickly had a grand saga on my hands that included magic, mystery, history, and family (the Cirkulatti is an extended family), not to mention battle scenes, all interwoven with the most important element of YA fiction: relationships, and a hint of romance. Just getting to the end of the story, I felt, was an achievement in itself!

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

I do have an office in my house and it is chaotic. But I didn’t write a lot of INHERITANCE in my office. During the creation of Inheritance I had so many serious doubts that I could pull it off I had to switch a few things around. I normally exercise when I first get up (at 5.30am) but since I didn’t get to my desk until I’d got my little boy off to school (after 9), there were just too many hours to convince myself that I wasn’t imaginative enough to write such a book. I knew that the Crown Street Grocer, in Sydney, where I got my first coffee of the day, opened when I got up so I explained my problem to Joe, the owner, and being the generous soul that he is, he welcomed me in. Every morning I was on his doorstep at 6am with my laptop. His early morning customers were very respectful – probably because I was there most days for more than a year working on my book, they realised it was taking all of my concentration!  So if my head was down they didn’t disturb me but if my eyes were up and wandering they were friendly and encouraging, which was really helpful. And hours later, when my battery had run out, the voice of doubt could find no purchase in my mind since there were a thousand or more words added to the book.

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

I cover a wide range because I try to keep up with the books my son reads – he likes to talk about them with me, although he’s scooted way ahead of me now with Feist’s, Magician – as well as the popular YA stuff like The Hunger Games, Melina Marchetta’s, Finnikin series, and anything Margo Lanagan writes. Plus there are the adult classics that I don’t think I’ve read enough of!

Because there aren’t enough hours in the day when you’re a writer as well as mother and wife, I’m a big fan of audio books. Right now I’m listening to Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – the magic is beautiful and but sinister at the same time. Before that I was listening to Campbell Scott read For Whom the Bell Tolls – the story of Robert Jordan’s doomed mission to blow up a bridge in the mountains near Segovia. All the way through the book I knew it was doomed but Hemingway’s words, his characters, drew me on so that when the fatally injured Robert Jordan finally said to Maria, ‘we will never go to Madrid,’ I wept as if it was a complete surprise! I don’t remember the last time I’d shed so many tears over a book.

I’ve had a magic realism phase, a Jeanette Winterson phase, an Ian McEwan phase, an F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald phase, read Possession, by A.S Byatt, a number of times, and loved Madeleine St John’s, Women in Black – who wouldn’t like a book that has a heroine who changes her name from Lesley to Lisa when she went for a job in the a department store (a lot like David Jones) in the late 1950’s, because Lisa sounded more sophisticated!

I read a lot more non-fiction when I was an interviewer; not so much now but I will always read anything David Marr has written. He’s a dear friend and one of the most brilliant people I know.

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

I’ve written already about the influence of Trixie Belden and her friends.

When I was younger I had an illustrated picture book called Children of the World that I read over and over – I was a bit disappointed when I began my international swimming career to find that there weren’t young girls and boys in Hawaii, Canada or Germany dressed in the national costumes like I’d seen in my book! And I loved a collection of ghost stories called, Shudders and Shakes.

Mum always said that the only way she could get me to school every day when I was little, without crying, was the promise of a Golden Book at the end of the week. When I got older she included a book among my Christmas presents and there was usually a story as to why she chose it for me. Shudders and Shakes had been one of those; so was the The Thorn Birds – Mum heard an interview with Colleen McCullough on the radio. I was barely 14; I read it in about two days! And she gave me a gorgeous edition of My Brilliant Career that was illustrated with all the costumes from the movie. I was a teenager during the years of the great Australian mini-series so I read (and loved) A Town Like Alice, and, 1915, and All The Rivers Run (actually my geography teacher loved that book so I also read it because she recommended it for the descriptions of the meandering river). I liked historical fiction like Exodus by Leon Uris and, thrillers like The Bourne Identity and the gentle story-telling of Maeve Binchy’s, Light a Penny Candle.

At school I loved To Kill a Mockingbird (I recently listened to Sissy Spacek narrating it and I can’t recommend her reading enough) and Pride and Prejudice, of course. Hated Tess of the D’urbervilles – it’s got to be said!

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

Trixie Belden, Scout Finch, Sybylla Melvyn, or Elizabeth Bennett. Do they need explaining? Although, we’ve just read Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men and I rather like Tiffany Aching – precocious and brave and true, all good qualities for a girl.

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

Well, not surprisingly (sorry), I mostly hang out with my husband and son.

I was almost 39 when I had Dex, I had no intention of getting married let alone having children, but my best friend was diagnosed with an awful cancer and given no time to live and suddenly I thought ‘what are we here for?’

After a very fulfilling life of my own, I’ve been happy to let Dex lead me down paths (in his completely obsessive way) I would never have gone without him: sea creatures (particularly the really ugly creatures of the deep), dinosaurs (particularly the ugliest and including the swimming reptiles), insects (particularly the enormous spiders, dragonflies and millipedes of the Carboniferous period), cars (particularly the supercar of this century, the Bugatti Veyron – we searched London for one when I was there to work at the Olympic Games last year and finally found a bright-yellow Grand Sport spider at a dealer in Berkeley Square; we were all in awe) and, of course, the world of fantasy fiction. I would not have written INHERITANCE, I’m sure, if he wasn’t in my life

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Very hard to narrow down a favourite!  But I’ve got a sweet tooth, so I eat a LOT of salad in order to earn my cake. Chocolate cake, cheese cake, orange and poppy seed cake, lemon and coconut  cake, red velvet cake … I like them all. And a piece of cake goes very well with a macchiato (with a sprinkling of chocolate on top). Although, I’m also quite partial to a glass of Sangria.

Who is your hero? Why?

I’ve had different heroes at different times in my life. I’ve mentioned Shane Gould and Gail Neal when I was a young swimmer. Madonna was a hero for a long time. I was on holiday in the US – actually
on my first visit to New York – when the True Blue album was released and Madonna appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair completely transformed from the early NY downtown boy-toy we’d known, to the sleek, platinum-blonde diva that marked the next phase in her career. Her transformation appealed to me because in my own, post-swimming career, I’d been trying desperately to move away from ‘the swimmer’, to extend my range as a journalist beyond sport, and I’d finally got a break. I was on holiday because I’d left my job as ABC sports reporter/presenter/commentator and when I got home I’d be taking up my new position as a roving reporter on The Midday Show. If Madonna could do it, so could I. I was with her through the brilliant Ray of Light album, and on the next album, Music, her song, What if Feels Like for a Girl, spoke so perfectly to experiences I’d had in early relationships when I was at the height of my post-swimming/media career. But she lost me when she started to doing weird things to her face. I may be naïve, but I’m trying to hold onto the belief that a woman’s magnificence can transcend a few wrinkles. My Nan, who passed away a few years ago now, is someone I’d like to emulate as I age. She stayed very modern in her attitude all the way to 96; she didn’t have much, materially, but was rich in common sense – a commodity we suffer from a chronic shortage of these days.

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

Time is short, and the choice in entertainment, for the consumer is massive, so getting, and holding, the reader’s attention is probably the biggest challenge.

Ideally, a good story, well told, should do that. But getting attention in a saturated market is tough. And does ‘well told’, these days, mean faster-paced, or offering a respite from a world that is already
fast-paced? I’m not sure there is one winning formula. My favourite movies are the screw-ball comedies from last century; fast-talking, wise-cracking, clever, often professional people were popular entertainment when the world moved at a slower pace and women, more often, stayed at home. Remakes of those movies for me are slow-moving and pretty dull – more often an insult to our intelligence compared to the originals, but people flock to them.

Ultimately, I think we’ve got to write the stories we’re drawn to and hope that others will be drawn in too.

Follow Lisa:

Facebook Page URL: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Forrest/220300424775831

Player Profile: Tiffiny Hall, author of Red Samurai

Hall_Tiffiny_TWD_front_colour_newer image_credit_Marina OliphantTiffiny Hall, author of Red Samurai

Tell us about your latest creation…

Red Samurai is book 2 in the Roxy Ran trilogy for readers aged ten and up. Roxy is now the White Warrior. She has a secret crush she is desperate to keep secret plus the school bully to deal with. Roxy’s sister, Elecktra, has always been a great magician, but when she shows off her magic tricks at school, the town of Lanternwood begins to transform with a sense of samurai and the ninjas are no longer safe. There is an enemy lurking and it soon becomes clear that the White Warrior is about to meet her match. Red Samurai is a fantastic read for anyone dealing with bullies or struggling with their confidence. If you love romance, martial arts, magic and adventure you’ll love this book.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

Melbourne, Australia. I also feel at home in any dojo or book shop.

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

I wanted to be an author. Every time I blew out the candles out on my birthday cake I wished for the same thing – to be a published author.  I should have been an elite Taekwondo athlete, but I liked writing action more than seeking it.

COV_RedSamurai.inddWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

White Ninja. It was my debut novel and endorsed by literary legend John Marsden. Creating Roxy Ran and her world was so much fun. I wanted to read a story about a girl who was strong, went on adventures and stood up for herself.

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

I have a writing room at home. A very messy desk with a collection of 20 ninjas standing at attention beside my computer. There are piles of manuscripts, a patchwork of post-its and towers of kids books swallowing up my big Mac. I write next to a window that has a palm tree in the distance and I love watching how the leaves change throughout the day from spiky with sharp afternoon sun to feathery when I first wake up at dawn.

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

Kids books. I like to meet as many kid characters as possible. I also love poetry. Emily Dickinson is my favourite. I also like to read books for big kids. I’m currently rereading Lolita. And I love humour – David Sedaris can’t be taken out in public.

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

John Marsden novels. I was lucky enough to be taught by John at school. He lit the flame for writing when I was in Grade Five. I won a John Marsden award for creative writing and my heart was set – I wanted to share stories too. John signed one of his books for me ‘to Hall-of-fame writing’ and the book sits on my writing desk for inspiration.

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

Alice in Wonderland. She had such a wonderful adventure and I agree with Lewis Caroll in the importance of believing in nonsense before breakfast. As a children’s author you’ve got to believe in nonsense to make sense to your audience.

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

Lots of ninjaring. I’m a 5th Dan black belt so I love to practice my kicks and take classes. I love to do anything that exercises my body or my imagination. I play the piano and have a grand piano I love to bash every day. Bubble baths. Movies. Washing puppies. Talking to my chatty parrot. Teaching kids martial arts and self-defense. Working on TV. It’s all fun stuff that allows me to meet really interesting people and experience unusual situations.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Food = mango. And chocolate. I wish a chocolate covered mango existed! Drink = cofffeeeeeee. My only vice. I know being a health nut I should be into green tea but I just can’t give up my steamy mug of coffee first thing in the morning.

Who is your hero? Why?

JK Rowling. She introduced so many kids to reading. Harry Potter was rejected over and over but she didn’t give up. She was on a mission to share her story and the world is better for it.  Other heroes of mine are anyone battling illness. You don’t know a real fight until you’ve been really sick.

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

The digital age. Books are slow to write and slow to publish. They are competing with the immediacy of blogs, e-books and apps. Publishing in the traditional sense could become irrelevant as more bookshops shut down and distribution changes. But I don’t think this will happen. How could we live without the smell of a new book!  People are busier than ever and time poor. For many, reading has become a luxury not a necessity. Attention spans are more frenetic too. Kids are more visual than ever through social media and posting their lives through photos. Creating pictures with words could become a thing of a past unless we continue to work together with  technology to promote reading through really cool books and authors.

Follow Tiffiny:

Website URL: www.tiffinyhall.com.au
Blog URL: http://www.tiffinyhall.com.au/news
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/tiffinyhall
Twitter URL: https://www.twitter.com/TiffinyHall

Player Profile: Kelly Doust, author of The Crafty Minx at Home

kelly-doustKelly Doust, author of The Crafty Minx at Home

Tell us about your latest creation…

The Crafty Minx at Home: 50+ handmade and recycled objects for beautiful living is about the things closest to my heart: living the handmade life and appreciating the beauty of vintage objects. It also shares the joy in making things yourself and sharing them with loved ones.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was raised mostly in Sydney’s Inner West which is where I live now, but I spent my twenties living overseas in Hong Kong and London.

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

From the age of about six or seven I wanted to write and started making up short stories and prose for my family (most memorably, a poem imaginatively titled ‘My dog’ when our beloved childhood pet died). My dream of being a writer never really changed, but I’ve certainly had a few failed careers in the interim. I’ve finished exactly one year of a hairdresser’s apprenticeship, and I never quite cut it in the corporate world. I also thought that if I couldn’t write, I’d study to be a fashion designer. I might still do that one day.

crafty-minxWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

The next book I’m working on… I always think I can do better and I’m naturally still learning and improving with each book. I consider The Crafty Minx at Home the best book I’ve published so far, because my taste has evolved along the way and I think we’ve created a beautiful, visually-inspiring world for readers to fall in love with.

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

I’m pathologically tidy so I always clear my work area at the beginning of each day. That said, I write at the kitchen table so it’s important to get rid of any distractions before I start, such as the morning’s dirty breakfast bowls and my daughter’s half-finished craft projects. It’s also near the kettle and my digital radio, both of which I couldn’t live without.

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

I read in every genre, from autobiographies to investigative journalism and non-fiction, but my favourite indulgences are novels and beautifully-illustrated lifestyle books. Writers such as Jeannette Winterson, John Irving, Wally Lamb, Jonathan Tropper and Annie Proulx blow me away with their intelligence and talent.

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

Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Tolkein’s The Hobbit. As a child, I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than escaping to other worlds where magic and adventure existed.

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

Flora Poste of Cold Comfort Farm. She has a plucky sense of humour and made the best of herself in straitened circumstances. She’s my heroine.

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

Watch horror movies. Dance hip-hop. Put my body through stupid challenges like Tough Mudder, just to see if I can.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Pasta. My mother’s family is Italian, and despite being told I’m gluten intolerant, I can’t seem to give up the good stuff. Favourite drink would have to be red wine. Or mojitos. Or champagne (I have several favourite drinks).

Who is your hero? Why?

People who stay true to themselves but manage to do so with respect for others. In terms of famous identities, I really admire Jamie Oliver for his passion, ambition and success. He seems like a good
person to me. Ditto Barack Obama.

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

Definitely all the other forms of entertainment available to us. I remember being despondent if I ever found myself on a bus or in a waiting room without reading material when I was younger, but now I rarely travel with anything other than my iPhone and use it to watch videos, listen to podcasts and browse online instead. But I think there will always be people who want to sink their teeth into the meatiness of a full-length book. I don’t think anything can replace the beauty of books as objects to covet, touch and possess. Especially illustrated titles, which only grow more tailored and exceptional as time wears on.

Follow Kelly:

Website URL: www.thecraftyminx.com.au
Blog URL: http://thecraftyminx.com.au/
Facebook Page URL: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Crafty-Minx/125651777489366
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/TheCraftyMinx

Player Profile: Mary-Lou Stephens, author of Sex, Drugs and Meditation

mary-lou-stephensMary-Lou Stephens, author of Sex, Drugs and Meditation

Tell us about your latest creation…

Sex, Drugs & Meditation is my meditation memoir. It’s the true story of a woman with a talent for self-sabotage who learns to sit still, shut up and start living – and loving.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born and raised in Hobart, studied acting at The Victorian College of the Arts and played in bands in Melbourne and Sydney before I got a proper job – in radio. I’ve worked and played all over Australia but since discovering the Sunshine Coast I’ve been inclined to stay put.

sex-drugs-meditationWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

I wanted to be an archaeologist. I had a desire to dig up the past, which ironically is what I’m doing now with my memoir.

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

I love Sex, Drugs & Meditation. It’s a great story and it’s all true. There are lyrics to three of my songs in this book from my time as a singer/songwriter. The song about my father dying, “Strange Homecoming” took me two years to finish and just as long to be able to perform without crying. It still affects me to this day. My best work is my most honest work.

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

My writing space is the spare room. I have a big trestle table so that I can pile everything up and out of the way when people come to stay. I love it when my husband goes out or away because then I can take over the lounge room, slouch on the couch with my laptop, surrounded by notebooks and paper.

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

I have a regular books and writing segment on ABC Local Radio and I focus on Australian writers. I always aim to read the book before interviewing the author. It doesn’t matter what genre, or if it’s fiction or non-fiction, the books I enjoy reading are a good story well told.

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

I’m one of six children and we were raised on the C.S Lewis Narnia series, so much so that I gave one of my brothers the boxed set for a wedding present. We also had all the Beatrix Potter books and some of the recorded versions as well. Every Saturday morning we’d go to the library and I’d get out the Mary Plain books. The Magic Faraway Tree was a favourite as well. When I was in high school we studied Saul Bellow’s Henderson The Rain King. It was unlike anything I’d ever read before. It confounded, frustrated and astounded me. It stretched my heart and my mind.

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

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle (Beatrix Potter), making endless cups of tea surrounded by the smell of fresh laundry. Only trouble is I’m allergic to ironing. The ending of the book has a strange and bittersweet melancholy to it that I’ve always been attracted to. “Why, she’s nothing but a hedgehog.”

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

I love playing Scrabble. The only reason I joined Facebook was to play Scrabble with my interstate and overseas friends. And at the moment I’m playing my guitar a lot. It’s been a while since I used to play in bands and I need the practice. As well as talking about my book I’ll be playing the songs from it. I’d like it to be a pleasant experience for everyone.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Anything with coconut in it is a firm favourite, my latest food fetish is coconut butter by the spoonful. Apart from water, tea is my favourite drink. There is a whole section of the pantry dedicated to it.

Who is your hero? Why?

Maggie Beer. She’s smart, hard working, creative and generous. Her work with Alzheimer’s Australia is admirable, as is her passion for improving the food in aged care facilities. Her food is delicious, her recipes always work and everyone feels as though she’s their friend even if they’ve never met her. I was lucky enough to meet her and she’s genuinely warm, engaging and funny. And she’s like the Queen, she doesn’t carry any money.

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

Screen time. I love reading but even so I find it hard to drag myself away from the lure of social media and the endless sticky strands of the web. I work in radio and that hunger for the immediate is ingrained in what I do but nothing gives me more pleasure than reading a book.

Follow Mary-Lou:

Website URL: http://maryloustephens.com.au/
Blog URL: http://maryloustephens.wordpress.com/
Facebook Page URL: http://www.facebook.com/maryloustephenswrites
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/MissyMaryLou

Player Profile: Allison Rushby, author of The Heiresses

allison-rushbyAllison Rushby, author of The Heiresses

Tell us about your latest creation…

The Heiresses sees triplets Thalia, Erato and Clio—estranged since birth—thrust together in glittering 1926 London to fight for their inheritance, only to learn they can’t trust anyone—least of all each other.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I’m from Brisbane, but lived in Cambridgeshire in the UK whilst writing The Heiresses.

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

A ballerina with pierced ears (I got the pierced ears, at least!).

heiressesWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

The Heiresses truly is my best work. It was such a learning experience writing a very long and unwieldy tale full of drama!

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

Now that I’m back in Australia, I have a very normal study, but The Heiresses was written in Cambridgeshire, where I lived in a converted mill on a lock, complete with swan and cygnets. It was all rather idyllic!

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

I do love a bit of English fiction — P.G. Wodehouse, Stella Gibbons and anything Mitford.

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

Robin Klein’s Hating Alison Ashley was a defining book for me. Up until that point I don’t think I realised you were allowed to write about ‘real’ life and schools, suburbs and so on that you knew truly existed.

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

I’d love to say someone both beautiful and clever, but the truth is, most likely Kate Reddy from Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It. I write and have two kids who go to two different schools. I am always juggling!

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

It always surprises people to find out I used to ice skate competitively.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

I’m a huge corn chip fan and what goes better with corn chips than a very large margarita!

Who is your hero? Why?

I’ll have to go with my Nana. She’s 94 and still going strong, after not having the best start in life.

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

I think it will be interesting to see Australia’s digital sales pick up in the same way they have in the US. With the proliferation of self-published books, it will also be interesting to see how quality books are chosen by the public in the future.

Follow Allison:

Website URL: http://www.allisonrushby.com
Facebook Page URL: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Allison-Rushby/189442837771168
Twitter URL: http://www.twitter.com/Allison_Rushby

Player Profile: Janeen Brian, author of Meet Ned Kelly

janeen-brianJaneen Brian, author of Meet Ned Kelly

Tell us about your latest creation…

‘Meet Ned Kelly’ is a look at the Australian bushranger who lived in the early days. His story is told in rhyme and tracks Ned’s life from boyhood to his death at age twenty-five. Was Ned Kelly a Robin Hood type hero or was he, as he maintained, forced to become an outlaw? Matt Adams’ illustrations are stunning and quirky and bring to life a feeling of the times and the countryside. There’s a fascinating and factual Time Line at the back.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I’m from Glenelg, which is a seaside town, just twenty minutes from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.

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

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher.

Meet Ned KellyWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

To date, I think it might be my picture book, Where does Thursday go? because I love the basic premise of  Splodge, a bear character heading out to look for Thursday in order to say goodbye to it. He wanted to do that because his birthday had been on Thursday and he asked his friend, Humbug, ‘Where does Thursday go before Friday comes?’  I love the poetic simplicity and word image that I was able to create, and the characters which the illustrator, Stephen Michael King brought to life in an aura of soft blues.

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

My office, NOW, is big, but it used to be a desk in my bedroom. The room has large windows that look out onto a lovely backyard. Along that wall are benches on which are set my computer, printer, phone and various other equipment and containers for files, books and stationery. I have a large library shelf and a big red cupboard with glass doors to display my own published books, other cupboards and filing cabinets. In the centre is a nice table where I can spread out stuff – or sit and have a cup of tea with a friend!

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

I love Australian fiction, both adult and children’s. I like biographies of people who are in the Arts and I love reading picture books and poetry.

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

My parents gave me an Omnibus (a large book with stories, article and poems in it) when I was twelve, because I’d done well in Year 7. They didn’t usually do things like that,so the book was special. I read and re-read that book till I almost knew it backwards.

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

Someone like Elsie, who is a girl in my forthcoming children’s historical novel called, That boy, Jack. Elsie is brave or forthright, funny and caring. I’d liked to have been as strong and as outspoken as her when I was a girl.

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

I make mosaics. I love the look of broken crockery, and recycled tiles and found objects, like shells or bits of old jewellery, put together to create something beautiful out of things that’ve had a life and been discarded. I read, of course. I knit about a dozen scarves each year for homeless people. I garden and walk, swim and go to Yoga and Keep Fit classes. I love going to films and the theatre. And I’m sing in a choir called Sing Australia. I love laughing, looking for colour and eavesdropping on people’s conversations.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

I drink tea. And I love seafood.

Who is your hero? Why?

My sister. She is the biggest-hearted, warmest, most caring person you could ever meet. She’s funny and has been the most wonderful friend to so many people. She’s passionate about food and the
growing of it, and the environment, and lives for the minute.

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

Helping children have time to read. I think it’s vital for them to experience the joy of being elsewhere in their mind and their imagination and to realise that they choose to enjoy a book no matter how
easy other ‘distractions’ are – because reading needs concentration. I’m concerned about reducing our sensory needs and so books, as we know them now, will still have a place. I use an E-book reader for convenience when I travel, but I still like to read a book. Parents need to have one night a week where everyone sits and reads together.

Follow Janeen:

Website URL: www.janeenbrian.com
Blog URL: janeenjottings.blogspot.com

Player Profile: Diane Hester, author of Run To Me

diane-hesterDiane Hester, author of Run To Me

Tell us about your latest creation…

RUN TO ME is a chase thriller with a twist. Shyler O’Neil is still struggling to come to terms with the death of her son two years earlier. Believing she did not do enough to protect him, she retreats to her family’s old cabin in the forests of Northern Maine. Ten-year-old Zack, in foster care for the last three years, has forgotten what a mother’s love is like. When he stumbles on information that could put a powerful crime boss in prison, he goes on the run, ending up at Shyler’s cabin. In protecting Zack from the men pursuing him, Shyler comes to believe he’s the son she lost. Zack, finally getting the love he has craved, is happy to play along with her delusion. When the killers find them, ‘mother’ and ‘son’ are forced to flee into the New England wilds. But no-one knows these woods better than Shyler.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

Born in New York, I came to Australia in 1978 as a violinist with the Adelaide Symphony. When I married I moved to Port Lincoln SA where my husband was teaching and we have lived there every since.

run-to-meWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

My parents were both musicians so as a child I was drawn to music. I started violin at the age of 10 and attended the Eastman School of music to become a professional violinist. It was only when that career ended that I discovered writing.

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

I wrote six other novels before Run To Me but none of them has been published. I feel Run To Me is my best work because in writing it I created the story I myself would most love to read.

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

I’ve taken over a large spare bedroom as my study. Despite it having two desks and two tables, I often find my notes and materials spilling out into other rooms! I have a huge fish tank next to my ‘plotting chair’ and love to watch the fish as I write.

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

I love Tess Gerritsen, James Rollins and Simon Beckett. Aside from these and other suspense authors, I read a lot of non-fiction, mostly on the creative process, learning, talent, motivation and goal achievement.

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

I had ADHD as a child and didn’t really get into reading until I was in high school. Stephen King’s The Stand and Dean Koontz’s Watchers are the two books I remember most vividly.

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

Ayla from Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear. I love her strength, resilience, compassion and curiosity.

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

For many years I ran a donkey sanctuary and trained my charges to saddle and harness. These days my hobbies include juggling, mushrooms, and shell, rock and fossil collecting.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

My favourite drink is without doubt coffee. Don’t really have a favourite food, although I am quite partial to ice cream.

Who is your hero? Why?

My dad – the kindest person I’ve ever known, who treated everyone the same.

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

Tearing kids away from texting and computer games long enough to get them hooked on reading.

Follow Diane:

Website URL: dianehester.com

Player Profile: Cathy Kelly, author of The Honey Queen

cathy-kellyCathy Kelly, author of The Honey Queen

Tell us about your latest creation…

It’s my fifteenth novel and it’s called The Honey Queen. They say that to make the perfect pitch, you have to be able to describe your story in twenty-two words and I can’t…so let’s start: I’ve got about five main characters and the first to appear is Melbourne lady, Lillie, who is mourning her husband’s death when her grown-up sons suggest her visiting Ireland, from where she was adopted sixty-five years previously. Lillie doesn’t really want to go but she does, and travelling to Redstone and meeting the people there, brings her into a whole new life… There are bees, a man who’s been redundant, a woman hitting the menopause at full force and the wisest fifteen-year-old tomboy you’ll ever met.

honey-queenWhere are you from / where do you call home?

I’m Irish, born in Belfast, brought up in Dublin and now I live in county Wicklow in a quirky house with lots of odd-shaped windows and a fabulous view down to the sea.

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

I wanted to marry the guy from Hawaii 50 (kid’s crush), briefly I wanted to be a jockey as I am very small but truthfully I have always been in love with the world of books. I told everyone stories so it was inevitable I’d end up doing this.

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

Eek… Impossible question. I’m always proudest of the last book, so right now, it’s the Honey Queen.

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

Ho hum… I like a little chaos. Or I don’t like it but I somehow make it! I recently heard that genius lives in clutter and if so, then I am onto a winner! I have two work spaces. One is an office I share with my husband where I do my admin/communications type work. Then upstairs I have a study where I write but I don’t have Internet access in case I get too distracted. The upstairs office is full of books, pictures of and by my sons, paintings, bits of embroidery, rocks… mad stuff, basically.

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

I love reading so much that I tend to dip into lots of different genres. I am a mad thriller/crime thriller reader and have been on a big Skandi crime binge. I like biography and historical biographies.  I’ve just finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie –  brilliant.

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

I can recall perfectly reading Alexandre Dumas Three Musketeers when I was about thirteen and off sick from school. I’d had the wit to go into school, head to the library, get some books, and then be sick and have to go home. Good plan, huh? It was an old edition and those filmy pages took me into another world. I loved it and went on a French writers’ binge.

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

When I was young, I thought I was – like so many others – Jo in Little Women. I loved her courage and wit. Now… I don’t want to be anyone else. Too complicated a vision. It’s hard enough being yourself, isn’t it, without being someone else too.

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

I love films, yoga, knitting and attempting to tidy the books in the house.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Nice sweet, strong coffee in the morning with spelt toast and homemade marmalade. Yum.

Who is your hero? Why?

My husband. Because he’s a good man and I love him for so many reasons.

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

How did you know I have a crystal ball…?  It’s a hard time for booksellers because of the e-readers and I hope readers realize that bookshops offer a fabulous way to browse shelves in a way it’s hard to on an e-book but I also think the actual book has plenty of life left in it.

Follow Cathy:

Website URL: http://www.cathykelly.com/
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/cathykellybooks
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/cathykellybooks

Player Profile: Rachael Herron, author of Cora’s Heart

rachael-herronRachael Herron, author of Cora’s Heart

Tell us about your latest creation…

Cora’s Heart is the story of Cora, a farm-girl who’s been hurt too much in the past, who safeguards everything–except her heart. Mac is a large-animal veterinarian who has already risked it all and lost everything that mattered. When a secret is revealed, Cora has to decide whether Mac is a safe bet . . . or the worst gamble of her life.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I’m from Oakland, California, a lively town just on the other side of the San Francisco Bay.

coras-heartWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was old enough to realize that an actual person was behind the books I loved. I wanted to be that person.

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

I always love my latest book best. Cora’s Heart is definitely my favorite, and I’m still in love with the hero, Mac.

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

I go to a local coffee shop to write. It’s big and bright and full of people at all times. I put on my headphones, and the process of drowning out the voices drives me into the work. Sometimes I look up, completely stunned that I’m sitting in a room with other humans, instead of living inside the world I’m making.

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

I love the work of Sophie Littlefield and Nicole Alexander. I love to read about women who find their true strength in unexpected places.

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

Anne of Green Gables! Oh, I wanted to be Anne Shirley so badly. I still do, I think.

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

Jo March, still furious at Amy for throwing my book in the fire.

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

I play the accordion! I play badly but with gusto!

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Tacos from the taco trucks Oakland is famous for, and I love a good scotch and soda after a long day.

Who is your hero? Why?

My mother, sadly passed on, will always be my hero. She taught me that I could do anything I wanted to, and she believed in me utterly.

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

For me, the challenge is finding the time to read through my To Be Read pile! I think most readers find the same problem staring at them from their bedside table.

Follow Rachael:

Website URL: http://yarnagogo.com
Blog URL: http://yarnagogo.com
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/Rachael.Herron.Author?ref=ts
Twitter URL: http://twitter.com/rachaelherron

Player Profile: Jackie French, author of Dinosaurs Love Cheese

jackie-frenchJackie French, author of Dinosaurs Love Cheese & The Girl from Snowy River

Tell us about your latest creation…

Dinosaurs Love Cheese: for every child who loves dinosaurs — and cheese.

The Girl From Snowy River: World War I is over, but it still haunts the mountains. Flinty McAlpine lost a brother when the Snowy River men marched away. The man she loves won’t talk to her. But on a rock in the mist she meets a ‘ghost’ from the future,  crippled in Vietnam:  a man who needs to speak about the war that none of his friends will discuss with him, as much as she needs to hear. The second in the saga of Australia that began with A Waltz for Matilda.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

The Araluen Valley (NSW Southern Tablelands), cliffs streaked with eagle droppings, a wombat under the bedroom,  the sugar gliders eating the blossom from 800 fruit trees, an a possum who snores above my study.

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

Always — no matter what — a story teller

girl-snowy-riverWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

Pennies for Hitler, Diary of a Wombat, a Waltz for Matilda: all somehow achieved much more than I could have given them..

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

20,000 books, 200 wombats, wood, glass, pottery (gifts, not chosen), 3 wombat skulls, a table of seeds, another of manuscripts, a desk of scribbled notes, an apple core, two coffee mugs, a spider called Bruce, and the possum with sleep apnoea.

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

Atwood, Pratchett, Haldeman, Trillin, Steingarten, plus about 500 more.

dinosaurs-love-cheeseWhat was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley), at age 7. Didn’t notice the sex scenes, just the realisation that ‘life will not always be like this.’ Great Dialogues of Plato, ditto: Socrates  the youth of Athens to ask questions, unlike both home and school.

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

Every writer includes aspects of themselves in each book they write.

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

Can sharpen a chain saw, load a musket, milk an echidna, grow a five course dinner, but am functionally innumerate, dyslexic, and can’t spell hipop…hypop..that big grey animal from Africa.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Fresh bread and tomato salad with new olive oil, cold water, apple pie with hazelnut pastry, Jonathon  and Cornish Aromatic apples, but mostly: lots!

Who is your hero? Why?

Socrates: the unexamined life is not worth living; and integrity.

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

Withering attention spans.

Follow Jackie:

Website URL:

Player Profile: Hugh Lunn, author of The Big Book of Lunn

Hugh LunnHugh Lunn, author of The Big Book of Lunn

Tell us about your latest creation…

The Big Book of Lunn contains the biggest selling book ever about an Australian childhood: “Over the Top with Jim” — plus the sequel about young love in the 1960s: “Head Over Heels”.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

Born in Brisbane and live here. Spent 7 years overseas aged 23-30 as a journalist and foreign correspondent. Lived in Hong Kong, Vietnam (during War), London, Indonesia, West Papua. Went into “Red China” in 1965!

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

A radio announcer — but my voice was too husky. But now, whenever I walk into a shop or talk in a cafe people say I know that ‘voice’ from hearing me interviewed about my books.

big-book-lunnWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

“Over the Top with Jim” because it made enough money over the last 24 years for me to become a full-time author. Readers tell me my Vietnam and Rupert books are my best. My favourite is “The Great Fletch”.

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

I have a huge desk with a return with a set of shelves for books and papers behind. The third bedroom; the back toilet and the large room under the house are full of my files and ‘MS’s (manuscripts) and future book options… and my 30 years of journalism.

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

George Orwell, because I aspire to write as clearly as him and to make such acute observations on the people I write about. Plus books about medicine and the human condition.

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

Poems mainly. Horatius Defends the Bridge was the first before I was five. And later Byron, Marvel, Pope, Tennyson etc. Browning was my favourite.

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

Winston Smith from Orwell’s 1984. In fact, sometimes I think I am Winston Smith! Because he wrote down what was really going on.

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

I collect songs for my “State of Origin — the Musical”.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

A steak at Moo-Moos Wine Bar and Grill in Brisbane. A Bundaberg ginger beer.

Who is your hero? Why?

Queensland scientist Michael Good because he gave up his job running the Queensland Institute of Medical Research to try to find a cure for rheumatic fever and malaria which kill so many people in the world. And he’s on track with both.

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

Writing books that makes people laugh and cry.

Follow Hugh:

Website URL: http://www.hughlunn.com.au

Buy the physical book here…

Player Profile: Jennifer Skiff, author of The Divinity of Dogs: True Stories of Miracles Inspired by Man’s Best Friend

Skiff_JenniferJennifer Skiff, author of The Divinity of Dogs: True Stories of Miracles Inspired by Man’s Best Friend

Tell us about your latest creation…

The Divinity of Dogs is a book of stories where people describe the moment they learned something profound about life from an experience with a dog. It is also part memoir, including stories where dogs have helped me through different trials in my life.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

Home is where my dogs are.  I live in Perth, Australia and on an island in Maine, in the United States.

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

When I was 12 years-old I asked my Dad for an electric typewriter.  I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

divinity-of-dogsWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

The Divinity of Dogs is clearly my best work to date.  Writing it was a deeply personal experience. I cried throughout the process. By all accounts from the reviews, it’s having a similar effect on readers.  They are moved by the writing.  It’s a wonderful feeling as an author to share your journey and to have others embrace it.

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

In Perth, my studio feels like a tree house – lots of windows overlooking life. In Maine, my studio is nestled in the woods in the middle of a wildlife corridor. I can’t write unless everything around me is clean and tidy.  I write best when I can only see words and nature.

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

True Crime.  Ann Rule.

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

I was most moved by the works of Charles Dickens.

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

Heathcliffe from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.  I am Heathcliffe.

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

Mow lawns.  Play with dogs.  Raise money and awareness for animal charities.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips. Zacapa Rum/Coke Zero with half a lime. Preferably together, on a boat.

Who is your hero? Why?

I have many heroes. I admire every person in this world who has a compassionate heart and works toward positive change to make the lives of others better.

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

People love to read and write and always will.  The challenge, for all of us, will be to adapt to the ever-changing forms of publication and to embrace the change.

Follow Jennifer:

Website URL: http://www.jenniferskiff.com/
Facebook Page #1 URL: https://www.facebook.com/thedivinityofdogs
Facebook Page #2 URL: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferskiffauthor
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/JenniferSkiff

Buy the physical book here…

ALS Gold Medal Longlist 2013 announced

engagementThe longlist for the 2013 ALS Gold Medal has been announced.

The longlisted titles are:

  • Lola Bensky (Lily Brett, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town (Jessie Cole, Fourth Estate)
  • Questions of Travel (Michelle de Kretser, A&U)
  • Montebello (Robert Drewe, Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Engagement (Chloe Hooper, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Cumulus: Collected Poems (Robert Gray, John Leonard Press)
  • Like a House on Fire (Cate Kennedy, Scribe)
  • Lost Voices (Christopher Koch, Fourth Estate)
  • The Mountain (Drusilla Modjeska, Vintage)
  • The History of Books (Gerald Murnane, Giramondo)
  • The Fine Colour of Rust (P A O’Reilly, HarperCollins)
  • The Light Between Oceans (M S Stedman, Vintage).

Player Profile: Tara Eglington, author of How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You

tara-eTara Eglington, author of How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You

Tell us about your latest creation…

How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You is the story of 16 year old Aurora Skye, who is a little like a modern day version of Jane Austen’s Emma – she thinks she knows everything about love and dating, when really her experience is entirely theoretical and often far off base. She runs a program called the Find a Prince Program and she’s constantly getting herself and her friends into the most ridiculous situations in the process of finding them their Potential Princes.

9780732295172At the same time, she’s dealing with her dad, the NAD (New Age Dad) who’s in the midst of an existential crisis that began after Aurora’s mum left four years ago and her pesky next door neighbour Hayden Paris, who doesn’t believe that Cupid needs Aurora’s assistance. He’s also been witness to many of Aurora’s very embarrassing moments – which seem to happen every time she tries to keep a boy from kissing her (she’s saving her first kiss for her Potential Prince).

When her friend’s love lives don’t seem to be going to plan, Aurora is forced to take her program to the next level and signs up to be part of the school play, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Unfortunately she’s cast as Beatrice, opposite Hayden Paris’s Benedict – and they’re scripted to kiss! Aurora launches a full scale operation to save her first kiss, help her friends achieve their happily ever afters and protect the vulnerable NAD from the crazy interpretive dance teacher who’s seemingly stolen his heart.

I wanted to write a book that you could curl up with if you were having a bad day and then find yourself laughing on every page. I hope I’ve achieved that.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I grew up in Byron Bay, which I still consider to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. I went to a creative arts high school, which definitely helped inspire me with confidence in respects to expressing myself in a creative way. My
upbringing also influenced my writing in terms of some of the themes in ‘How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You’ – the NAD (New Age Dad) and the interpretive dance classes that Aurora is forced to participate in are very close to the alternative aspects that define the region. Nevertheless, I still love Byron and spent part of my time writing the sequel to How to
Keep a Boy from Kissing you (How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You) whilst on holiday at my family home up there. I now call Sydney home.

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

I thought ‘Pirate’ was a legitimate profession. I spent a lot of my time making pretend gold chests and coins out of paper. That along with the fact that I thought I’d grow up and have a vault of money to swim in like Scrooge McDuck from Duck Tales, makes me worry that I was a rather materialistic child!

My father tells me at age 11 I told him very matter of fact that I was going to be an author and write books from my house in Maui. I now write books, but the house in Maui is yet to materialise (I’ve given up on the vault of money!)

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

Aurora and her story ‘How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You’ will always hold a very special place in my heart. I wrote the book when I was 21, just because I wanted to tell a story. I hid the fact I wrote a book for a very long time, because most
people are very quick to tell you the miniscule odds of getting something published. However I always believed in the worth of the story and having the chance to share it with young girls (and the young at heart) has meant this time has been one of the happiest of my life. That said, I’ve immensely enjoyed the sequel and hope all my readers will too.

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

I write in my little studio, surrounded by posters of very romantic scenes (i.e. Tiffany ads and Pre-Raphaelite artwork) signs proclaiming ‘love’ and many candles. Very Aurora-esque room. However I also write after work in the office – I’m a firm believer that a writer can and should be able to work wherever. I’ve learnt to be able to focus even if there are conversations being shouted around me.

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

I pretty much read just about every YA novel out there when I was growing up, and writing within this genre I try to stay aware of what’s going on in the market. When I’m writing however I tend to read non fiction – things like specific
histories like Colour by Victoria Finlay or Beauty by Umberto Eco. I also read alot of poetry, because it tends to reflect upon the whole gamut of human emotion and triggers certain thought processes for a writer.

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

Anything by L.M Montgomery. Anne of Green Gables and her other novels were a huge part of my adolescence. I loved her characters fiercely and the summer of my fifteenth year was spent finding and reading every work she had ever
written. There is such a beauty to the worlds that she created. There are shades of Anne and Gilbert in Aurora and Hayden – Aurora’s fierce dislike of Hayden hints at how attracted she really is to him, as did Anne’s for Gilbert and both characters are huge romantics with big hearts.

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

Anne of Green Gables! She gets to marry the gorgeous Gilbert Blythe, so enough said. Plus, she has the most optimistic, lovely view on the world. Every stranger is a potential kindred spirit to her. I like that notion.

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

I adore going to the theatre. I would love to have the chance to write for theatre one day. There’s something magical about seeing the written words of a script brought to life so vividly and often so unexpectedly by the actors that is tremendously affecting. Johanna Murray Smith just blows me away as a playwright – I am both in awe and immensely envious of her ability to write such hilarious yet immensely emotional stories. Other hobbies include adding to my jewellery collection, planning hypothetical luxury holidays and a worrying addiction to Pinterest.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Food – dark chocolate strawberry Lindt – far too many pieces get consumed whilst I’m writing. Favourite drink? If I’m being saintly its fruit smoothies, if I’m being sinful its magaritas.

Who is your hero? Why?

There are too many to name. Anyone who takes a risk and puts themselves out there as creative professional, whether that’s as a writer, film maker, jewellery designer or musician.

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

The transition from traditional print form to e-books is what is really shaking things up for the industry, along with the availability of cheap books from overseas websites – the traditional local bookstore is finding it tough times to survive.

E books can be opportunities for readers to discover new authors because its less of a risk price wise to buy something new. If someone enjoys an authors work, they may then buy the entire backlist and become a new fan. That’s a boon for the author.

However I do believe that there will always be people who prefer the print form (I am one of them) and we just have to ensure that we support our booksellers by buying locally.

Follow Tara:

Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/findaprince

Buy the physical book here…

Player Profile: Felicity Young, author of Antidote to Murder

felicity-youngFelicity Young, author of Antidote to Murder

Tell us about your latest creation…

Antidote to Murder is book 2 of my Dody McCleland historical mystery series. The series is set in Edwardian London
and features Dody McCleland, Britain’s first female autopsy surgeon. In this book Dody is accused of conducting a criminal abortion, for which the penalty is death.

9780732293697Where are you from / where do you call home?

Not sure where I am from! Born in Germany, educated in the UK and lived all over the world! Home these days is Gidgegannup, WA.

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

All sorts of things! The arts (writing, the stage) was the biggest attraction, but I didn’t think I would be able to support myself that way and so chose the safer option of nursing – which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Arts came later, so I like to think I had the best of both worlds.

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

My present series – naturally! Seriously though, I love writing about the Edwardian period and hope my passion for it is reflected in the writing.

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

I write at a large cluttered desk in my bedroom. The desk faces a window that has a stunning view of our rural property. My little dog is usually sitting at my feet or, as he is now, snoring softly from my bed.

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

I guess you could call me an eclectic reader who leans towards crime. I’m currently reading Peter Robinson’s latest and before that it was Stephen Fry’s bios. I also enjoy contemporary literary but don’t read too many classics these days –
had enough of those at school and uni.

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

So many, where to start? The classic fairy tales, Beatrix Potter, Water Babies, C.S Lewis,Black Beauty, Hiedi, Anne of Green Gables etc progressing to the Willard price Adventure books, Alistair McClaine. Hammod Innes then Graham
Greene, Morris West etc when I became an angsty teenager.

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

Hmmm, that’s a hard one. The Scarlet Pimpernel perhaps? Risking my life for a worthy cause?

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

Look after the menagerie, the farm, my organic veg patch, breed rare catfish, play the piano and fight bushfires with our local volunteer bushfire brigade.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

That’s an easy one – Oysters, champagne, and chocolate. Also very partial to spicy (vegetarian) food.

Who is your hero? Why?

Any member of my immediate family is a hero to me. They are all individuals in their own right with admirable, unique,
characteristics that I try to learn from.

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

The tension between the traditional forms of publishing versus the new digital age. I hope the two forms can evolve in a way that is beneficial to both.

Follow Felicity:

Website URL: www.felicityyoung.com
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/felicity.young.10

Buy the physical book here…

Player Profile: Derek Pedley, author of Dead by Friday

dead-by-friday-coverDerek Pedley, author of Dead by Friday

Tell us about your latest creation…

Dead By Friday – how lust and greed led to murder in the suburbs – It’s the true story of two lovers who hire a hitman to kill their partners, but one of the lovers, Michelle Burgess, starts an affair with the hitman. It focuses on the 18-month period from when their affair began, through to the negotiation of two murder contracts outside a primary school, to the hitman eating one contract in a sandwich after it had been fulfilled. It also tells the story from the perspective of Michelle’s Burgess’s husband, Darren, the target of the second contract, who speaks publicly for the first time in this book.

I wanted to find out what made Michelle tick, so I commissioned respected forensic psychologist Dr Jack White to create a profile of Michelle Burgess and he delivers some genuine bombshells about her personality and her state of mind at the time of the murder.

The book is also intended to honour the memory of murder victim Carolyn Matthews, a wonderful woman whose life was overshadowed by the sordid and brutal plot that ended her life.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I’m from Manjimup, a delightful timber town in Western Australia’s lower south west. I live in Adelaide’s far northern suburbs – the spiritual home of the Snowtown serial killers. It’s the second stint I’ve had in Adelaide – I came here for the weird crime in 1995 and liked it so much  I came back again in 2003 and stayed.

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

I wanted to be an author from the age of 8. Somewhere along the way I decided this was beyond me. So I set my sights much, much lower and became a newspaper journalist instead.

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

Dead By Friday is easily my best work. It’s an extraordinary story that several people had previously tried to pin down without success. When I started researching it, I had interview knockbacks from virtually all the key characters. A lot of people were badly traumatised by this murder and, unsurprisngly, no one wanted to talk. It took five years of persistence, patience and negotiations to change their minds, but it was absolutely worth it.

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

A small study at home with an office desk, a laptop and a shelf crammed with true crime books. On the walls are a Ned Kelly Wanted poster, A framed newspaper article about Brenden Abbott and a poster with every single Simpsons character.

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

I read an unhealthy amount of true crime, but also love a good biography. I’ve rarely read fiction in recent years, but discovering GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books last year was an absolute revelation. I immersed myself in the amazing world of Westeros and now live in constant fear that the fat old guy will die before he finishes writing the series.

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

I was a voracious reader as a kid, but there was nothing I read that I would describe as “defining”. In 1991, when I was a young cadet journalist, I read David Simon’s Homicide – A Year on the Killing Streets. Nothing before or since has inspired me as much as that book – the characters, the painstaking detail, the humour, the dialogue, the structure and above all, the writing.

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

Stumped on this one. Hannibal Lecter? He did have such fantastic manners and tastes.

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

Spare time – what a fantastic concept! I I waste time playing Call of Duty and in fact had to institute a one-year ban on it to ensure I got Dead By Friday written. Also a passionate West Coast Eagles fan and fantasy footy nut.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

I love a good seafood platter with a Heineken on the side.

Who is your hero? Why?

David Simon. I admire his writing talent and his ability to tell sprawling stories with great pathos, using very real and very complex characters. Sadly, he’s not written many books, but has promised that he will one day “put down the crack pipe of TV” and go back to books.

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

Maintaining the quality of writing – and the trust of readers – amid the growing slushpile of eBooks.

Follow Derek:

Website URL: derekpedley.wordpress.com
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/deadbyfridaybook

Buy the physical book here…

Player Profile: Felicity Pulman, author of A Ring Through Time

Pulman_felicityFelicity Pulman, author of A Ring Through Time

Tell us about your latest creation…

A Ring Through Time is a ghostly romance set on Norfolk Island with a timeslip back to the brutal Second Penal Colony. Alice and Cormac are two star-crossed lovers whose ill-fated romance will haunt the future unless Allie can solve a family mystery and lay the ghosts of the past to rest.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born in Zimbabwe but have lived in Sydney for more than 40 years. Home is close to the beach and to the bush and I love them both.

a-ring-through-timeWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

I’ve written stories from the time I learned how to write – but never considered it a career option, it was just something I did – while dreaming about being a famous musician, or a brilliant surgeon – always something wonderful – until real life intruded! I was 40 by the time I started to take my writing seriously – a bit of a slow developer!

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

I always love what I’m writing about; it becomes my whole world. I always find it hard to let go at the end, and I have to wait to fall in love all over again with the new book and its characters. I give every book my absolute best shot – and I hope I’m getting better with practice!

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

I’ve colonised a spare bedroom for my study and its crammed with books (mostly for research purposes, my fiction lives elsewhere.)  I have two filing cabinets + cupboards and shelves jammed with old mss, photo albums (for research) papers, etc etc. I also have an altar decorated with semi-precious stones and objects that hold special significance for me. And a CD player. There’s a lovely view out of one window, but once I’m writing I might as well be living in a cupboard!

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

Because many of my books have a basis in history (medieval and Australian) I read historical fiction and non fiction. I’m also a crime addict and I love family sagas too. Standout Aus. authors for me include Helen Garner, Marcus Zusak’s Book Thief and Geraldine Brooks.

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

In my day there was little choice other than Enid Blyton.  I so loved The Magic Faraway Tree that I think I’m still writing versions of it!

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

Lisbeth Salander – I envy her strength, her courage, her freedom – but I might like to temper her prickles with the knowledge and caring of a Brother Cadfael.

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

I bush walk, body surf and snorkel at home and in exotic places like Indonesia, Fiji, Mozambique, Vanuatu and the Galapagos Islands. I’ve swum with manta rays, seals and penguins – it’s a magical world underwater.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Smoked salmon and avocado accompanied by a glass or two of chardonnay (not trendy I know, but I’m now old enough to please myself!)

Who is your hero? Why?

I admire people who perfect their craft and use it for the benefit of others as opposed to their own self-glorification – someone like Victor Chang, for example.

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

For authors (and probably publishers and booksellers too) I think the challenge will be to adapt to changing technology and new ways of telling stories. I hope the book per se will never die – but once people become used to reading and interacting with stories on line and using different aps, then it might well be said that ‘the author is dead’.

Follow Felicity:

Website URL: www.felicitypulman.com.au
Blog URL: www.felicitypulman.com.au/blog
Facebook Page URL: www.facebook.com/felicitypulman
Twitter URL: http://www.twitter.com/felicitypulman

Buy the physical book here…

Player Profile: Noel Mealey, author of The Icon Murders

noel-mealeyNoel Mealey, author of The Icon Murders

Tell us about your latest creation…

The Icon Murders is a crime thriller, a tale of murder and of why people commit murder, and of the people who occupy our world, but are invisible to us, the ordinaery law abiding citizens. The story is about Syd Fielding, now  very senior in the WA police, who is accused by his best friends of multiple and brutal murders. Syd is emotionally scarred, a romantic man and a loyal friend. He has a flawed religious philosophy and a conscience that is flexible enough to accommodate violence. As he struggles to control his own inner voices, Syd must defend himself, without mercy to those who have set him up. After all, when right and wrong, good and bad, co-exist in every person … who deserves to live and who to die? It is a story about political corruption and evil, and a love story with a different ending.

icon-murdersWhere are you from / where do you call home?

I live in an apartment in Brisbane, with my wife of 50 years. We travel a lot, and spend a lot of time in Phnom Penh, where we have a hotel in partnership with our daughter. The hotel is an endless  source of interesting characters.

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

I always wanted to write, but circumstances demanded that I should not dream but should have a career that might bring in some income. Looking back now, I realise that sometimes one should follow childhood dreams. Easy to say from a distance.

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

This is only my second book. I do believe that I have improved upon a very good debut novel. I have completed the third draft of my third book, and I am very excited about it. I have enjoyed immensely writing all  3 books, but this one is the tragicomedy that I always wanted to write

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

I am an orderly person in my usual life, however when I’m writing (which is almost always these days)  I become obsessive and my concentration is entirely upon my characters and my story, to the
point where I forget to pay the bills and to take care of my basic every day living. I start at 8 am every day and spend the first few hours dealing with stuff concerning the hotel and my superannuation, and then straight into the writing until 6pm with a short time off for lunch and maybe a long walk sometimes to clear the head. I love it.

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

I’ve read a lot of crime. Lee Child, Nelson de Mille and much history and many historical novels. Before and while I was writing The Icon Murders, I read Graham Greene, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Dostoevsky. I think this combination has had a positive influence upon my writing this novel. Right now I’m reading Christopher Hitchens (“Arguably”) and hope to be able to write with his light touch.

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

In Grade 7 we studied Macbeth, and I’ve had a great love of Shakespeare’s plays ever since then. To this day, I have books that I’ve kept over the years, by Ion Idriess, and Rolf Boldrewood. Wonderful adventure stories with Australian flavour, and A.W Horning  and Jacques Weygand. Tom Sawyer was another favourite and is still on my bookshelf.

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

Whenever I read “A Farewell to France” by Noel Barber, I envy the main character, the young Astill (cannot remember his first name) for his carefree youth in the champagne district of France, and for the elegant style of living he managed during the war years in Paris.

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

I have the hotel in Phnom Penh. My wife and I helped to get it started two years ago, and that has been an incredible learning curve for all of us. We both play bridge and love to travel. About every 12 weeks we go to Cambodia and we seem to manage to get to Paris every so often, where we have a friend who gives us his apartment at an economical rent. Love that city.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

I like white wine, but I suppose I have to say that a single malt scotch is hard to beat. I get no great fun from going to expensive ( pretentious ?) restaurants and when we eat out it is to a smaller Italian, or a good fish and chips place. I like Thai food and find it hard to go past pie and peas. Right now I’m doing the 2:5 diet which is so easy.

Who is your hero? Why?

It would be Winston Churchill, despite his terrible record in Ireland and India and his supposed dislike of Australians. I think anyone who could lead England out of the tragedy of the WWII, and who
foresaw many of the problems that would beset the remainder of the century, is worth a bit of hero-worshiping. Besides anything else, he was a great writer, with an incredible command of the language and an elegant style that holds my attention.

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

I believe that we will come to see electronic readers as being a positive influence. If, of course you are a bookshop owner, then that is a challenge to be overcome. Books have been written and read for centuries. Often for the enjoyment of the reader. I cannot see that this will ever change. TV has been absorbed; we are coming to grips with Kindle etc. I don’t see a problem except for the usual challenge that we must, as writers continue to challenge and entertain and/or educate our readers.

Follow Noel:

Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/NoelMealeyAuthor

Buy the physical book here…

Player Profile: Margareta Osborn, author of Hope’s Road

margareta-osbornMargareta Osborn, author of Hope’s Road

Tell us about your latest creation…

My latest book is called HOPE’S ROAD (Bantam, Random House). This novel is a  captivating rural romance set in the rugged, beautiful high country of East Gippsland.

Montmorency Downs has been in Tammy McCauley’s family for five generations. The land, and all it has to offer, flows through her veins, and she couldn’t imagine any other life. When her abusive husband walks out, he strikes where it hurts most, and Tammy is forced to do something she never imagined she could do.

Joe McCauley has long been estranged from his family. Sixty years ago he walked out on his parents and brother, and never looked back. He now lives alone on McCauleys Hill, widowed, with no friends or family to rely on. When he falls and breaks his hip, he is forced to rely on his neighbours and great-niece – who he has never spoken to – to avoid being placed in a home.

Travis Hunter is struggling to adapt to the role of single father. A dog trapper who hasn’t spoken to his brother in years, he is attempting to suppress growing feelings for Tammy and trying to be a father – but doesn’t know how to. Still heartbroken from his wife walking out on him, he finds it hard it hard to let anyone in, especially his ten year old son, Billy.

hopes-roadWhen a massive flood threatens their land and lives, they must come together under the most difficult of circumstances to save each other.

Hope’s Road brings these characters together in a tale of love, faith, heritage, and loss. When pitted against adversity – whether in the form of abusive, unfaithful husbands, absent mothers, deep feelings of betrayal and anger, lack of self belief, the perils of the land or the temperament of Mother Nature, Tammy, Joe and Travis will unite to show that no matter what life throws at you, there is always hope.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I’m a fifth-generation farmer who has lived and worked on the land all my life. Home is the beautiful Macalister Valley of East Gippsland where, with my husband and three children, I spend many hours in the mountains where my novels are set.

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

A farmer, a parks and wildlife ranger or a nurse with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. I’ve managed to achieve variances of the first two of the three. I also seemed to think back then I could write in my spare time. Why I thought there would be any of that, I have no idea!

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

My children. Because a) they are adorable (most of the time). I love and cherish every moment with them, and b) they are a blank canvas. It is up to us to guide and support their growth in life. It’s such a privilege (and challenge).

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

My office. It is chaotic. Farm bookwork rubs up against writing paraphernalia. Craft work and the linen press compete for attention. Sometimes I just give up, grab my laptop and head for the nearest hilltop. At least the view is good there and I’m not filled with guilt over what I SHOULD be doing.

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

I have an eclectic taste. I like to read good quality fiction. I love anything written by Geraldine Brooks, Caroline Overington and Diana Galbaldon. Other all time favourites are The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd), The Dovekeepers (Alice Hoffman), The Guersey Litereary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer & A Barrows). I also like to throw in the occasional Lee Child or Vince Flynn novel and even some of Robin Hobb’s fantasy tales.

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

Mary Grant Bruce’s Billabong Books. I adored them and whilst watering the farm trees in the drought of the early 80’s, I devoured the whole series. It took me the whole summer. When I found out Grant Bruce was born not 30 kilometres from where I lived, and the country she was writing about was ‘my’ country’, I was in heaven.

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

Elizabeth Bennet. Why: Mr Darcy (especially if he looks anything like Colin Firth in a wet shirt). Need I say more?

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

Fight bush fires. Hike around the mountains searching for brumbies. Arrange church flowers. Ride motorbikes, horses and waterski like a mad woman. Oh, and I bake cakes and make the odd quilt.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

A camp oven roast followed by apple pie and cream. Drink? Where do I start? Cowboy shots (see my book BELLA’S RUN :). Vodka and raspberry? I will have to say though, nothing goes past my late
mother’s cold tea punch recipe, especially on a boiling hot day.

Who is your hero? Why?

My husband. He embodies everything that is good in a man.

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

Accessibility to books for everyone. It’s all very well to have e-books being the way of the future. But here in the bush, we need to have good internet access to ensure we can join in this evolutionary
change. Here, where I live, I can barely download one book let alone a whole personal library.

Follow Margareta:

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Player Profile: Lisa Walker, author of Sex, Lies and Bonsai

lisa-walkerLisa Walker, author of Sex, Lies and Bonsai

Tell us about your latest creation…

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is the story of Edie, a shy, awkward redhead who has returned to her childhood home on the north coast of New South Wales after her ‘perfect’ boyfriend dumps her by text message. It’s been called ‘a quirky love story’, ‘a zany romance’ and ‘a bloody good laugh.’

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born in Holland, grew up in Fiji and spent my teenage years in Brisbane. I then worked all over Australia, from the Barrier Reef to the Snowy Mountains. I am now delighted to call the beautiful north coast of New South Wales home.

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

My first ambition was to become a dolphin trainer. After that I decided I wanted to become a park ranger and, eventually, I did! Really though, I have always wanted to write, it just took a while for that simmering desire to become a reality.

sex-liesWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

I only have two published novels at this stage, ‘Liar Bird’ and ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ and also a radio play ‘Baddest Backpackers.’ I love them all but ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is my favourite, because while it is a comedy I think it does capture the joy, pain and drama of falling in and out of love.

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

I work in a corner of my bedroom on a small desk which is usually overun with paper. The best part about it is that it has a view of the sea, although that can be quite distracting at times. I have a collection of objects on my desk that remind me of my stories. ‘Liar Bird’ is a ceramic tree frog, while ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is a small statue of Japanese lucky gods.

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

I am a very eclectic and whimsical reader. I love a good comedy, but also read a lot of literary fiction. Most recently, I have enjoyed ‘Nine Days’ by Toni Jordan, ‘Black Mountain’ by Venero Armanno and ‘Little Bee’ by Chris Cleave. My goal for 2013 is to read as much Australian fiction as possible.

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

‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ turned me into an obsessive cupboard dweller as a child. I was sure that one day I would get through the back wall to a snow-covered landscape with a lone lamp post, a faun carrying parcels and a bunch of talking animals. Actually, that feeling is still with me.

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

Lucy from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ because she gets to Narnia first!  Who wouldn’t want to be Queen Lucy the Valiant?

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

I surf at least a few times a week – every day if it’s good. On holidays, I am as active as possible and come back exhausted. I love disappearing into wild places with no internet or phone.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Mangoes and coffee! I’m pretty wholesome really.

Who is your hero? Why?

My heroes are too many to mention.  I admire people who are prepared to stand up for what is right – in particular, those who dedicate their lives to protecting our environment.

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

The use of computers in various ways impinges on leisure time that would previously have been used for reading. I am guilty of that myself. But it is clear to me that there are still large numbers of
passionate readers out there. The book is far from dead.

Follow Lisa:

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New Video: Boyd Anderson interview about AMBER ROAD – Random Book Talk

AMBER ROAD

With intrigue, romance and suspense to rival Gone With the Wind, AMBER ROAD tells an epic story of one woman’s indomitable spirit against the backdrop of World War Two.

As an empire is swept away, a young woman’s world is ripped apart…

It’s 1941 and seventeen-year-old Victoria Khoo lives in luxury in colonial Singapore. Her carefree days are spent fantasising about marrying Sebastian Boustead, scion of a great British merchant family, and becoming mistress of his imposing mansion on Amber Road.

Not even Sebastian’s arrival from London with his new fiancée, Elizabeth Nightingale, can dampen her dreams…

Then the war reaches Asia and ‘Fortress Singapore’ abruptly surrenders to the Japanese. As the inhabitants are deserted by Britain, Victoria is forced to protect both her family and her rival, Elizabeth, from the cruelty of the occupation.

Victoria’s old life has vanished in a heartbeat – but nothing will stand in the way of her destiny. Not the war. Not Elizabeth. And certainly not Joe Spencer, the charismatic Australian who both charms and infuriates her at every turn…

Available now.

Also available as an ebook.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM TRANSCRIPT:
Brett: You make no allusions about the parallels between AMBER ROAD and Gone with the Wind. In fact it kind of percolates right through the book. Interestingly Gone with the Wind brought to the screen in 1939, just as the Second World War was starting. How did that classic inspire you and the characters in AMBER ROAD?
Boyd: Well that’s actually where the whole thing started. I was riding my bike one day and I had just seen the Gone with the Wind film—which I have to say I think is better than the book—probably for the twentieth or thirtieth time and it was just, as you say, percolating around in my brain. That story about the end of the civilisation of the South because of the Civil War is really not a big story when you think about what happened as a result of the Second World War. That was the end of the British Empire. An entire empire finished. Not only did that empire finish over those five or six years, it finished on one day: the fall of Singapore was the end of the British Empire. You can date it to one day. That’s the store I wanted to write. Then I, as you say, percolated around for a bit and I’ve also found that I like the characters of Gone with the Wind: that strangely strong woman and the resourceful heroic man and how their relationship brings out what it does in the two of those people against the backdrop of a completely changing world is what excited me. So I sat down and started writing it and just couldn’t stop.
Brett: I can’t imagine how much effort goes into researching a book like AMBER ROAD. Where do you begin?
Boyd: You begin by loving research. If you don’t like research, if you don’t like delving into why things happen, you can’t do it. Fortunately, I love doing that, so it’s not a task, it’s a pleasurable pastime. The sources I had were impeccable because apart from all the sources that are available in Google, the libraries, archives and so on, I had sources in my own family. My wife is from that part of the world and she has relatives who lived through the time and I was able to interview them and get specific information and was directed into specific sources that were rather exclusive and certainly sources I hadn’t seen delved into in fiction before.
Brett: The detail of the history is remarkable and it feels, at times, personal. I believe that Ang Sana lodge, Sebastian… one of the main characters’ family home has a link with your own family, or inspired by a home in your own family?
Boyd: Part of my wife’s family actually lived in Amber Road right until the sixties but not in a house like that. A house like that comes from another branch of the family not in Singapore, but in Malaysia. They had houses of that type in other parts of the Malay Peninsula. So essentially putting all those things together. There were houses like that in AMBER ROAD—Amber Road is a real street by the way—and there were houses like that in those days, I mean they still exist. It’s a quite different road now; it used to be right on the waterfront, now it’s about a mile front the waterfront. There’s so much landfill in Singapore so it’s got a completely different feel to it.

Player Profile: Susanna Freymark, author of Losing February

susanna-freymarkSusanna Freymark, author of Losing February

Tell us about your latest creation…

Losing February – my first book. It is a story about love and loss and lots of bad sex.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I was born in Melbourne but grew up in the dusty steelworks town of Whyalla in South Australia. Even though I live in Sydney, I call Federal, in the Byron Bay hinterland, my home. I lived there for 10 years.

9781742612782When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

I wanted to be an air hostess (as they were called in those days), a wildlife conservationist (like in the film Born Free), a teacher (which I became) and a writer.

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

I couldn’t possibly answer that. And I don’t believe I have done anywhere near my best work yet. Can I get back to you in ten years time?

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

A study with lots of fun things on my desk like blue gorillas, a Dexter and Superman doll, a pig painted as a tiger by my daughter and lots and lots of books and inspirational pieces of poetry on the walls. It is eclectic but tidy. My mind is chaotic so I need a tidy desk. I look out of four big windows across the train line and trees.

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

I love to read. Helen Garner, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Raymond Carver – so, so many wonderful writers.

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

All the Famous Five and Secret Seven AND The Magic Faraway Tree ( I still fantasise about the pop biscuits and topsy-turvy land). Standouts include February Dragon by Colin Thiele, I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall, The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. I could go on. I lost myself in books.

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

One of the kids who ate those pop biscuits in Magic Faraway Tree? I think I’d like to Heidi. I read that book so many times and the goats, the mountains, the bed in the haystack, I sooo wanted to be Heidi- she was a little social activist too.

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

I gaze – I sit in the garden with the chooks and the dog and simply look at the sky. I love to be on, in or near the ocean. Eating out, walking, annoying friends and making up stories about strangers on the street.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Favourite food is pancakes – there isn’t anything that doesn’t go with a pancake. I am waiting for them to be the height of culinary fashion again. Whisky is a favourite, and real old-fashioned lemonade – but not together.

Who is your hero? Why?

Nelson Mandela- because of his resilience and his ability to forgive. Can I choose Winnie-the-Pooh and his friend Tigger. What characters – what a wonderful philosophy they have on life. They remind me not to take myself too seriously.

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

Reaching an audience- there is so much noise competing on the airwaves of life. the internet, television, YouTube. Everyone, it seems wants to be famous. We will have to be more discerning when we realise how much time we waste (even though it is fun) looking at funny dog and cat videos.

Follow Susanna:

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Player Profile: Caroline Overington, author of Sisters of Mercy

IMG_1744Caroline Overington, author of Sisters of Mercy

Tell us about your latest creation…

Sisters of Mercy – two sisters, born years apart, in two different countries; one is raised without the other, and they come together only for the reading of their father’s Will – after which, one of them mysteriously disappears.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I am a Melbourne girl, but Bondi is now home.

9781742750422When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

A journalist!

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

I am still learning – with every book, I learn a little more.

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

I have had an office for years and I have never, ever used it. I get too lonely. I like to write in the lounge room, with my laptop on my knee. Telling everyone to please shush.

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

Cormac McCarthy, The Australian Women’s Weekly (I’m the Associate Editor there!), The Australian newspaper, Mamamia.com.au. Twitter

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

The Secret Garden (and, much much later, Story of O.)

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

Bugs Bunny. I like his chutzpah.

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

I have twins, a husband, a dog, a lizard, family in Queensland and in Melbourne, plus a full-time job. So, you know – busy! But happy.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Gin and tonic – with mint (it’s a vegetable! or a herb, anyway.)

Who is your hero? Why?

My children. I know, ugh. But it’s true.

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

There will always be books. There will always be reading. I just wish I could write more of the first and do more of the second.

Follow Caroline:

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The Forgotten World of the Blue Mountains in the late 1800s

From the author of the acclaimed Grassdogs comes a breathtaking story set in the Blue Mountains during the late 1800s

forgotten-worldWhen I was a babe in rags my father had three wives …

Half-brothers Byron and Clancy Wilson are inseparable during their childhood. They run wild in the dark valleys of the Blue Mountains, run riot during their school years in Katoomba, and run afoul of the ogre of the town, Constable Barnaby Clout. But it is a love triangle between the brothers and emerald-eyed Violet Kefford, as well as a dramatic jewel heist, that ultimately tests their unconventional family.

The Forgotten World is a breathtaking story that lyrically charts the landscape and people of the Blue Mountains in the late 1800s, and sees real characters in Australian history, such as Sir Henry Parkes, artist Julian Ashton and Lord and Lady Carrington dancing through its pages. Poignant and unforgettable, it plumbs the depths of family loyalty and betrayal.

Buy the book here…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

mark-oflynnMark O’Flynn was born in Melbourne and now lives in the Blue Mountains. Mark studied at the Victorian College of the Arts, and in 2001 he was funded by the NSW Ministry for the Arts to write the play Eleanor & Eve, which premiered at Varuna in 2002, and was remounted at the Q Theatre in 2003. This play was the most successful production there for five years.

After his stint in the theatre, Mark turned to fiction and poetry. He has published four poetry collections and a novella, Captain Cook. Mark’s first full-length novel, Grassdogs, was published in 2006 after he participated in the HarperCollins Varuna Manuscript Development Program.

His short stories, articles, reviews, and poems have appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines both here and overseas, including Australian Book ReviewThe BulletinThe Good WeekendHeatWesterlyMeanjinSoutherly,IslandOverlandNew Australian Stories and Picador New Writing.

False Start, Mark’s comic memoir, was recently published by Finch Publishing.