CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Sandy Fussell

White Crane “…Why don’t you write proper books?” I’m often asked by friends.

I write on the frontier of Australian story telling. It’s a wild and woolly place. A little bit dangerous even. There are Dragonkeepers and Ranger’s Apprentices. A Book Thief and a Bugalugs Bum Thief. You can go Hunting Elephants or into the Teenage Underground. There’s even a Pencil of Doom and my own Samurai Kids.

I’m a children’s author.

We’re raising the imagination stakes, encouraging a love of reading and opening the door to critical thinking. We’re always entertaining, sometimes educating and often making our readers laugh.

Children and young adults are not easy to write for. They won’t tolerate a story that doesn’t immediately engage their attention nor will they read a tale with an overt lesson. Their own ideas rival the most fantastic of storylines. They have widely ranging reading abilities, life experiences and interests. The youngest of readers need to be handled with care and the older readers exposed to new thought. It’s an enormous challenge and a lot of fun.

When I write for children, I get to tell the stories I want to hear. Another children’s author once told me you write for the age you are inside. So I’m somewhere between ten and fourteen on any given day. I think that’s about right. I also enjoy being able to regularly interact with my readers in their classrooms, the library and the wider community. Children want to meet their authors and listen to their stories. There are no barriers or pretensions. I know from experience kids will ask almost anything!

Sometimes I get the big reward. “Your book was the first one I ever liked. I’m going to read another one.” The storytelling frontier is an exciting place where things are growing all the time. As a children’s author, I’m helping to grow enthusiastic readers and maybe writers as well. I love it!

Owl NinjaWant to win copies of the books in Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kid’s series? All you have to do is email me a review of the last children’s book you read. You could’ve read it last night, last year, or even back when you were a kid. The catch? Your review has to be 20 words or less. In your email’s subject, be sure to write: ‘FICTION NOVELS FOR AGES 10+’

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Jack Heath

I love the lack of pretentiousness in YA books. When you write for adults, no-one pays attention unless you’re addressing issues like sex, racism, mental illness, drug use and so on. When writing for teens, the only requirement is that you entertain, as much as humanly possible. This gives me the freedom to fill a book with explosions and car chases and gadgetry without worrying that it won’t be taken seriously. It won’t, and it’s not supposed to be – that’s very liberating.

Both as a kid and as an adult, I love the work of Catherine Jinks, Emily Rodda, and the incomparable duo of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, who give me the giggles in person and on the page. It’s not very grown-up of me to list my favourite short story as “Pinky Ponky the Donkey”, but I don’t much care what everyone else thinks counts as literature.

As a child I used to read a lot of novelisations – sometimes because Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me watch the screen versions until the Office of Film and Literature Classification said I could, but mostly just because the special effects were better in my head. I must have read every Doctor Who book, several Terminators and Red Dwarfs, and, of course, the Indiana Jones trilogy. I devoured Alien and all its sequels once a year for six years.

Third Transmission by Jack Heath

Six of Hearts is sealed inside a torpedo, blasting his way at 300 kilometres an hour towards a warship. His mission: to steal canisters containing a weaponised strain of the SARS virus. If he fails, ChaoSonic will use the virus to wipe out an uprising that is tearing the City apart.

And that is the least of Six’s problems. Vanish is still on the loose. So is Retuni Lerke. And a scientist has designed a new weapon – one more dangerous than anything Six has ever seen before. One that could destroy him, the Deck, and anyone else who dares to oppose ChaoSonic.

Six has to find the weapon and eliminate the threat it poses because ChaoSonic can’t always control their creations.

He is living proof of that.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Michael Gerard Bauer

It’s not so much writing for teenagers and young adults I enjoy, it’s more writing stories centring around them. The teenage years are such a fun and exciting time to write about. It’s a time full of discovery and possibility where feelings and emotions are often more intense and focused and friendships and relationships are at their strongest.

My favourite book as a child was Wind in the Willows. I read it many times and every time I lost myself in the world of the Riverbank with those wonderfully unique characters of Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger.

When I was a teenager myself I read lots of Agatha Christie murder mysteries and adventure books like King Solomon’s Mines and books by Alistair MacLean like Where Eagles Dare. Another big favourite was Lord of the Rings. One holidays I read War and Peace but just because I wanted to be able to say I’d read what I thought was the longest book in the world. I even ended up liking it.

There are so many Children’s and Young Adult books by fantastic Australian authors that I love – far too many to mention them all. But I will make mention of books by Scot Gardner, Barry Jonsberg and Steven Herrick because if I don’t they’ll beat me up!

My favourite YA book is probably The Messenger by Markus Zusak. That book inspired me to have a go at writing.

CBCA Book Week Fact

Did you know that Michael Gerard Bauer’s first novel, The Running Man, won the 2005 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers?

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Melina Marchetta

In what will no doubt set a dangerous precedent for the years to come, this week, to celebrate the CBCA’s Book Week, we’re doing something very special here at the Boomerang Blog. We’ve invited a selection of Australian children’s author to drop by and guest blog for us – one for every day of the week.

We’re kicking off with Melina Marchetta, whose books include the quintessential Australian young adult book, Looking For Alibrandi, which became a successful film, and On The Jelicoe Road, recent winner of the prestigious 2009 US Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.

Enjoy.

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When I was in Year Six, my best friend and I were in charge of discarding the garbage in the school incinerator. As much as I’m thankful for recycling bins and child protection these days, it was there that our imaginations went haywire and we managed to bludge whole afternoons. Except for the term when my teacher read the class Ivan Southall’s Hills End. Setting our hair alight no longer interested me because I was desperate to return to class and listen to a story about a group of country Australian kids and their teacher separated from the rest of their town because of a storm and a lie. I savoured the love triangle between Paul, Frances and Adrian, I loved the moral dilemma faced by Adrian, long demoralised by his father, and I was introduced to the importance of the secondary characters. When Ivan Southall died last year I felt a sadness that we never got to meet. I would love to have told how important his work was to me.

By high school, I enjoyed any story written about teenagers. Most were from the US, like Paul Zindel’s My Darling My Hamburger. I remember in Year Eight, Judy Blume’s Forever being passed around the room with the important sex references dog eared for quick consumption. It wasn’t until I studied at university that I was truly introduced to Australian YA and I fell in love with the genre because of novels like John Marsden’s So Much To Tell You, Simon French’s All We Know and Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn.

Although my own novels aren’t specifically written for a particular audience, I’m forever grateful that they’ve found a home in the hands of teenagers who don’t go around questioning where the adults are in a story about boarding school territory wars. Teenagers don’t care much about audience or themes or finding out why a story works the way it does. But they do love language and they’ll go around quoting their favourite lines. When you ask them why it’s their favourite, their response isn’t about the use of assonance and alliteration and juxtaposition. Instead they say, “I just like the sound of it. It makes me feel something.”

Books for Dad

Having trouble finding that perfect read for Dad for this Father’s Day? Well, we’ve just rounded up a diverse list of captivating reads that will no doubt capture his interest.

The Real Man’s Tool Box by Tammy Farrell
Most men look after their cars. They look after their trucks. They make sure their fishing rods are maintained and look after their golf clubs. BUT too many men don’t look after themselves. It’s not hard. Simple changes can literally mean the difference between life and death. Tammy Farrell is a registered nurse who has often been called on by her two brothers and their mates to demystify the medical world. Taking this role a step further she saw a need to talk to men about their health and started giving Tool Box Talks to miners in the Hunter Valley. Tammy knows what men need to hear and want to know and she has created the manual EVERY man needs to live a healthier life.

Crossing the Ditch by James Castrission
With more than 2,000 km of treacherous seas and dangerously unpredictable weather and currents, not to mention the ever-present threat of sharks, it was little wonder no one had ever successfully crossed the Tasman by kayak. Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley had come close just months earlier – though, tragically, not near enough to save his life. But two young Sydneysiders, James Castrission and Justin Jones, reached the sand at New Plymouth – and a place in history – on 13 January, 2008, 62 days after they’d set off from Forster on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. In the process, they overcame a litany of difficulties, including dwindling food supplies, a string of technical problems and two close encounters with sharks, as well as one demoralising 14-day period in which – caught in a whirlpool – they found themselves being dragged back to Australia. When they arrived in New Zealand, they were sunburnt, bearded, underweight, physically and mentally wasted – and, most of all, happy to be alive.

The Danihers by Terry Daniher
A revealing account of how four unassuming blokes from the bush endeared themselves to Australian Rules fans and became part of football folklore.

 

For our full Father’s Day catalogue, click here.

Guest Blog: KATHERINE HOWELL

I used to be a paramedic and now write crime thrillers about people in that job. In my first novel, Frantic, so much trouble begins for paramedic Sophie Phillips when she’s called to a woman in labour. With the birth of her own baby and all its tears and joy still fresh in her mind, she’s pleased to be going to the case, in contrast with her colleague Mick, who like most paramedics, dreads birth calls because so much can go wrong. Soon they’re struggling with the situation when the baby is born unconscious and not breathing, then they can’t stop the mother’s haemorrhage. Later at the hospital Sophie thinks “this job, sometimes … you felt capable of the work, powerful even in your capacity to save lives, and then the universe showed you exactly who was boss”.

While I never went to a case like that, thank goodness – all the births I attended resulted in healthy babies – I was able to use the anxieties I felt and the outcomes I worried about to throw challenges at my characters. And because when writing crime novels, a good rule of thumb is to decide the worst possible moment to make things worse for the characters then try to make them even worse again, it’s not long before I have Sophie’s own life turn into a disaster when her husband is shot and their baby kidnapped.

In my second book, The Darkest Hour, it’s another paramedic, Lauren Yates, whose life is thrown into turmoil when she finds a murdered man and his killer in an inner-city alley. This never happened to me either – again, thank goodness – but I’ve spent my share of time out and about late at night, in dark alleys, and around dead bodies.

In my next novel, Cold Justice, out next February, the past haunts the present when Detective Ella Marconi is assigned a twenty-year-old cold case and gets an anonymous letter telling her to talk to the girl who found the body. That girl is now paramedic Georgie Riley and she swears she knows nothing more about the case than she said at the time. She has more pressing concerns anyway, such as being stalked by a mysterious man, but as Ella digs deeper into the case it seems the killer is increasingly desperate to tie up loose ends and that they might both be targets. I didn’t find a body as a schoolgirl, nor have I been stalked, but when I drive through the areas where I worked, I see the past all around me: the sites of the accidents I went to, the crosses on the roadsides, the houses where we saved somebody’s life and those where we couldn’t.

This is the great thing about using real life experiences in fiction. Writing about roaring down city streets in an ambulance with lights and siren going when you’ve actually been there, and you know what that siren sounds like inside the cabin, you know what the paramedics talk about on the way to a case, both shows readers an unknown world in close-up and gives the work that unmistakable ring of truth.

About Katherine Howell
Katherine Howell’s novels have been published in Australia, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. Frantic won the 2008 Davitt Award for crime fiction. Recent UK reviews describe her work as ‘finely paced and engrossing’, and say that ‘[this] former Sydney paramedic is set to do for that profession what US author Patricia Cornwell did for forensic pathologists’.

EXCLUSIVE: Richard Harland and WORLDSHAKER

Richard Harland talks about his latest release, the mesmerising Worldshaker…

I loved writing Worldshaker—I think steampunk/Victoriana is the kind of fiction I was born to create! I suppose I’ve been heading towards this all through my previous fourteen books, and it’s certainly turning out my most successful book yet. It’s just added a UK contract with Templar to a US contract with Simon & Schuster—and the advance of the American contract alone is bigger than all advances on my previous novels added together.

Worldshaker is set in an alternative history, which has followed a different path ever since Napoleon dug his tunnel under the English Channel and invaded England. (In real history, there was a plan, but the tunnel was never dug.) Now mechanical iron juggernauts, as big as mountains, moving on rollers, gouge their way over the face of the earth – a hyper-development of steam-age technology.

The way of life on board the juggernauts is also a hyper-development, of Victorian society. What’s always fascinated me is the terribly respectable façade of 19th century society masking some very ugly realities beneath. On the juggernaut Worldshaker, Col Porpentine believes in Queen Victoria, duty, trade and the absolute rightness of the world he lives in. Even the unspeakable—unthinkable—Filthies who labour among the boilers and turbines Below—well, they’re no better than animals, and it’s only natural that the civilised inhabitants of the Upper Decks should treat them as such.

However, Col has to start thinking about Filthies when a girl Filthy, Riff, escapes from Below and tries to take refuge in his cabin. Of course he should turn her over to the authorities, of course he should avoid contamination, of course he should never ever listen to what she says—and yet, irrationally, he does.

Now he has a problem. Because, as the grandson of Sir Mormus Porpentine, he’s been nominated as successor to the position of Supreme Commander. If his guilty secret leaks out, he’ll not only lose his prospects, he’ll be shunned by his society forever. Unfortunately for him, Riff just won’t stay out of his life …

I knew this was going to be a special novel from the time I formed the first ideas, fifteen years ago. That’s why it took so long to plan and write—I had to get everything right. The world was only the start of it; I mulled over the characters for ages too, not to mention their names (Ebnolia Porpentine, Sir Wisley Squellingham, Mr Bartrim Gibber, Sephaltina Turbot …) Even when I began writing, I kept going back over my drafts, improving, tightening, intensifying. Three total re-writes over six years—I could never have done it if I didn’t have faith in the final result.

I’m sure it’s my best ever novel, and it also ties in with a growing steampunk trend that’s already a way of life in the US and just starting to take off in Australia. Good karma came into it too—because I took 4 months off from my own writing to produce a guide to writing fantasy and genre fiction, all 145 pages entirely free at www.writingtips.com.au. I’d just finished putting it up on the web when the US contract came along!

SONYA HARTNETT Interview

Pamela Wilson has an interview with Sonya Hartnett up on her blog that really makes for great reading. See below the excerpt for the link.

“My loyalty is to the book. Not to the reader, not to the librarian, not to the teacher, not even to me,” she says unapologetically. “If the story wants a theme or a word, or a sentence or an act, then the book will get it. I have no concern, whatsoever, as to how it might affect the reader.”

To read more, visit WriteSmart.

The Teen Reviewer

Steph Bowe, blogger extraordinaire returns to give her teenage perspective on two of the hottest new releases for kids. For more of her musings, click here.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Nina has been fifteen since 1973, when she was infected by a rogue vampire, but instead of the glamorous, superhuman life that television and Nina’s novels suggest, her life as a vampire has been boring and sickly so far.

Then Casimir, the vampire responsible for infecting half of the reformed vampire support group he’s a member of, is found dead in his coffin – staked and reduced to dust – and the boring life Nina loathes is suddenly threatened. With a vampire-slayer at large, the support group holes up at Nina’s house, in spite of her ageing mother’s protests, and the resulting quest to find and stop the killer (or at least convince him that they aren’t a menace to society), reveals the courage behind their reluctant, pallid exteriors.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group puts an original spin on a familiar concept. I deeply enjoyed this novel; the fact that it’s set in Sydney and distinctly Australian was refreshing, and the quirky humour and dry wit sprinkled throughout the novel sparkled. Nina, Dave and the rest of the support group, as well as the villains, were characters with personality and quirks, each with their own motivations.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group was deeply involving, and impossible to put down. The plot was extraordinary, but deftly handled by the author. It was simplistically but beautifully written. Next to other recent vampire novels I’ve read, The Reformed Vampire Support Group stands out for its originality. A novel well worth reading, and reading again – my new favourite.

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

Col lives on the Upper Decks of the juggernaut Worldshaker, a mobile city as big as a mountain. He has been chosen as next Supreme Commander – but then a girl Filthy escaped from Below appears in his cabin. ‘Don’t let ’em take me!’ she begs. Will he hand her over, or will he break all the rules? Col’s safe, elite world is about to fall apart.

Though I don’t usually read fantasy (I think Worldshaker classifies as ‘steampunk’, which is an incredibly irrelevant genre name that imparts absolutely no information about the novel, but sounds really awesome), I really enjoyed Worldshaker. I was slightly frustrated by Col’s naivety, but he was a character who was easy to empathise with the deeper I got into the novel. I found the plot believable, and the ending satisfying and conclusive.

The world within which Col lived on the juggernaut, separated into the Upper Decks and the Filthies Below, made for a fantastic setting – dark and a little bit sinister, and very alternative to our own world but at the same time with many similarities. The characters within Worldshaker fit very much with their surroundings, and there were many weird and wonderful personalities who you were never quite sure were on Col’s side or not.

Richard Harland spoke on the fantasy panel at the NSW Writer’s Centre Kids & YA Festival about the history in Worldshaker. It’s explained in the novel how it came about that everyone is living on juggernauts, and the Filthies are living below, and the world in Worldshaker’s history is very much the same as ours, until Napoleon made a different decision, and juggernauts slowly became possible in their world. I liked the thought of it being entirely possible that maybe we could be living on these ridiculously large earth-ship things, and I thought of it again when I read James Roy’s Sliding Doors post on my blog, and how different things would be if people in power had have made different decisions however many years ago (though it is very, very improbable, it’s an interesting thing to think about).

I also have to mention, I absolutely love the cover of Worldshaker. It has got to be one of my favourite book covers of all time.

TRISTAN BANCKS – Behind the scenes of the new NIT BOY trailer

As an author, I’m extremely interested in seeing how publishers use the Internet to promote books for children (and obviously, I’m making notes on what works and what doesn’t). Lots of publishers have tried to tackle Youtube trailers, and honestly, a lot of them involve a swirling book cover and a really horrible voiceover. After watching them, I feel less inclined to hunt down the book. That said, someone recently pointed me in the direction of the new Nit Boy trailer, and it is, hands down, the best original trailer for a book I’ve ever seen. It’s fun, it’s 3D. So, I tapped Tristan Bancks on the shoulder and invited him around to talk about how the trailer was put together.

TRISTAN BANCKS
Click here to visit his official site

I write quite visually. I see a movie unravelling in my head as I type, so I think book trailers are an amazing way to bring that motion picture alive for the audience.

The two books in the series, Lift Off and Bug Out tell the story of blood brothers – Lewis, a kid with the worst case of nits in world history, and Ned, a nit that lives on Lewis’s head. They’re a great way to have a laugh about our favourite blood-sucking mini-beasts. And there’s a nit quiz in the back of each book.

With the trailer I wanted to build on the work I’d done creating trailers for my Mac Slater, Coolhunter series.

I showed the animator, Peter Leary, the books’ amazing illustrations by Heath McKenzie.

I then wrote a script. The animator cut the script down, did a rough animatic (still pictures with a voiceover) and he began building the 3D characters (‘wire’ frames in a computer).

I gave Peter feedback on the characters and he created a rough version of the trailer and then a final. I was amazed by how much of the animation comes together in the final render. And, when it was done, it was even better than what I’d seen in my mind’s eye as I wrote the books.

A producer has now optioned the Nit Boy books for television and my next visual-literary adventure will be a live-action trailer for the US release of the first Mac Slater book in April next year. Wish me luck!

Exclusive: KATE FORSYTH reviews THE PRIESTESS AND THE SLAVE

The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford is a small yet intense glimpse of what life must have been like 7,000 years ago in Ancient Greece. It tells the story of two women – the priestess and slave of the title – who never meet each other, yet whose tales reflect and enrich each other.

Thrasulla is a Pythia, one of three priestesses presiding over the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. She is a witness to the bribery of one of the other priestesses by the mad king of Sparta, Kleomenes, and its terrible aftermath. As a Pythia, Thrasulla is one of the few women to hold any power or prestige in a male-dominated world.

Her story is contrasted with that of Harmonia, a slave, who must nurse the members of the family who own her through the dreadful plague of Athens, despite her own fears for herself and her twin sister.

Replete with evocative details of food and clothing and manners and morals, The Priestess and the Slave is simply and elegantly told, with the clear ring of truth that comes from absolute control over one’s material. Jenny Blackford won a First Class Honours degree in Classics, so she really knows this world well and, with this novel, reveals it to us.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of numerous books for children and adults. Her latest release is The Puzzle Ring. In it, thirteen-year-old Hannah discovers her family was cursed long ago. The only way to break the curse is to find the four lost quarters of the mysterious puzzle ring… To do this, Hannah must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still stalked the land… Check out our interview with Kate here.

Win a copy of JASPER JONES!

To celebrate the release of Jasper Jones, Boomerang Books is teaming up with Allen and Unwin to give three lucky blog readers the chance to win a copy of the novel. Now, the characters of Jasper Jones pose each other ‘would you rather this or that’ hypothetical situations (one of the reader favourites is “which could you rather live your life with, penises for fingers or a hat on your head made of poisonous spiders?”). To enter this Boomerang Books Blog-exclusive competition, all you have to do is email me your very own hypothetical – it’s that simple. My favourite three before next e-newsletter will win a copy of Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones.

Interview with GREIG BECK

Beneath the Dark Ice – pitch it in one sentence.

Taught adventure thriller with scares a plenty!

The best action/thrillers are those with more than just explosions, those that have depth, an engagement with mythology. In Beneath the Dark Ice, you play with legends like the Kraken and Atlantis, and draw on elements of Mayan and Olmec archaeology. Were these things you were interested in prior to writing the novel, or did you simply discover them during the writing process?

That’s easy – both! I was brought up on a diet of horror-thrillers and science fiction and was happiest reading or watching shows about (all cultures’) myths and legends. Even today small facts that add colour to our history jump out at me. Did you know they recently found evidence of a 16th century vampire in Venice? Buried with a paving stone jammed in her jaws to stop her coming back from the grave? Or in New Mexico, there is evidence that dinosaurs survived for nearly a million years after they became extinct everywhere else – our real Lost Valley. These little things are still ‘wow’ moments for me and add to a collection of myths and mysteries I keep with me in an ideas book.

But discovery is important as well. The (novel) writing process directs you to creating or obtaining believable details. Your readers wouldn’t let you get away with being lazy in the descriptive or exposition process… and you don’t need to be.  Research has been made easier for today’s author via the internet. It brings so much detail to you from enthusiasts, experts, and other authors, keeping your mind working the possibilities and expanding on your own knowledge.

Bottom line is, I started with a basic knowledge skeleton and once I started digging, I kept uncovering more and more flesh for the bones.

I read somewhere that your writing impulse developed out of your habit of storytelling to your son, Alex – would you say your book’s target audience is restricted to young males?

You could say the creative process started with storytelling to Alex. I’d either make up a story or read him a book, and then halfway through I’d stop and say, “What do you think happens then?” We’d have fun describing all sorts of different endings. Even though Alex is now 11, I wouldn’t let him read Beneath the Dark Ice – way too many scary scenes. I wrote the book for an audience of people who enjoyed adventure thrillers, but also like some terror included. There was no real target demographic in mind.

Who would you say were your biggest influences?

Without doubt Graham Masterton, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. And the classic sci-fi writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne and Pierre Boulle.

What can you tell us about your next release, Return of the Prophet?

You actually caught me in the middle of its final editing. The 2nd book also contains Captain Alex Hunter, and this time he is sent on a mission to the Middle East. A significant radiation spike leads the US government to believe the Iranians are performing subsurface nuclear test detonations. What they find is that they have inadvertently created a miniature black hole. While they try and perfect the technology to continue to create these Dark Events they accidently open a doorway – a portal through which ‘something’ slips through. Alex has to stop the creation of the black holes before they devour the Earth and also confront the thing out in the desert. Just as much fun as the first book, and just as thrilling and frightening!

There have been comparisons made between you and other Pan Macmillan blockbuster action authors, most notably, Matthew Reilly. How do you feel you differentiate yourself from what Matthew, and others, offer in the genre?

I like to think my books are more than just thrillers. Like the other thriller writers, my books are well researched with a high degree of technological realism, but there is also a terror element that I believe gives my readers some good heart stopping scares. The best description I have heard of my style was, Matthew Reilly, with teeth!

If you could rid the world of ONE book, which would it be?

Just one?! It’s a tough question because every book has merit – even if it’s only to serve as an example of how not to do some particular thing. But… if you asked me what book made my brain hurt, well, that would be during my study days. Try reading Valuing the Firm and Strategic Acquisitions without suffering a migraine and wishing for an immediate induced coma!

Last Australian book you read?

Hey, this is no kiss-up, but it was Loathing Lola. It was a lot of fun and I’ve managed to pinch heaps of ideas. Thanks William!

If you could claim any other authors work as your own, whose would it be?

Early Stephen King. What a spread of great ideas that guy had. Whatever he was drinking at the time, i wish i could buy some.

The token filler question: What is the most valuable piece of advice you were never told?

As a writer it would be to read across genres. Though, they tell you to write what you like to read, you should also read beyond just what you’re comfortable reading. You need to experience many different forms of style and type. Some guys just do humour, pathos, fear, anger and rage, etc much better than others.

Last thing – keep a look out for lucky breaks – they do happen!

CAMERON RAYNES Guest Blog

Cameron Raynes’ The Last Protector is part of our Bumper June Book Giveaway, so, this week, instead of an interview, I decided to invite Cameron around to post a guest blog entry. Interviews are great, don’t get me wrong, but when I was on the publicity trail for my own book, I realised that with interviews, you can only really talk about what the interviewers want you to talk about. It was at the end of my publicity duties, about the time that I’d really gotten sick of people asking me about my age and why I’d chosen to write from a girl’s perspective, that I discovered guest blog entries. Guest blogging allowed me to talk about what I actually wanted to talk about, it was something I wasn’t all that used to, and something I really enjoyed.

So, here’s Cameron talking about whatever it is that he actually wants to talk about… 🙂

The story of the last Chief Protector of Aborigines has been with me, day and night, for the past eight years. Some parts of the journey were intense. In 2004, I was effectively banned by the South Australian Government from doing historical research, and this ban still stands today.

Constrained by the government’s use of legal professional privilege, I’m still not allowed to speak of some of the things I discovered in their archives. Parts of The Last Protector had to be written with this in mind and, in two or three passages, I had to write obliquely of what I knew. But my message will be clear enough. It’s this: in South Australia, at least until 1953, the government colluded with missions to remove or withhold Aboriginal children from their parents and, in doing so, acted illegally. The Last Protector is the first book in Australia to make and sustain such a claim.

The heroes in this book are the Aboriginal parents—the mothers and fathers—who wrote to the chief protector, time after time, calling for the return of their children. Some of those children were kept from their parents for years. Some of them never made it back.

Koonibba Mission, on the far west coast of South Australia, was particularly aggressive in its illegal withholding of Aboriginal children. One woman, Mrs King, wrote many letters to Penhall complaining about how the mission had separated her from her daughters. The letters are long, detailed and persuasive. She wrote:

All these years I live here, there is no Christian Love shown amongst the White people here. There is enough proof will be published one of these days, & I hope my words will come true.

Mrs King’s words did come true. Her words were published. Read them in The Last Protector.

_________________________________________

The Last Protector by Cameron Raynes
The last protector presents a compelling argument that the South Australian government illegally took Aboriginal children from their parents during the years between 1939 and 1954. Adelaide historian Cameron Raynes draws on extensive archival records, the contents of which have never been available to the public before.

Sneak peak inside JASPER JONES

Last week, I interviewed Craig Silvey, and this week, I thought, to keep the momentum going, I’d treat you all to an excerpt from Craig’s latest, Jasper Jones. To me, books (and films and TV programmes) fall into two distinct categories. Some, I merely consume. In other words: they’re not all that amazing. But others… when I put them down, I’m inspired. It’s like they’ve lit a spark in me and I’m compelled to write something fantastic. Their brilliance is almost contagious. I mean, sure, I’m a creative type, and someone may be affected by the same book in a different way, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are affecting.

Jasper Jones is one of those books. Powerful, well-written, engrossing. Here’s a sample taken from the book’s opening:

Jasper Jones has come to my window.
I don’t know why, but he has. Maybe he’s in trouble. Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
Either way, he’s just frightened the living shit out of me.
This is the hottest summer I can remember, and the thick heat seems to seep in and keep in my sleepout. It’s like the earth’s core in here. The only relief comes from the cooler air that creeps in between the slim slats of my single window. It’s near impossible to sleep, so I’ve spent most of my nights reading by the light of my kerosene lamp.
Tonight was no different. And when Jasper Jones rapped my louvres abruptly with his knuckle and hissed my name, I leapt from my bed, spilling my copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson.
‘Charlie! Charlie!’
I knelt like a sprinter, alert and fearful.
‘Who is it?’
‘Charlie! Come out here!’
‘Who is it?’
‘It’s Jasper!’
‘What? Who?’
‘Jasper. Jasper!’ and he pressed his face right up into the light.
His eyes green and wild. I squinted.
‘What? Really? What is it?’
‘I need your help. Just come out here and I’ll explain,’ he whispered.
‘What? Why?’
‘Jesus Christ, Charlie! Just hurry up! Get out here.’
And so, he’s here.
Jasper Jones is at my window.
Shaken, I clamber onto the bed and remove the dusty slats of glass, piling them on my pillow. I quickly kick into a pair of jeans and blow out my lamp. As I squeeze headfirst out of the sleepout, something invisible tugs at my legs. This is the first time I’ve ever dared to sneak away from home. The thrill of this, coupled with the fact that Jasper Jones needs my help, already fills the moment with something portentous.
My exit from the window is a little like a foal being born. It’s a graceless and gangly drop, directly onto my mother’s gerbera bed. I emerge quickly and pretend it didn’t hurt.
It’s a full moon tonight, and very quiet. Neighbourhood dogs are probably too hot to bark their alarm. Jasper Jones is standing in the middle of our backyard. He shifts his feet from right to left as though the ground were smouldering.
Jasper is tall. He’s only a year older than me, but looks a lot more. He has a wiry body, but it’s defined. His shape and his muscles have already sorted themselves out. His hair is a scruff of rough tufts. It’s pretty clear he hacks at it himself.
Jasper Jones has outgrown his clothes. His button-up shirt is dirty and fit to burst, and his short pants are cut just past the knee. He wears no shoes. He looks like an island castaway.
He takes a step towards me. I take one back.
‘Okay. Are you ready?’
‘What? Ready for what?’
‘I tole you. I need your help, Charlie. Come on.’ His eyes are darting, his weight presses back.
I’m excited but afraid. I long to turn and wedge myself through the horse’s arse from which I’ve just fallen, to sit safe in the hot womb of my room. But this is Jasper Jones, and he has come to me.

Interview with CRAIG SILVEY

Those who were reading the blog’s coverage of the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival know that I went to see Craig Silvey not once, but twice. The first time, I went at the request of e-newsletter subscriber, Jessica, who couldn’t make it to the Coming of Age session herself (click HERE for my thoughts on it). The second time I went to see Craig, however, I went as a fan. A fan of him, not of his work, I hadn’t gotten around to reading Jasper Jones in the twenty-four hours since I’d seen him last. He was one of those authors that seemed quietly confident on stage, who don’t resort to shamelessly plugging themselves by beginning each sentence with, “Well, I’m a successful author” (yes, I’ve heard authors say it), and he was great to watch.

Well, now having read Jasper Jones, I can say I’m a fan of both Craig the person, and Craig the author. That quiet, subtle vibrancy of his personality translates onto the page. It’s definitely worth a read, if just to see what all the fuss is about. Haven’t heard the fuss? Well, in 2005, Craig was named as one of The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Best Young Novelists. His debut, Rhubarb, was selected as the inaugural book for the ‘One Book’ series of events at the 2005 Perth International Arts Festival. He is, in short, a big deal.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to sit down with Craig earlier in the week for an interview. Okay, that’s a lie. Well, technically it’s true… we sat down, just not anywhere near each other (thanks to the joys of email). So, to continue the streak of exclusive author interviews here on the Boomerang Blog, I give you Craig Silvey…

Rhubarb was both a critical and commercial success – as you worked on it, did you ever anticipate that it would be received like it was?

Rhubarb exceeded my expectations by getting published in the first place. I was always aware of how difficult it is to get published, particularly without solicitation, so i felt very very grateful to have been given that opportunity. Everything that happened beyond that has been a real blessing. I’ve been very fortunate to have a wealth of support from a community of readers and industry peers, who have helped give Rhubarb such an amazing shelf life, which has meant, more than anything, I’ve been able to keep writing.

You mentioned at the Sydney Writers’ Festival that you were making notes on Rhubarb back when you were 16 – how long did it take you to write the first draft, and were there any significant changes that you made in the editing process?

When I started Rhubarb, I was so naive about the process that I thought I’d have it finished in a few months. I didnt write the last sentence for another three years – and I still have no idea what im doing. Rhubarb is actually a longer book for having been edited. There were a number of threads that needed more engagement and clarification, so it was more a process of fleshing out, rather than trimming the fat, which was my experience with Jasper Jones.

Speaking of Jasper Jones, how would you pitch it in one sentence?

A regional Southern Gothic Coming-Of-Age story about two boys with a secret, searching for the truth in a town that trades on myth.

What drew you to writing a “Southern Gothic”-style book set in Australia?

Initially it was no more than the fact that I wanted to have a go. I’ve always adored Southern Gothic fiction. There’s something very warm and generous about those regional American writers like Twain and Lee and O’Connor, and it seemed to be a literary ilk that would lend itself well to the Australian condition. It was only after the themes announced themselves, and I realised where the book was headed that it seemed so apt and important to have these literary elements.

Out of Jasper, Charlie and Jeffrey – which one is most like Craig Silvey? Is there anything autobiographical about any of them, or any of your other characters for that matter?

I like to think I’m fairly evenly distributed through the three boys, though Charlie probably bears the larger share of my character, simply because we come to know him so well. Like Charlie, I was a bookish kid who was terrified of girls and insects but like Jeffrey Lu, I was also a cheeky, unflappable little antagoniser. I think, though, as I grow older, I’m evolving more and more into Jasper Jones: a little quieter, a little stronger, and a little more solitary.

So many hypotheticals spring up over the course of Jasper Jones, so, I pose to you one of my favourites: which could you rather live your life with, penises for fingers or a hat on your head made of poisonous spiders?

Spider hat. Hands down.

If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?

Twain or Vonnegut.

Most annoying thing about being an author?

It’s far less annoying for me than it is for those closest to me. It’s hard being an author, but it’s harder knowing and loving an author. George Orwell said: Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

And it’s unfortunately true. It’s something you’re beset by, it’s like some kind of seductive parasite that takes you over and wont leave you be. It’s not like other jobs where you can leave your woes at the office. It’s a very private battle. A very mild, genial form of schizophrenia. These characters and their story sort of take you over, and you delve further and further into their lives. And soon they’re taking more of your time and your nutrients, and you’re inhabiting this fictional world with a closer focus than the one you’re supposed to be living.

And, of course, that leaves less and less time for the real people in the real world who rightly expect to be an important part of your life. And you hope that they understand, or at the very least stay patient, but all they really know is that you’re absent when it counts. And so you want to tell them that it’s worth it, you want to show them what’s roiling inside your head, but of course you cant. You’ve got to wait it out and see it through. And so there’s this communal faith and patience, and more than enough teeth gritting, and in the end, you present this pound of flesh, and you hope that it might help reward that faith, that it might be worth it, that it might make these precious people proud. Because if it doesn’t, then you’re kinda just a self-centred douchebag.

If you could rid the world of ONE book, which would it be?

The first novel I ever wrote, when I was fourteen years old. It was as hideously and hilariously bad as it was earnestly epic. And it was called The Drug Warden. Enough said.

The last Australian book you read?

Breath, by Tim Winton.

Craig Silvey is one of our Featured Authors of the Month for June, and to celebrate, Boomerang Books is joining forces with our friends at Allen and Unwin to give blog readers the chance to win one of three copies of Craig’s newest release, Jasper Jones, so keep your eyes on the blog for competition details. It will be announced separately to our monthly giveaway, details for which can be found HERE.

As an aside, I’m really loving interviewing authors as part of our new, revitalised Boomerang Blog, and I hope you’re enjoying reading the interviews just as much. That said, do you have a particular Australian author you’d like us to interview? Send me an email, and I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

June Book Giveaway

This month’s book giveaway is a bumper one, so be sure to register HERE for your chance to win copies of:

Roadside Sisters by Wendy Harmer SIGNED
Nina, Meredith and Annie have been friends for a long, long time. Elegant Meredith, motherly Nina and the determinedly single Annie are as unlikely companions as you could find. But like a matched set of 1950’s kitchen canisters of Flour, Sugar and Tea, they always seem to end up together. Now each is facing the various trials of middle age: divorces, less than satisfactory marriages, teenage kids, careers going nowhere. One night, over one too many Flaming Sambuccas during a reunion dinner, they somehow find themselves agreeing to take a road trip to Byron Bay in a RoadMaster Royale mobile home, to attend Meredith’s daughter’s wedding. Fights and friendship, tears and laughter – not to mention the possibility of finding Mr. Right along the way – this trip might tear them apart or it might just save their lives. Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Wendy Harmer HERE.

The Hotel Albatross by Debra Adelaide
The Captain and his wife accidentally find themselves managing the Hotel Albatross. The Captain floats between the hotel’s various bars: chatting to and chatting up customers, breaking up fights, and dealing calmly with the simmering tensions of a small town. His wife has her hands full with the day-to-day running of the hotel: mediating between family members fighting over wedding decorations, appeasing disgruntled staff members, and dealing with the horror of what lies in room 101. She also dreams of getting out… A wonderfully poignant novel about hotel management and human nature.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks SIGNED
Nina became a vampire in 1973, when she was fifteen, and she hasn’t aged a day since then. But she hasn’t had any fun either, because her life is so sickly and boring. It becomes even worse when one of the other vampires in her therapy group is stalked by a mysterious slayer. Threatened with extinction, she and her fellow vampires decide to hunt down the culprit. Trouble is, they soon find themselves up against some gun-toting werewolf traffickers who’ll stop at nothing. Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Or is there more to your average vampire than meets the eye?

World Shaker by Richard Harland
A brilliant fantasy that will hook you from the very first page, set aboard a huge ship in which the elites live on the top decks while the Filthies toil below. Col’s safe, civilized world on the upper decks of the Worldshaker, a huge ship that has been sailing since 1845, is changed forever when a Filthy from below finds her way into his cabin. Richard Harland has created an acutely observed and utterly compelling Gothic world of warped Victoriana to explore 16-year-old Col’s journey from cosseted youth to courageous maturity.

The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford
A tale of honor and dishonor, of love, pain, madness, and endurance, told with painstaking historical and archaeological accuracy. Set in Classical Greece in the fifth century BC, The Priestess and the Slave conveys the extraordinary history of the time through the eyes of two narrators – a Delphic Pythia deeply embroiled in the political turmoil earlier in the century, and a young slavewoman, some decades later, living through the terrible plague in Athens and the seemingly endless war against the invincible hoplites of Sparta. Vivid, gritty, and emotionally moving. Be sure to look out for Kate Forsyth’s review here exclusively on the Boomerang Blog this month.

The Last Protector by Cameron Raynes
The last protector presents a compelling argument that the South Australian government illegally took Aboriginal children from their parents during the years between 1939 and 1954. Adelaide historian Cameron Raynes draws on extensive archival records, the contents of which have never been available to the public before. Be sure to look out for Cameron Raynes’ exclusive guest-blog here exclusively on the Boomerang Blog this month.

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Hadley Rille and Wakefield Press for supporting our monthly giveaway.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 30 June, 2009. Don’t forget, it’s a monthly giveaway, so be sure to favourite that link and keep visiting every month. Please note, entrants will be automatically subscribed to our fortnightly Boomerang Books Bulletin e-newsletter.

… A bonus for our blog readers

Keep an eye on the blog for a special, exclusive giveaway announcement coming this June. 🙂

… A bonus for our Facebook Friends

Need an incentive to join one of Australia’s largest book group on Facebook? Well, we have a great pack of books to give away to one of our Facebook Group members this month, which includes copies of The Hotel Albatross by Debra Adelaide, The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks (SIGNED), World Shaker by Richard Harland, The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford and The Last Protector by Cameron Raynes.

We’ve also got a further 3 copies of The Hotel Albatross to give away this month.

What are you waiting for? Join Now!

Interview with WENDY HARMER

My earliest memories of Wendy Harmer are of her 2DayFM breakfast radio programme The Morning Crew – crammed in the back of the car with my two brothers, I’d listen to Wendy and her co-hosts. My brothers and I would laugh until our sides split, and I dreamt of making an audience laugh like that. I dreamt of being a comedian.

Then I got older, I grew self-conscious of everything from the way I looked to the sound of my voice and, for a few years, became deathly afraid of speaking in front of large groups – so, there went that career path out the window. But I stuck to writing, and I owe my decision to write comedies primarily to comedians like Wendy that I admired growing up. While everyone else was writing “deep” psychological pieces in school, broody, angsty works, I worked hard to make people laugh with my writing – I wanted to recapture the experience I had growing up, listening to Wendy and the Crew on the way to school.

Almost half a lifetime later, I sat in the audience at an event in Paddington Town Hall, partly as an on-the-scene reporter for Boomerang Books (for the event review, click here), and partly as a long-time fan of Wendy’s. Listening to her speak took me back to those good ol’ days when I didn’t have to guilt Mum into driving me places, and I wondered why I hadn’t read any of Wendy’s books. Granted, I’m not exactly the target audience, being a nineteen-year-old male, but still…

So, I bought two books for Mum. I figured, gauging Mum’s reactions to them was a good way to review the books without damaging my masculinity. Judging by the laughter coming down the hallway, Mum was a fan of both. Interest officially piqued, I pinched Nagging For Beginners from Mum’s nightstand after she left for work – I’d seen Wendy perform a few of the nags in person – and I loved it, cover to cover. I’m sure she’ll probably kill me for saying this, but I saw so much of Mum in that book. It wasn’t a book that only women could find relatable, it was a book about women, for everyone, and an insanely funny book at that. I figured I’d best give the other book I bought for Mum, Roadside Sisters a spin. I have to confess, I haven’t read much of it, but what I have read, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and I am now severely regretting not picking up more books on Friday night (when I could’ve gotten Wendy to sign them…).

Well… that was a significantly longer introduction than I’d intended to have, so, less of me, and more Wendy…

You’re one of Australia’s best-loved comediennes. You’ve had a ludicrously successful career on TV and radio – what was it that attracted you to writing books? Was it something simply to pass the time, or something you’d always wanted to do?

I’ve wanted to write books all my life. I can remember writing my first short story at age eight. I invented a neighbourhood newspaper at ten (all hand-written). I edited the school magazine then became a cadet journalist at 18. Just in love with words and language. In fact I’ve been far more interested in writing than performing. So when I wrote my first book at age 48 (waited 40 years) it was a thrill.
 
Do you think that, as a “funny person”, you’re restricted to only writing funny, light books? Does Wendy Harmer have a deep, brooding literary work inside of her?

Well you know there are so many truly wonderful writers of deep and brooding works that I might leave it to them. I’m good at jokes and not everyone is! I think light and funny works for me. I probably have a searing satire inside me though which might see me go close for defamation – working up to that.
 
Do the jokes come first, and do you then find a story to fit them into, or is it the other way around?

I think of the issue first – be it the female negotiation of the ‘change of life’/revenge/the nature of friendship – and then structure the book around that. I don’t try to force gags. If you do that you lose the empathy for a character. I like it when readers have a laugh and then, hopefully a tear or two.
 
Your newest release, Roadside Sisters, follows Nina, Meredith and Annie as they travel from Melbourne to Byron Bay in a misguided search for an ‘Oprah moment’. What does one of these moments entail, and, more importantly, have you ever experienced one?

What Oprah is talking about, I think, is that moment when you suddenly “get it”. I tend to believe that the more you understand that you are not smart enough to understand anything – the smarter you get. If you know what I mean. Confused? Me too. Good isn’t it?

Out of Nina, Meredith and Annie – which one is Wendy Harmer? Is there anything autobiographical about any of them, or any of your other characters for that matter?

All my characters contain some aspect of me I suppose – and that’s the joy of writing. One has the chance to experience life through another character’s eyes. I’m endlessly disappointed that I only have one go at being alive and so writing goes some way to easing that.
 
There are heaps of “getting lost to find yourself” road-trip movies/books out there… what do you think sets Roadside Sisters apart from other similar texts?

It’s three women in the Australian landscape – I’ve never read one of those before. So many books are about journeys of course – either a literal or an allegorical one. Mine is lively and fun and feels to me to be real. I really loved taking the trip myself and I hope I convey my love of traveling in it.
 
What inspired you to write the Pearlie series? Was it purely for commercial reasons, or did you have a genuine interest in writing for kids?

I was sick of reading my daughter fairy stories about characters that were no more than Paris Hilton with wings – all frocking up to go to parties. Yawn! Pearlie is feisty – a bit of a detective, an overachiever, bossy. She has been successful because she has a bit of ‘get up and go’ about her. She’s not a soppy character. And each book has a real story – suspense and humour.
 
Are you planning any additions to the series?

The next one is Pearlie in Central Park. The first in a series where Pearlie leaves Jubilee Park and goes off to see the world. She encounters snow for the first time… and squirrels!
 
Who do you prefer to write for, adults or children? How do you feel about restricting your content for the Pearlie series, more so than you would for say, a book like Farewell My Ovaries?

The trick with the Pearlie books is to get character and story in 1600 words. They can be time consuming – like doing a giant crossword. Of course they are a vastly different exercise to adult books. I’ve just written my first young adult book : I Lost My Mobile at the Mall – Teenager on the Edge of a Technological Breakdown. It’s proved to me than I’ll happily write for any age group if the tale’s good enough.
 
Early after Farewell My Ovaries was released, a lot of it was made of its… content. What drove you to write a book like it?

I read a lot of chick/hen-lit and was always disappointed that there was no decent sex in there. I mean – you read for 300 pages about love and all that and there’s no sex? Surely we’ve moved on since Jane Austen.

What was the funniest complaint you received about it?

A woman wrote to complain the lead character smoked. No matter that she had some fairly wild sexual escapades. I thought, given her sex life, my heroine should have been on a pack a day of Camel unfiltered!
 
Nagging For Beginners… it’s all shades of brilliant. How many of the nags featured in that book would you admit to ever having used?

All of them, repeatedly. BTW. Why are you sitting around reading this when your room looks like a pigsty?
 
I’ll have you know, my room looks like… [William looks away from the computer to see a stack of clothes on his unmade bed. To be fair, he’s packing for a trip to Queensland, but still, point taken] …Of your books, which one has the best opening line?

‘Now, Francie, I want you to look into this mirror and tell me what you love about yourself.’ Love and Punishment.

If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?

J. K. Rowling, please.
 
If you could rid the world of ONE book, which would it be?

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Aaargh!
 
The last Australian book you read?

Cooee by Vivienne Kelly and I loved it! She’s such an acute observer of character.
 
I asked my friend for a random filler question, and she came up with this, so, fill away: What is the most valuable piece of advice you were never told?

Never cross the Portuguese border at 3a.m. in a car full of piano players with Ignatius Jones in the boot – it will only end in tears!

Sydney Writers’ Festival: Saturday

Ah… the joys of non-ticketed events. I’d hoped to squeeze my way into four events, but only managed to get into two (apologies to e-newsletter subscriber, Amanda, who didn’t get her request…).

Research and Writing requested by e-newsletter subscriber Lisa
Paul Ham, Catherine Jinks and Babette Smith were shortlisted for ‘The Nib’: CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature, which recognises excellence in research. They joined Ashley Hay, a former literary editor of The Bulletin in discussion.

It was an interesting session. I’m not a big history buff, so I wasn’t expecting to have the time of my life or Vietnamanything, but I was pleasantly surprised. The three speakers were great – informative and entertaining.

Memorable moments

Paul Ham detailed how he went about interviewing former Vietnamese soldiers for his Vietnam: The Australian War. To get them to stop repeating the party line they’d been towing for forty years, he joked that he would “ply them with Jacobs Creek until they conceded defeat.”

The Reformed Vampire Support GroupCatherine Jinks on writing her first real protagonist in her historical fiction, The Dark Mountain: “She was real, and she has descendants who post on my message board… I live in fear of retribution.”

Ham mentioned the two conflicting forces acting inside him when he finds a great, entertaining historical story to write about – the academic push and the journalistic pull. On the one hand, the academic thing to do is to push really interesting stories aside, because it means these might be represented with more emphasis than they deserve, because you’re captured by how entertaining it is. On the other hand, there’s the journalist inside of him saying, “That’s a great story, put it on the front page!” Writing non-fiction is about “finding the correct conAustralia's Birthstaintext for a great story in history.”

Babette Smith revealed and shattered some of the distortions and myths about convicts in Australia… I’d go into more detail, but I don’t want to spoil Australia’s Birthstain for you.

Overall, three very entertaining speakers. Plus, I caught up with Catherine after the session, and it looks like she’ll be stopping by for an author interview next month. 🙂

Craig Silvey In Conversation requested by… well, me.
Craig Silvey’s blindingly successful first novel, Rhubarb, sold over 15,000 copies and saw him acknowledged as one of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists. He talked about his second novel, Jasper Jones with Daniel Stacey.

Jasper JonesAfter catching Craig yesterday, I wanted to see him again. He was in the same room as Research and Writing, just after it finished, so I took it as a sign and stayed put. He read the opening of his book, and spoke about his influences a little more than he did yesterday, but I’m going to sit on those details for a little bit, and save them for our interview with Craig next month.

Memorable moments

Craig: …What, you seem… you seem disappointed by that answer. Wasn’t it good?
Daniel: No… it was fine. It’s just… I was worrying [looking at clock on the wall showing there’s 35 minutes left in the session]. I’ve only got one question left…

Sydney Writers’ Festival: Coming of Age

“I don’t write children’s books, my books just happen to be about children.”
– Sonya Hartnett

At the request of e-newsletter subscriber, Jessica, I woke up early – well, early for a university student – and made my way into the Sydney CBD for the 1p.m. Writers’ Festival session, Coming of Age featuring award-winning authors Sonya Hartnett and Craig Silvey, which was facilitated by Melanie Ostell.

As someone who sat through countless author visits in high school, I’ve always been wary about listening to authors give talks. Sometimes, they’re fantastic in front of a crowd, just as you’d imagined them, but sometimes, the author on the page is different to the author on the stage.

Thankfully, Hartnett and Silvey were every bit as engaging and entertaining as I thought they’d be. That’s not to say they were jumping around on stage in a showy, look-at-me-I’m-a-performer kind of way. They sat, relaxed, and carefully took turns in answering facilitator Melanie’s questions (and kudos to Melanie, she asked all the right questions). It was a very laid-back session, and it was so interesting to hear Sonya and Craig speak frankly (and with such wit) about their artistic processes, and the life experiences that inspired their latest works, Butterfly and Jasper Jones respectfully.

Jasper JonesCraig Silvey read from his Jasper Jones, and as a teen boy myself (for what? 9 more days…), I can tell you that he’s captured our verbal exchanges and attitudes expertly ([After spilling something in the living room] “He mops it up with a cushion”). Later in the session, after recounting a joke from the book which involved the hypothetical choice between living life wearing a hat made of with poisonous spiders or living life having each finger replaced with a certain male appendage, he remarked, matter-of-factly, “My book is deep,” and I knew, right then and there, that I’d be a life-long fan of his.

“Women come out looking pretty bad…”
– Melanie Ostell on Butterfly

ButterflyGirl politics features heavily in Sonya Hartnett’s Butterfly, and when asked about teenage girls and their penchant for bitchery, Hartnett had some fun (“Sometimes you see it and you’re just like… ‘Arrghh, you little cretins.'”). She based the manuscript on the teen-girl relations she witnessed twenty years ago (when the novel is set). She gave the first draft to her fourteen-year-old neighbour, Matilda, and after finishing it, Matilda approached her and asked, “How did you know how the girls at [school’s name] acted?” So, clearly, nothing’s changed in the world of teen-girl relations. Hartnett joked that no-one ever admits to being the schoolyard bitch – grab one hundred middle-aged women and ask them, and they’ll all say they were the girls that suffered through high school. “Where do those girls go [after high school]? Do they just disappear?”

Melanie asked Craig for his thoughts, to which he replied, “I’m relieved I have a penis… [teen girl fights] seem like condensed Cold Wars”.

To steer the conversation to the subject of the session, coming of age, Melanie remarked, “Both books feature younger characters learning things they can’t fully understand… for many years to come.” The two were then invited to engage with the topic.

Sonya spoke frankly about her protagonist: “Plum’s a moron.” Cue the audience’s laughter. Then, she continued, “You’re not writing them, you’re writing to the reader. You’re saying, ‘Look, what is being learnt here?’ I’m not asking Plum to understand. At fourteen, no kid will understand what’s going on… The character is something through which you address the reader.”

Craig threw in his two cents, adding that coming of age isn’t necessarily becoming an adult. It’s something different. When you’re a teenager, you’re “a strange midget drunk living in a bubble” (his words), and the moment that bubble bursts, and you’re forced to see the world differently, and see the world through other people’s eyes, and you’ve become more empathetic, and leartn to distrust things, and created your own world-view, instead of just subscribing to others’ – that’s when you’ve come of age. Becoming an adult is simply aging, but becoming “of age” is earning that age through wisdom.

“People who read are the finest people in the world.”
– Craig Silvey

And he wasn’t just sucking up to ensure every member of the audience bought his book either. He went on to explain that readers come of age through the process of reading, and experiencing life through other people’s lenses.

So, go on. Get reading.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see Wendy Harmer.

Interview with JAMES ROY

Earlier this year, I was invited by the Children’s Book Council Australia (NSW Sub-Branch) to speak at their 2009 Triple-A Event, where we reflect on a year of children’s releases and toast the shortlist when it’s announced at midday. I was the Older Readers speaker, which meant I had to read every entrant in the Older Readers category. That meant I had to read the copy of James Roy’s Hunting Elephants that was sitting in my bookshelf. Despite having met the author a few times and my general feelings of guilt stemming from not actually having read any of his books, I’d been putting off reading it, because, frankly, the blurb didn’t appeal to me. Vietnam vets, a rural wedding… to say I was dreading it would be to understate the fact. Significantly.

I won’t sugarcoat it – I read it because I was forced to. Well, I started reading it because I was forced to. I finished it in a day because I absolutely loved it. It was mature, it didn’t talk down to its readers, but at the same time, it showing off. It was just genuinely well-written. That’s the key to its broad appeal – and I handed the book to Mum when I finished. She loved it, and this is the woman who’s only finished reading one other book in the past fifteen years: my own.

I selected Hunting Elephants as one of my picks for the CBCA Older Readers Shortlist, and I was really disappointed when it didn’t make it. But not being on the Shortlist  doesn’t mean a book isn’t deserving of your time, and Hunting Elephants is certainly deserving of your time.

We’re continuing our tradition of exclusive author interviews here at Boomerang by sitting down with James Roy, author extraordinaire and avid olive hater.

First off – why the hate for olives? I mean, granted, I’m Greek, but surely, no one can hate them enough to mention them in jacketflap bios AND on their website?

I don’t rightly know. Maybe it’s because they’re so bold and intense and singular (almost un-subtle) in their flavour, although I’m sure there are aficionados who will accuse me of being a trog for saying that. But I mean, even if you don’t like artichokes, they’re still a bit ‘pick ’em off if you can be bothered’, and if you get a bite of gherkin in your burger, you barely notice. But olives are almost aggressive in their boldness of flavour. I just don’t like them. Is this really what we’re going to be talking about?

Hahaha… You know my priorities: olives first, literature second. 🙂 Now, literature: 2008’s release, Hunting Elephants was one of my favourites of the year. What I loved most was the way you approached representing cystic fibrosis, and didn’t blatantly try to manipulate the audience into “feeling for the sick kid”. There was a certain understated realism to its portrayal – was it based on a personal experience… or just a lot of research?

First, thanks. And that’s more like it. Sure beats the olives question…

When I worked as a registered nurse on the adolescent unit of a major children’s hospital, there were several issues I didn’t feel I wanted to discuss in my writing, mainly because I was dealing with that stuff every day. Dying kids, mental illness, cancer, eating disorders and cystic fibrosis. But I was still observing it, and biding my time as a writer, and I wrote about other things. Then, when I stopped doing that job, I was ready to write about some of that stuff. In Town, I included a character with anorexia nervosa, and in Hunting Elephants it was CF. I saw one boy die exactly the way Joel did in Hunting Elephants, and it wasn’t pretty. Fortunately many kids with CF are getting transplants nowadays, but it’s still a tough life. So here’s my soapbox moment: tick the organ donor card on your license renewal form, people, and support CF fund-raisers. There is a cure out there somewhere.

We’ve had heaps of requests that we ask authors about their process… so, how did you go about writing Hunting Elephants? Are you a planner? What was the biggest change that came out of the editing process?

I’m not a planner. Any time I try to plan, I end up getting impatient and frustrated and just getting on with the writing. I fly by the seat of my pants, and let the book come out of asking one question, which was first said by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing).

And Studio 60… and I think I’m the only person on the planet who preferred / watched the short-lived Studio 60

Well, he said that his characters come out of asking this: “What do they want?” Lili Wilkinson goes one step further, and suggests we also ask: “What do they need?”, remembering that sometimes the want and the need are in opposition. And once you know what a character wants, you make it almost impossible to get it. That’s the conflict, right there. So this is a question that I’m asking, almost subconsciously, the whole time I’m writing.

Hunting Elephants was going to be about a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War, full of creepy stories and adventures. But when I researched and interviewed, I learnt that there is the clichéd, typecast view of the Vietnam vet – angry, sullen, traumatised, unwilling to open up – and then there are all the others. Plus one guy who didn’t in fact do very much during the war, but was more comfortable letting people believe he saw and did traumatic stuff, rather than acknowledge that his experience wasn’t in fact all that harrowing. I found his story much more interesting.

A caveat to that: this is not to say that the support guys who were based at Nui Dat weren’t  fought against, but simply that what we believe we see and what we actually see and what we’re allowed to believe are often three completely separate things.

What about it are you most proud of?

The structure. Flashback isn’t something I’ve always done well, so I found that the way it worked in Hunting Elephants was quite pleasing. I’m also quite proud of the cystic fibrosis stuff, because it feels like something of a tribute to the kids I nursed over the years, and their families, who are confronted with emotions and challenges no one should ever have to face.

You mentioned Town earlier and it’s something we have to talk about. A friend and fellow blogger, Adele Walsh, over at Persnickety Snark, picked this quotation from it that made my morning:

“And to Mr Richard Foster who is joining our geography and maths facility. He’s apparently quite the cyclist, so those of you wanting a good hard ride might like to track him down.” p.15

Town received a lot of award attention (insert dramatically long list of accolades here, including the NSW Premier’s Award [Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature 2008]), did you write it thinking it’d be so well-received, or did its reception surprise you?

Strangely, when I finished it, I felt incredibly satisfied. With almost everything else I’ve ever written, I get a serious case of cold feet once the final proofs have gone back to the publisher, and it’s now out of my control. I agonise about whether I rushed it, whether I could have sent away a better book with another six months at it, and I doubt whether it will even get bought, much less get good reviews. And shortlists and awards are the furthest thing from my mind. But with Town, I knew that it was a good book. That sounds arrogant, but I don’t mean it to be. I just felt very, very satisfied, and didn’t feel that I would have changed a single word even if I’d had another year at it. Which is ironic, because on the first reprint, we had to change several words that were typos.

Did its reception surprise me? A little, I guess. I felt it was the best book I could produce, but when it got a five-star review in Australian Bookseller and Publisher, I was a little stunned. In a good way. A very good way. And when someone tells me that they’ve read it (it’s not even necessary that they’ve enjoyed it – having read it is enough) I’m still a little surprised and flattered. I think this is because after years of writing books that got good reviews, I still felt slightly invisible. I still haven’t seen someone reading one of my books on a train or a bus, though. But I have seen someone reading Loathing Lola. True story.

Tempted to use that to a segue-way to a conversation about me… but I won’t. I know you keep churning out novels, what’s next on the horizon? Tell us about them.

Earlier this year was The Gimlet Eye, in the Quentaris series. As my first proper fantasy book, that was a lot of fun. And in the US was Max Quigley, Technically Not a Bully, which was a rebadge of Problem Child.

Later this year is Edsel Grizzler: Voyage to Verdada, which is Book 1 in a trilogy for middle-grade readers. It’s a kind of existential sci-fi thing about a boy who is transported to Verdada, the land of lost things. It’s all happy happy, joy joy in Verdada. Or so it appears…

And very early in 2010 is Anonymity Jones, a YA book about a girl whose life is in something of a tailspin, and the drastic measures she takes to regain some kind of control. I know, that’s never been done before in a YA book, has it? What’s different for me with this book is that it’s quite short, so I’ve had to be very direct and (hopefully) elegant in my prose.

And after that? The remainder of the Edsel Grizzler trilogy, and another collection of linked short stories like Town, only set in the city. The working title? City, obviously. I’m pretty excited about that one.

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature 2010 mayhaps?… Working on anything at the moment?

Always. I’m just tidying up the end of Anonymity Jones, plus working on a couple of commissioned pieces. Plus I’m putting notes aside for some of the ten or so projects I’ve got slated for the future.

Ever considered writing another Mack book?

I was planning to, but every plot point I tried seemed too convenient or coincidental, and a little opportunistic. Never say never, but at the moment I don’t think so.

What inspired you to write The ‘S’ Word? A frustrating puberty?

Ha! Nice try!

Actually, yes, kind of. My sex education was largely from World Book Encyclopaedia. In fact, I think my mother thought I was going to be a fashion designer, because every time she came into my room I was reading about Sewing Machines. Of course, this was only a page or two over from Sex.

But to be completely serious, there were so many books for girls about their ‘changing bodies’ and ‘relationships’, but very little for boys of 10-14. There were books for much older boys, and for little kids, but I wanted middle-grade boys to be able to open my book and get answers to what was worrying or confusing or interesting them without feeling intimidated by the language, or patronised by the level of information.

I also wanted to emphasise to the next generation of young men that sexual development isn’t about the mechanics of sex, but about relationships and mutual respect. This is why I dedicated whole chapters to discussing how we talk to girls, how to behave on dates, etc. I felt a little stung by a review that said this book was potentially detrimental to relationships, because that was EXACTLY what much of the book was about. I’m still not convinced that reviewer even read the book.

I also want to acknowledge Gus Gordon for his fantastic illustrations. I asked him for a chapter header, and one illo per chapter, two illos for the longer chapters. He came back with complete cartoons, each of which tells a proper little story. He was worried that a couple of them had gone too far, but I don’t think we rejected a single one.

On your website, you mention you hate authors who take themselves too seriously, or refer to themselves in the third person… Are you willing to name-drop?

Mmm, nice try. No, although I think they – and you and your readers – know who they are.

I will say this, though. Any published writer who begins to believe that their success is a birthright or an inevitability needs to be very careful, because they’re possibly destined for a nasty surprise. I am a big believer in the sliding doors principle, where tiny circumstances can affect later outcomes. I would never argue that I am a better writer than every unpublished author, nor would I argue that I am a worse writer than some hugely successful authors. I feel privileged that I get to do this as a full-time job, and of course there needs to a be a bit of ability and truckloads of hard work. I am blessed with both those things. But there also needs to be good fortune. Consider this: had the editor to whom I sent my first book been having an off day, or had just filled her 1996 publishing schedule that morning, or simply not liked my writing, or I’d sent the wrong sample chapters, I could still be writing cover letters and filing rejection slips in my scrapbook. And that situation could come back any day.

As I say, I feel immensely privileged to be able to make stories up for a living. I filled out an online form a couple of days ago, and under occupation, I clicked on Arts/Communication. And under that was a list of about twenty jobs. Writer wasn’t on there. So few people get to do it. Yeah, I feel lucky.

So to the authors who get to smug about their success, I’d say this: be wary of believing your own publicity. There’s that old saying – ‘Be nice to the little people on the way up, because you’ll probably hit them on the way back down.’ Panel-beat that however you like for this scenario, and it still holds true.

Of your books – which one has the best opening line?

Can I have three?
“It was the last time I saw her.” (Almost Wednesday)
“Harry was dying.” (Hunting Elephants)
“Once, in a street not very far from yours, there lived a girl, whose name was Anonymity Jones.” (Anonymity Jones)

I like the last one best… Who do you prefer to write for, children or young adults?

Both. I know that sounds glib, but I really do love both, for different reasons. My imagination was somewhat snap-frozen at 10-13, thanks in no small part to the place I was living at the time, so I love writing about that time in kids’ lives, when things are simpler in many ways, but complex in others. Life’s a little more optimistic then than it is once true adolescence hits, perhaps. And yet I love being able to stretch my legs a little more when I write for older readers.

As far as speaking goes, I absolutely love getting up in front of an audience of Grade Fives and Sixes – their enthusiasm is so much fun, and they respond in a really fresh way. High school audiences can be a bit more of a challenge, but when it works, it’s incredibly rewarding.

The most frustrating thing about being a writer?

When I was a registered nurse, I had a staff room. I had colleagues. I had peer support. Writers don’t get that every day. So the loneliness – or perhaps I should say solitude – of writing can be challenging.

But I think my biggest personal frustration is that after thirteen years and almost twenty books, I still have to do as much schools work as I do, because for the most part, good reviews don’t necessarily ensure good royalties. I love schools work, but once in a while I’d like to be able to call my agent and say ‘I’m not doing any school gigs for the next three months – I’ve got some writing I want to do and I need some uninterrupted time’, and know that I can still pay the mortgage.

If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?

Easy. Roald Dahl. Some authors can write funny, some can write gross, some can write important and moving. Roald Dahl did the lot. Plus he wrote some pretty good stuff for grownups.

If you could rid the world of ONE book, which would it be?

I’m tempted to say Mein Kampf, but I don’t know how widely it’s read. So probably Twilight. I think it and its companion books set the liberated woman back by about thirty years, nothing much happens, I’ve read fan fiction that is better, and I think it’s dishonest in its description of many Western teens and their attitude to sex.

Last Australian book you read?

Into White Silence by Anthony Eaton. Brilliant, creepy, chilling, and I wish I’d written it.

And the last non-Australian book I read was Tamar, by Mal Peet. It won the Carnegie Medal, and is such a fantastic blend of history, mystery and young adult angst.

A Sibling’s Review…

Author siblings are pretty rare – and with Kate Forsyth being featured on the blog, and her new novel The Puzzle Ring featuring in our giveaway for the month (click HERE for your chance to win), I knew I just couldn’t pass off the opportunity to approach her sister, author Belinda Murrell for her honest take on her sister’s work. Naturally, a little part of me was hoping for the claws to come out and some brutal sibling competitiveness to really take centre-stage, but really, there’s none in sight. And while she might be quick to admit possible bias, Belinda’s review simply echoes the praise I’ve read for the book in reviews from other sources.

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth
(Pan Macmillan)
Age 10+ Fiction

Hannah Rose Brown is an ordinary Australian 12-year-old. Or so she thinks. Until a mysterious letter arrives from her long-lost great-grandmother in Scotland, which shatters Hannah’s life and everything she believed about herself.  Hannah is actually the great-granddaughter of a countess, and heir to a Scottish castle. Worst of all her family is cursed by dark magic. Hannah must travel back in time to Scotland in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, to try to find the Puzzle Ring, break the curse and save the father she has never met.

The Puzzle Ring weaves together the fascinating history of sixteenth century Scotland, with a rich vein of magic including fairies, hag-stones, water horses, witches and ancient spells.

Kate Forsyth is a wonderful story-teller. Her characters are vibrant and engaging, the plot thrilling and the setting evocative. I am, of course, deeply biased as Kate is my sister! This book is based on stories told to us when we were children by my Scottish grandmother and great-aunts, so I can truly taste the marmalade cakes. I loved The Puzzle Ring, and I am sure so too will many, many children around the world.

———————————————

Belinda Murrell is author of The Sun Sword Trilogy and The Locket of Dreams, a novel for children aged 8+, which is set in contemporary Australia and Scotland and Australia during the 1850s. Coincidentally The Locket of Dreams is also inspired by stories told by her Scottish grandmother.  That’s what happens when you grow up in a story-telling family! For more information about Belinda and her writing, click here.

Notes From Everything Twinterview

… See what I did there?

Simmone Howell is made of awesome. I’ll make no attempt to hide my bias. I’m a teenage reader, and I’d place her as equal to Barry Jonsberg in terms of producing some of the greatest Australian YA fiction at the moment. Her debut Notes From The Teenage Underground was an amazing read (but I will say I wasn’t a fan of the last two pages…), but her follow-up, 2008’s Everything Beautiful was perfect. Warm, fun, heart-warming, silly, poignant, funny – Simmone balances it all masterfully. If there’s one notable omission to the CBCA’s Shortlist, it’s this book. One look at the back cover, and you’re sold. There appear the words:

I believe in Chloe and chocolate.
I believe the best part is always before.
I believe that most girls are shifty and most guys are dumb.
I believe the more you spill, the less you are.
I don’t believe in life after death or diuretics or happy endings.
I don’t believe anything good will come of this.

Visitors will know I’ve been hyping up Boomerang Books’ first Twinterview (I won’t say it’s the first ever interview on Twitter, I mean… it can’t be… can it?!?), and earlier this week, Simmone and I both sat down in front of our computers, I delayed doing my uni homework, she delayed prepping dinner, and we had a fun conversation about everything from influences to portable animal farms, shameful childhood stories to Christian camps. She spilled the beans on considering writing a prequel to her first book, Notes From The Teenage Underground, on actually working on the screenplay for its film adaptation, and her work-in-progress teen noir novel.

You can still catch it on Twitter, all you need to do is follow both Simmone (http://www.twitter.com/postteen) and us (http://www.twitter.com/boomerangbooks) and go through your history of stored tweets!

Are you an author? Fancy a Twinterview? Send me an email here and we’ll make it happen.

REMINDER: Simmone Howell Twinterview

Simmone Howell, two books-deep, has proven herself to be a formidable force on the YA market. Her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature 2007, and was brill. Her latest, Everything Beautiful, was my favourite book of last year.

At 5p.m. this evening, I’ll be hopping on Twitter and interviewing her – and I want you there. All you have to do is join Twitter – which is easy enough – then you make sure you’re following both Simmone (www.twitter.com/postteen) and I (www.twitter.com/boomerangbooks), and you can watch our interview as it happens… You can even hurl her a few questions yourself!

We’ll also be giving away a SIGNED copy of Simmone Howell’s magnificent Everything Beautiful some time soon, so watch this space! I have to give it away ASAP to rid myself of the temptation to slot it in my bookshelf and call it my own.

Hope you can stop by. 🙂

UPDATE T’was great fun, transcript coming soon.

William

Interview With KATE FORSYTH

I remember being in Year Six and standing in my best friend’s room. I’d been left alone for some reason. Naturally, I started snooping, and it wasn’t long until my eyes fell on a book with a silver spine and a dragon on the cover sitting, with a bookmark splitting its side, on his nightstand. My friend was reading a fantasy book? I approached said book, I couldn’t believe my luck. Finally, I had something to return serve with during witty banter. When he mentioned my love for creative writing, I could reply with, ‘Yes, but you read fantasy books.’

Being 11, there was only one way to react to this discovery: to heap a inconceivable amount of insults on him when he returned. Return he did, and heap I did. I heaped for a good five minutes, gesturing periodically at the book on his nightstand.

He waited until I was finished. When I was content with the amount of heaping I’d done, I finished with, ‘I never thought you’d like fantasy books,’ to which he replied, ‘Kate Forsyth doesn’t write fantasy books, she writes great books. There’s a difference.’

A little corny, yes, but that’s my earliest memory of Kate Forsyth and her writing – and the book in question was Dragonclaw, the first book in her wildly successful The Witches of Eileanan series. I have to confess I haven’t read much of her work, and I was half-tempted to have my friend interview her, but then I figured, I wouldn’t be much of a blog helmer / media student if I didn’t conduct the first interview myself.

And so, without further ado, Kate Forsyth, Australia’s undisputed Queen of Fantasy…

Just how has your newest release, The Puzzle Ring, been influenced by your own Scottish heritage?

The Puzzle Ring was directly inspired by the stories by Scottish grandmother and great-aunts used to tell me when I was a little girl. They gave me a deep fascination with all things Scottish, plus a romantic imagination fed with tales of battles and feuds and brave deeds. I actually wrote a novel set in Scotland when I was 11 which was called ‘Far, Far Away’ and always longed to go there.

It has elements of historical fiction crammed in with the fantasy – how did you go about researching the novel?

I love to research. It’s reading for a purpose. I did a lot of research for this book – not just on Scottish history and folklore, but also on time travel theories and how to sleep in the snow without getting frostbite.

Who’s favourite character in The Puzzle Ring?

Apart from Hannah, my heroine, my favourite character is Linnet, the old, mysterious cook at the castle.

What are you working on now, if anything at all?

I’m writing a YA fantasy called The Wildkin’s Curse, the long-awaited sequel to The Starthorn Tree.

My godson is practically obsessed with I Am. Would you ever consider writing another picture book?

Oh yes, I’ve got lots of ideas! I just never get a chance to sit down and play with them.

Do you prefer writing for children or adults?

I like writing for both. Each age group has different problems and challenges, and gives you different rewards. It means you never get bored and your writing stays fresh and vivid (or so I hope).

Time to choose between your children… what’s your favourite book you’ve written?

Of course I love all the books I’ve written but I’m also most deeply connected to the book I’ve just written which is of course The Puzzle Ring.

What’s the most annoying question you’re asked in interviews?

My favourite book … 😛

… And the most frustrating thing about being a writer?

How long it takes to actually write a book! If only I could write as fast as I think …

If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?

Philip Pullman’s.

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth
Thirteen-year-old Hannah discovers her family was cursed long ago. The only way to break the curse is to find the four lost quarters of the mysterious puzzle ring… To do this, Hannah must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still stalked the land…

The Puzzle Ring is part of May’s giveaway prize pack. Complete the entry form HERE for your chance to win. Entries close 31 May, 2009.

Upcoming Author Interviews

Just a quick heads-up to say our first two exclusive Boomerang Books author interviews have been scheduled.

Later this week, I’ll be sitting down with Australia’s undisputed Queen of Fantasy, Kate Forsyth, to discuss her latest children’s release, The Puzzle Ring (which is part of our May Giveaway, so don’t forget to enter it HERE).

And this one’s for you, JayTay, a Twittexperiment of sorts. On Tuesday, May 12th, at 5p.m., I’ll be hopping onto Twitter and Twinterviewing (yes, I’m going to do that with all my Twitter-related words, the sooner you come to terms with that, the better) Simmone Howell, who, two books-deep, has proven herself to be a formidable force on the YA market. Her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature 2007, and was brill, and her latest, Everything Beautiful, was my favourite book of last year. How does a Twinterview work? Well, you log onto Twitter at 5p.m., make sure you’re following both Simmone (postteen) and I (boomerangbooks), and you can watch our interview as it happens… You can even hurl her a few questions yourself.

Any authors you want me to hunt down for an interview? Leave a comment, or email me: [email protected].

May Book Giveaway

So, Boomerang Books has a monthly book giveaway. This month, we’re giving away a great pack of new release books, including:

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth
Thirteen-year-old Hannah discovers her family was cursed long ago. The only way to break the curse is to find the four lost quarters of the mysterious puzzle ring… To do this, Hannah must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still stalked the land… Keep an eye out later this week for our EXCLUSIVE interview with Kate Forsyth.
 
Believe by Raphael Aron
This book provides the reader with a unique insight into the mind and soul of a drug addict. It juxtaposes the lives of two addicts, using recorded personal and intimate experiences and emotions. Their eloquent diaries are published in the book together with the session notes of their counsellor and the author. The book reveals the raw nature of addiction and the hold it has over those who suffer from it.
 
Shimmer by Basia Bonkowski
A powerful story of love, life and loss by one of Australia’s most distinguished women. Step inside one woman’s very private world as Basia and her brothers gather to watch over their mother during the last fourteen days of her life. Heartrendingly poignant, Shimmer is touched with moments of humour and great insight, as author Basia Bonkowski comes to terms both with losing her mother and the heartbreak of her own personal journey. Basia’s lyrical prose and sharp eye for detail create an unforgettable account of her family over three generations. It is a moving tribute to the strength of the human spirit and the ties that bind.

Spirit Whispers by Charmaine Wilson
Spirit Whispers is the deeply moving and inspiring autobiography of Australian psychic medium Charmaine Wilson. This is the story of a truly gifted woman who discovers her extraordinary abilities the hard way. Along her excruciating journey, she is taught Life’s toughest lessons and eventually its deepest meaning. Charmaine’s story delivers an important message of hope and trust in what lies beyond.

Taxing Trails by Bernard Vrancken
Larry B. Max is an unusual specialist from a little-known branch of the Internal Revenue Service, the all-powerful tax-collecting agency of the United States. Reading into tax-evasion and money-laundering rings the way a virtuoso pianist would read a sheet of Mozart, Max has every technological method at his disposal to find links between high finance and high crime. In this first album, he must look into a particularly delicate file belonging to a rich Jewish-American, known for his involvement in recovering items that were confiscated by the Nazis. Dissecting this billionaire’s accounts, Max embarks on a dangerous journey to find the mysterious origins of the man’s immense fortune..

Nora Heysen: Light and Life by Jane Hylton
Nora Heysen grew up at The Cedars near the Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf, and was deeply influenced by her father, Hans Heysen. Nora Heysen: Light and life explores a notable career spanning seven decades, during which the artist painted some of Australia’s most outstanding self-portraits, became the country’s first female war artist, and was the first woman to win the prestigious Archibald Prize.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 31 May, 2009. Don’t forget, it’s a monthly giveaway, so be sure to favourite that link and keep visiting every month. Please note, entrants will be automatically subscribed to our fortnightly Boomerang Books Bulletin e-newsletter.

A big thanks to our friends at our friends at Wakefield Press, Pan Macmillan, Fontaine Press, Exisle Publishing and Book&Volume for making the giveaway possible.

… A bonus for our Facebook friends

We’ve got extra copies of Shimmer and Taxing Trails to give away exclusively to our Facebook Group members this month.  Join Now!

An Introduction

Hi everyone,

My name’s William Kostakis. I’ve been entrusted to help ‘throw the boomerang’. Avid followers of Boomerang Books will notice I’ll be popping up on the Twitter, Facebook, and here on the blog.

Why?

Boomerang Books prides itself on delivering a quality service to its customers, through online discounts and book giveaways, while helping promote the Australian publishing industry. It’ll be my job to produce original content for Boomerang Books over a range of different sites, but my presence will most obviously be felt here on the blog, where, if all goes to plan, we’ll be hosting exclusive author interviews, book reviews, short stories, literary event recaps – the possibilities are endless.

Here’s where you come in: What content would you like to be featured on the blog? We’ll strive to deliver that content. Who are your favourite Australian authors? We’ll hunt them down and interview them.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a nineteen-soon-to-be-twenty-year-old young adult author based in Sydney. My debut, Loathing Lola, was released last year through Pan Macmillan. I’ve been blogging (and will continue to blog) over at my own site HERE. That’s more of a ‘this is what I’m doing today’ sort of blog, but my contributions to this blog will be more… I want to say ‘journalistic’, but it seems too serious a word? I’d love for this blog to evolve into a place where Aussie authors can meet their readers and share their stories, and I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

Watch this space.

William

(And also, if you have Twitter, don’t forget to start following us HERE. I’m looking at producing some content exclusively for our Twitter subscribers. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s horribly addictive…)