ANDREW MCDONALD Guest Blog: Classic Books As Blogs

Books based on blogs seem to be the flavour of the moment. The blog-turned-book Stuff White People Like did incredibly well and we now have the first movie based on a book based on a blog in Julie and Julia. In light of this blogging/authoring/filmmaking trend I’ve looked back at five classic books to see what they would have looked like had they started life as blogs as well. 

1. THE TRIAL by Franz Kafka

Blog Title: Der Internetprozess
About The Blogger: Josef K. is a blogger and is currently on trial. He is uncertain how he came to be either.  
Blog excerpt: This morning I was not allowed out of my room for breakfast. Two goons outside told me I am under arrest but would not say why. So whilst I am understandably upset I have resolved to sit down at my computer and blog as I wait for word on what shall happen to me from here. Perhaps I will jump on answer.yahoo.com to try to find out exactly what is happening to me.

2. THE MAGIC FARAWAY TREE by Enid Blyton

Blog Title: The Wireless Woods
About The Blogger: Bessie is a girl who has recently come to live on the edge of some woods. Sometimes she calls herself Beth to sounds more modern.
Blog Excerpt: Today when we go back into the woods that seem to whisper, I am going to take my lappy with me and blog from the depths of the forest. Although Jo thinks there won’t be any wireless coverage in the woods. So we might have to climb to the top of the tallest tree we can find to get coverage.

3. DRACULA by Bram Stoker

Blog Title: Collective Ramblings About A Count Called Dracula
About the Bloggers: Jonathan, Mina, Lucy and Dr Seward.
Blog excerpt from Dr Seward: The case of Renfield grows more interesting the more I get to understand the man. As it turns out the man eats flies and spiders and bugs. Kind of like this guy:

4. ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe

Blog Title: Help!
About The Blogger: Robinson is a victim of shipwreck and circumstance. But mostly, shipwreck. He blogs from a deserted isle somewhere.
Blog Excerpt: Another long day on the island. But I think I am maintaining my sanity. One must remain clear-headed in case some possibility of rescue should make itself known. In the meantime I shall shove another S.O.S. message inside a bottle and throw it out to sea. And then after that I think I’ll check Facebook. And think of something else to blog about.

5. HATING ALISON ASHLEY by Robin Klein

Blog Title: I Hate Alison Ashley
About the Blogger: Erica Yurken wants to be a star. Also, she hates Alison Ashley.
Blog Excerpt: I hate Alison Ashley. I would like to say more but I am afraid of the consequences if I am caught ‘cyber bullying’.

Andrew McDonald is the author of The Greatest Blogger in the World

When the school mascot is stolen and a multinational corporation tries to take over the school formal, Charlie Ridge has his chance to Be the Hero, Get the Girl, and Save the Day. That’s got to give him a leg up on the quest to be The Greatest Blogger in the World, right? Age 10+.

October Giveaway

OCTOBER MAJOR GIVEAWAY

Variety is the spice of life, and this month’s prize pack’s spicy indeed! Spend a year in Girl Hell,  search for truth, live a hilarious life alongside a comedian, and learn to cook for a growing family on a shrinking budget, in a pack that includes:

The Ghost’s Child by Sonya Hartnett SIGNED

A Year In Girl Hell: Dumped by Meredith Costain

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

A Nest Of Occasionals by Tony Martin

Woman Speak by Louise Nicholas and Jude Aquilina

On A Shoestring by Samela Harris

 

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close October 31, 2009.

OCTOBER FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

When you join our Facebook Group, not only do you become a part of one of Australia’s fastest growing online book groups, you also go into the draw to win prizes! This month, one lucky member will win a pack that includes:

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit SIGNED

After by Sue Lawson

Elephant Dance by Tammie Matson

Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson

On The Case by Moya Simons

Elephant Dance Dragonkeeper

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Black Dog Books, Dragon Publishing, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Penguin, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

 

The Lost Symbol Fever

The Lost Symbol sold 1 million copies worldwide in one day. While no-where near the numbers Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows raked in – 8 million in the US alone on Day 1 – there’s no doubting that Dan Brown’s latest is a hit. When a book has been as anticipated as this has, readers often find themselves at a loss after devouring it.

They need more.

Are you suffering from The Lost Symbol Fever / Withdrawals? Need your next conspiratorial fix? Well, check out these supplementary reads fresh off the press:

The Rough Guide to the Lost Symbol by Michael Haag
Dan Brown’s new thriller The Lost Symbol is the biggest global publishing phenomenon since his runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code. The new adventures of mystery-solving Professor of Symbology, Robert Langdon have attracted huge global interest and fresh controversies concerning Dan Brown’s ideas, characters and thoughts on mythology and history.The Rough Guide to The Lost Symbol traces all the debates concerning religion and secret societies and the views of historians on Dan Brown’s plots and ideas. It casts an eye on the locations of the book and how you can visit them and explains how The Lost Symbol connects to Brown’s previous work and other books. Whether you are a Dan Brown fanatic, sceptic or agnostic there is no doubting the excitement generated by his exciting stories all of which are explored in this guide. This new Rough Guide has the key to understanding The Lost Symbol.

The Secrets of the Lost Symbol by Ian Gittins
Explores all aspects of the most talked about secret society in the world, from its most famous members to its infamous history, revealing the facts behind the fiction of Dan Brown’s new blockbuster. For centuries the Freemasonry has been the subject of rumour and intrigue. From its obscure origins to the suspicion that it exercises huge influence on government and multinational corporations, there has always been more than a whiff of controversy about the organisation. Secrets of the Lost Symbol reveals the truth behind the myths, sifts the facts from the fiction, and unveils the mysterious rites and ceremonies. Ian Gittins delves deep into the true origins of the society, its philosophy and practices, describes the rituals, and profiles a number of key figures. Along the way, he also shows where fact and fiction have fought, and fiction has won the battle.

Uncovering the Lost Symbol by Tim Collins
Delves into the mysteries Dan Brown writes about in his latest novel. The symbology behind the racy thriller will be unravelled and explained to all.

Boomerang @ Bookfeast 2009

Whenever William the author is invited to an event, William the Boomerang Blogger gets indirectly invited too. On Wednesday, NSW authors and illustrators braved the orange dust storm, and headed into the CBD for this year’s Bookfeast, a great event organised by Haberfield school librarian Michael Fraser.

Some Boomerang Books Blog alums were there, including Deborah Abela, Belinda Murrell, Richard Harland and Kate Forsyth. Also there was Susanne Gervay, whose I Am Jack’s stage adaptation by MonkeyBaa is on until October 2 at the Seymour Theatre and is the talk of the town, Duncan Ball, Sue Whiting, Jenny Hale, and my current favourite (and the insanely funny) illustrator Sarah Davies, who was just awarded Best New Young Illustrator by the CBCA for the powerful Mending Lucille.

Now, pictures!

Fictional jigsaw

Why did you use a metafictive style (calling attention to the constructedness of the story)? For example, Micah is an unreliable narrator, Micah addresses the reader …

Direct address is one of the oldest forms of storytelling. ‘Here, let me tell you a story …’ Many early novels are told that way. It’s really only in the 19th-century that you see it begin to fade away. I see Liar as a return to older storytelling. Unreliable narrators are also a fairly old device though I was a lot more upfront about Micah’s unreliablity than say Dickens is about his unreliable narrators. The book is called Liar and on the first page of the book Micah announces that she’s a liar. Can’t be clearer than that. You don’t have to figure it out the way you have to with Pip in Great Expectations.

Where did your over-arching theme of lies and truth spring from?

I think the very act of writing stories means you have to deal with what’s true and what’s not and with the many different levels of truth. My book is very true to what it’s like to deal with the death of someone you loved, what it’s like to come from a family that does not function normally, what it’s like to grow up having to keep secrets, to live in fear that you might not be sane.

You use the term ‘verisimilitude’ in the book, referring to details that give something the appearance of being real. Your use of verisimilitude is masterful. Can you give any clues as to how you used this device?

Thank you. I’m not sure I would call it a device. I think the aim of many novelists is for the world they write to feel as real as possible. Whether you write crime or romance or science-fiction or lit-fic or whatever, your story is more likely to come alive if readers don’t feel like the characters are walking around on empty sound stages.

The structure is innovative and strategic, with sections based on ‘After’ and ‘Before’ and other parts. Why have you chosen this structure?

The story is told in three threads. The first is the ‘After’ sections which all take place after Micah’s part-time boyfriend, Zach, is murdered. The ‘Before’ sections, obviously, take place before Zach’s murder. The third thread, with titles like ‘History of Me’, consists of Micah’s reflections on herself, her family, her school, her world. Liar is as much a jigsaw puzzle as a novel, but one where those pieces could go together in many different ways. Writing it was a puzzle, too. I wrote it back to front and inside out. Not from start to finish, but scene by scene. As I wrote I shuffled scenes around, rewriting them with every move. I think it would be interesting to see what readers made of it if they read it out of order too. It would be interesting to read it backwards. I have a feeling that might even work.

There was a groundswell of opposition to the US cover. What is the issue here?

I wrote a book about a black girl and my US publisher put an image of a white girl on the cover. When people started to read the advance copies of the book that disjunction made some readers start questioning whether Micah was lying about her race (she’s not) and others to be angry about the whitewashing. The subsequent opposition caused my US publisher to change the cover to an image that is closer to what Micah looks like. In Australia my publisher, Allen & Unwin, came up with a cover that evokes the book–it’s a psychological thriller, which is also in its way a murder mystery–without using a face, which was the approach I always wanted. I love the Australian cover of Liar. With the rejacketing of the US cover I’m now happy with both the Oz and US covers of Liar.

What are you working on next?

I prefer not to talk about books until I have at least a first draft. I fear it will jinx them. Though sometime when I’m really immersed in a book I kind of can’t help myself. I am not at that stage.

Fictional jigsaw

Why did you use a metafictive style (calling attention to the constructedness of the story)? For example, Micah is an unreliable narrator, Micah addresses the reader …

Direct address is one of the oldest forms of storytelling. ‘Here, let me tell you a story …’ Many early novels are told that way. It’s really only in the 19th-century that you see it begin to fade away. I see Liar as a return to older storytelling. Unreliable narrators are also a fairly old device though I was a lot more upfront about Micah’s unreliablity than say Dickens is about his unreliable narrators. The book is called Liar and on the first page of the book Micah announces that she’s a liar. Can’t be clearer than that. You don’t have to figure it out the way you have to with Pip in Great Expectations.

Where did your over-arching theme of lies and truth spring from?

I think the very act of writing stories means you have to deal with what’s true and what’s not and with the many different levels of truth. My book is very true to what it’s like to deal with the death of someone you loved, what it’s like to come from a family that does not function normally, what it’s like to grow up having to keep secrets, to live in fear that you might not be sane.

You use the term ‘verisimilitude’ in the book, referring to details that give something the appearance of being real. Your use of verisimilitude is masterful. Can you give any clues as to how you used this device?

Thank you. I’m not sure I would call it a device. I think the aim of many novelists is for the world they write to feel as real as possible. Whether you write crime or romance or science-fiction or lit-fic or whatever, your story is more likely to come alive if readers don’t feel like the characters are walking around on empty sound stages.

The structure is innovative and strategic, with sections based on ‘After’ and ‘Before’ and other parts. Why have you chosen this structure?

The story is told in three threads. The first is the ‘After’ sections which all take place after Micah’s part-time boyfriend, Zach, is murdered. The ‘Before’ sections, obviously, take place before Zach’s murder. The third thread, with titles like ‘History of Me’, consists of Micah’s reflections on herself, her family, her school, her world. Liar is as much a jigsaw puzzle as a novel, but one where those pieces could go together in many different ways. Writing it was a puzzle, too. I wrote it back to front and inside out. Not from start to finish, but scene by scene. As I wrote I shuffled scenes around, rewriting them with every move. I think it would be interesting to see what readers made of it if they read it out of order too. It would be interesting to read it backwards. I have a feeling that might even work.

There was a groundswell of opposition to the US cover. What is the issue here?

I wrote a book about a black girl and my US publisher put an image of a white girl on the cover. When people started to read the advance copies of the book that disjunction made some readers start questioning whether Micah was lying about her race (she’s not) and others to be angry about the whitewashing. The subsequent opposition caused my US publisher to change the cover to an image that is closer to what Micah looks like. In Australia my publisher, Allen & Unwin, came up with a cover that evokes the book–it’s a psychological thriller, which is also in its way a murder mystery–without using a face, which was the approach I always wanted. I love the Australian cover of Liar. With the rejacketing of the US cover I’m now happy with both the Oz and US covers of Liar.

What are you working on next?

I prefer not to talk about books until I have at least a first draft. I fear it will jinx them. Though sometime when I’m really immersed in a book I kind of can’t help myself. I am not at that stage.

EXPOSURE by Joel Magarey excerpt

                 Here is

                 the unfinished map of the world,
                 the mists of slow mountains,
                 the ache of the whale,
                 the blue water crescent,
                 the sulphur-yellow caking
                 around the volcano,
                 the wind’s wild whisper.

                 Take it all and go further.

                      – Penny 

Prologue

In the early years when we were kissing, Penny and I would sometimes share the same breath, one lungful flowing between us as long as the oxygen lasted. I would come as close to her in that warm blind join of air as later in the joining of our bodies, dreams, and journeys. But once, on a night in Bombay, when our journey to India had taken me too far, Penny kissed me that way to try to bring me back.

Late that night I’d found myself running through the blue-black streets of the Colaba district. Something was happening to me – I’d been pounding through these streets for hours. A few blocks back I’d given a white-haired old woman nearly all our remaining rupees. When she’d taken them I’d been flooded with relief, but now as I raced towards the hotel the fear was again at my heels.

Rounding a corner, unable to stop in time, I jumped over a body. Ahead hundreds more lay sprawled, Bombay’s homeless sleeping on the pavement. In panic I swerved away from the sleepers and ran down the middle of the empty road. I didn’t understand what was happening to me but I knew I had to avoid getting caught again. I tried to think only about getting back to Penny and the hotel room, and this time staying there. All night as I’d headed back I’d kept seeing more crippled women, blind men or deformed children and kept getting urges; and though I’d resisted them, in the room they’d become so painful I’d had to run out to those people too. And each time that happened the most frightening urge intensified – the pressure in my chest that wanted me not to leave India in the morning, to let Penny fly home without me, and to make these streets my life.

Chest burning, I stopped at a corner lit in hazy yellow light and looked up and down the intersecting roads. A quiet voice made me turn. By a shop window a bone-thin, shawled woman stood cradling a baby. Without thinking I met her gaze – and looked away too late. I’d seen the two bloody crescents of infection, crawling up the whites of her eyes. My mind stilled, then hazed. The new urge landed like a punch.

Come out again to her with your Australian dollars. Or she’ll go blind – left like this by you.

My palms flew to my temples, I turned, and I sprinted.

Ten minutes later I’d reached the hotel and was hurrying past the night watchman, leaping up the staircase, jogging along the passage. At last; in the room again. I slumped back against the door. Penny was sitting on the bed in her T-shirt and undies, face strained and disapproving.

‘Penny, there’s another one.’

‘Joel! You said that—’

‘Will you stop me if I try to go out again? Physically, if you have to?’

For a moment Penny stared. Then her expression softened, and she got up and came over to me.

‘I will.’ She nodded. ‘I’ll stop you.’ Taking my arm, she tugged on it gently. ‘So, now, come to bed.’

The relief her promise brought and the compassion spreading over her face drew out the tears that had been welling in me for the five days since this had started.

***

Exhausted, Penny fell asleep quickly. Within minutes the urge to go back out to the bloody-eyed woman began to whisper. One last run, quickly, while she’s still there. Save her sight . . .

Sweating, stomach knotting, I tossed and huffed, until Penny moaned and pulled herself to me, draping a warm arm around my shoulder.

‘Sleep, now,’ she murmured. ‘If there’s anything to do, we’ll see in the morning. Now, only sleep, okay?’

With a great effort I managed to lie still.

Two hours later, she woke again. ‘No good?’ She drew herself up to rest on an elbow. In the darkness I felt her hand exploring my face like a blind person’s.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘Give me your mouth.’

Leaning down, she kissed me, then breathed gently into my mouth. I took her breath and returned it, and as we breathed like that I felt a caress of calmness for the first time since morning. She air-kissed me again; I felt calmer still. She did it a third time and finally, in that surging warmth, I felt the first gentle tugs of sleep, pulling me somewhere safe.

Praise for Exposure

‘An extraordinary story . . . wry, honest, amusing and evocative.’ Eva Hornung

‘A striking and substantial book, at once compelling, scary, delightfully comic and moving.’ Tom Shapcott

Joel Magarey guest blogs on life, death, and EXPOSURE

Since Exposure has come out, a few journalists have asked me what my most extreme travel experience was, which has got me thinking about death – always good for a new perspective on life. At first I thought the answer to their question had to be the experience I had in a Bolivian desert: setting fire to my hand and then my tent while still in my sleeping bag – then knocking over a full bottle of fuel to really get that blaze going. That was intense. Then I realised that, for intensity, I couldn’t go past nearly drowning in a glacier-fed Alaskan river that was busy freezing over.

A young inexperienced American called Troy and I had flown with a kayak into the remote Chigmit Mountains too late in autumn, when it was so cold the glaciers feeding our watercourse were only giving off a shallow trickle. We tore gaping holes in the kayak scraping to a halt on the constant gravel bars. Then Troy broke both our paddles trying to push us off the bars. Then, when the river finally got deeper and faster, we shot into some tree branches and capsized. In the 3-degree water I went into shock, my feet got stuck in the kayak and my head was forced under.

I digress. These memories have reminded me of not only how intensely alive a brush with death can make a person feel, but also a broader, parallel irony I discovered on my journey: that the passionate high road of our greatest desires runs close by the forest of our worst fears.

At 25, with a mind filled with dreams and post-Catholic sexual hang-ups, I had left my wise and beautiful love of seven years, Penny – along with a promising career in journalism – for a limitless global journey I’d imagined since childhood. I was also leaving behind a recent and unpalatable diagnosis, of obsessive compulsive disorder, and an unfinished course of therapy for it.

Very soon I’d got myself into some interesting pickles, such as a three-week compulsive nightmare involving Los Angeles, my terror of Alaska killing me, and many, MANY sleeping bags. Then there was the climb into Arctic mountains I undertook in November with almost no relevant experience. The cold was so intense it snap-froze the drips from my constantly dripping nose. To get food into my mouth I had to break foot-long stalactites from my nostrils.

I thought I was moving towards what I wanted – wider experience of love and women, a richer entry into life, and the mental cure I thought I could find for myself. And it was an astonishing journey, filled with wonders, intensities and joy — but also longing and illness. Two thirds of the way around the world, as I fell victim to another OCD attack in Zimbabwe, I saw in a moment that in some of the deepest ways I’d been heading far from where I’d thought I was going. I’d been risking madness but not health. I’d been risking death in a kayak and a Bolivian desert but not life with a woman I couldn’t stop loving.

I can’t give away how it all panned out for me; but death, life, and risk bring me back to that Alaskan river.

As Adrenalin finally kicked in, I wrenched my legs out of the kayak. Troy and I hauled ourselves out of the water and lay on top of the upturned kayak as it began to pick up speed. True, we still had problems. And we were heading towards more – like a white, frothing rapid just downriver – but that’s another story, another brush with death. For the moment, we were alive, and we knew it in every nerve.

Praise for Exposure

‘An extraordinary story . . . wry, honest, amusing and evocative.’ Eva Hornung

‘A striking and substantial book, at once compelling, scary, delightfully comic and moving.’ Tom Shapcott

How To Paint A Dead Man By Sarah Hall

The curious title of this book gives no clues to its contents other than to suggest that art is the link which binds this book together. Even the quotation from Cennino d’Andrea Cennini, from which the title is taken and which is included at the end of this book, only confirms that subtlety, colour, light and shadow are a necessary part of the way in which Sarah Hall paints her characters.

Signor Giorgio is an Italian artist famous for his obsessive depictions of a small group of bottles. Dying of cancer in a small town in Umbria, he looks back on his life and work, meditates on the meaning of art, remembers a past troubled by war and loss, and has daily battles with Theresa, his housekeeper, to maintain his smoking habit. One of his fond memories is of a young English artist, Peter, who once wrote him stimulating letters about art but who never included his address, so could not be answered.

Thirty years later, Peter Caldicutt, successful, middle-aged and described by his daughter as “one of his generation’s formidable eccentrics”, still struggles with the demands of art, both philosophically and literally. Trudging the rugged Cumbrian landscape which is his inspiration, he slips and becomes trapped. So begins his own musing on life, death and art, as he also contemplates the irony of being so unpredictable and unreliable that no-one will immediately miss him or know where he is and he may well die of exposure.

A little later again, Sue, Peter’s daughter, is also an artist. Her own field is photography but she is currently curator of an exhibition of objects which have had close personal significance for famous artists. A bottle given to her for the exhibition by her father forms a link with Signor Giorgio. Sue is reeling from the sudden, accidental death of her twin brother. Her sense of self has been fragile since childhood, but now, again, she is distanced from everything around her. She talks of herself as ‘you’, struggles to feel present, and discovers that only in the dangerous and illicit affair with her close friend’s husband can she feel alive and human. Sex, described  in graphic detail by Sue, is voyeuristic and coldly un-erotic in spite of shared lust and passion, but only through this sex can she find relief from the numbing separation from reality which she feels.

The fourth person whose life we enter in this book is a young Italian girl, Annette Tambroni, whose growing, congenital blindness has given her a special quality of imaginative vision which Signor Giorgio, who briefly met her whilst teaching art to local schoolchildren, describes as a gift for discovering invisible things. As readers, we experience Annette’s world through that vision, and Sarah Hall’s exceptional ability to convey the experiences and personality of each of her characters is at its best in Annette’s story.

Annette is innocent and vulnerable. She vaguely remembers a painting in her church which depicts ‘the Bestia’ but cannot describe it exactly and in her imagination it comes to represent all the unspeakable things  which her obsessively religious mother fears for her but will not discuss. The atmosphere of suppressed sexual tension, especially associated with the men in Annette’s family, is palpable, but Sarah Hall also manages to create incredible beauty, even in the final horror that enters Annette’s life.

Four different characters, four different stories, four different ways of telling the stories and a shifting pattern of time-frames throughout the book, all make this an ambitious novel which poses challenges for both the author and the reader. But Sarah Hall writes beautifully, intelligently and, at times, with simple poetic flair. The chapter titles,  ‘The Mirror Crisis’, ‘Translated from the Bottle Journals’, ‘The Fool on the Hill’, and ‘The Divine Vision of Annette Tambroni’,  repeat in that order throughout the book as each character’s story develops; and inevitably, perhaps, some stories are more gripping than others. I must admit that Peter’s dilemma caused me to skip chapters in order to discover whether he escaped and survived. But I did go back and finish the other chapters, and Signor Giorgio, Sue and Annette each held my attention in different ways.

Structurally, and in some of its content, this is not an easy book to read but it is absorbing, interesting, innovative and a thought-provoking way of considering some of the many aspects of art.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

T.S.Spivet is a twelve-year-old genius maker of maps, plans and illustrations. “I think”. he tells a CNN interviewer, “we are born with a map of the entire world in our heads…the patterns are already there and I see the map in my head and then just draw it”. This is a simplified version of what he tells the scientists at the Smithsonian, but they are cleverer than a CNN man trying to entertain an audience. T.S., however, is still just a child and his Selected Works are a wonderful grab-bag collection of his notes, drawings, maps and stories, as well as a vivid, funny and sometimes terrifying tale of how he came to be at the Smithsonian that night and the adventures he had getting there.

T.S. (the initials stand for ‘Tecumseh Sparrow’, and how he came by them is a story in itself) lives with his family on a ranch  in Montana. He can recite the latitude and longitude of his address to the nearest second, but he is not so certain about the thoughts and feelings of his family. His sister, Gracie, is sixteen and T.S. regards her as “the most together member of the family”. She is smart, sassy, and, when the family exasperates her, is inclined to a behaviour which T.S. has labelled ‘Dork Retreat’: i.e. she will plug in her earphones and/or retreat to her room with her music. If T.S. is the cause, he knows he can mollify her with 500 grams of chewy tape.

T.S’s mother, Dr Clare, is, so he says, “a misguided coleopterist” who has spent her entire adult life studying and classifying beetles. She can’t cook, is a champion blower-up of toasters, and she is “the kind of mother who would teach you the periodic table while feeding your porridge as an infant”. T.S. feels close to his mother and shares some of her interests but doesn’t understand her continuing obsession with finding a particular species of moth. He is much less close to his father, who is a taciturn farmer: “the sort of man who will walk into a room and say something like ‘you can’t bullshit a cricket’, and then just leave”.

No longer part of the family, but still very much a part of T.S’s notebooks, is Layton, his younger brother who has only recently died in a shooting accident which none of the family will talk about and which T.S. fears may have been his fault.

T.S. makes sense of his life by charting it in diagrams, maps and plans which he keeps in the colour-coded notebooks lining the walls of his room The extent of his curiosity and the huge variety of his work is apparent in the Selected Works, where panels alongside the text show (in a random selection) detailed botanical drawings; plans for corn-shucking; stages of male pattern baldness; “My first Inertia Experiment…a disaster”; his brother’s rocking horse; a map of the locations of the 26 McDonalds restaurants in North Dakota and much, much more. Some of this work has been sent by a family friend to the Smithsonian, Scientific American, Science, Discovery and Sport Illustrated for Kids, and some (in particular, his meticulous illustration of how the Bombardier Beetle mixes and expels boiling secretions from its abdomen) has been published.

T.S’s Smithsonian adventure begins with a phone call from an official who tells him that he has won the prestigious Baird Award for the popular advancement of science. Unaware of T.S’s age, he invites him to attend the Smithsonian’s hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary celebration dinner in Washington in order to accept the award and to give a keynote address. T.S. initially declines the invitation, but after a really scary day failing to help his father free ‘Old Stinky’, the bad-tempered goat, from some barbed wire on the farm and almost being bitten by a rattlesnake into the bargain, he changes his mind. To get to Washington, however, without talking to the Smithsonian official again and disclosing his age, is a problem. T.S. decides to make it a true adventure and, like Hanky the Hobo of a story he once heard, he decides to jump a freight train.

A large part of the Selected Works tells of T.S’s adventures, some of which are terrifying. Interspersed with these, however, are extracts from a notebook which he stole from his mother’s study as he was leaving. These tell the story of Emma Osterville, who married Tecumseh Tearho Spivet, T.S’s great, great, grandfather.

Emma’s life and her struggles to be accepted as a geologist in the conservative, male-dominated scientific world of America in the 1800s, make fascinating reading. Nevertheless, I was so taken up with T.S’s adventures that I began to skip over them to find out what happened to T.S. and then came back to them later. If T.S. had drawn a plan of the way I read this book (and he did once try to map Melville’s Moby Dick), it might have looked like this:

Main story….side notes….main story….side notes….Emma’s story….main story….main story….main story….Emma’s story….side notes….Emma’s story….T.S’s thanks….Reif Larsen’s thanks….Publisher’s information page.
 
Whichever way you read this book, it is a wonderfully imaginative work of art and literature. Reif Larsen captures the spirit of a twelve-year-old boy, but also manages to tell a story, or stories, which will appeal to a many age-groups. Many of T.S’s observations are very acute and very funny, although only an adult might see the humour of some of them. Larsen’s publishers, too, have done him proud. The book itself is innovative and inventive and a delight. Even T.S’s thanks page and Reif Larsen’s own acknowledgements are worth reading, and I particularly liked T.S’s additions to the publisher’s information page at the front of the book – a page which only publishers, booksellers, librarians and reviewers would normally read. Added to the CIP Catalogue information is a note: “This book is about”- and a list of 27 entries, which includes “7. WHISKEY DRINKING – FICTION”, ”    12. HOBO SIGNS – FICTION”, “16. HONEY NUT CHEERIOS – FICTION”, and even an entry for “MIDWESTERN WORMHOLES”, which is also Fiction. That should make shelving the book in any particular section of a bookshop difficult!

This is a truly inspired, inspiring, imaginative and novel novel, and you can see more about it at http://www.tsspivet.com/

CLAIRE HALLIDAY guest blogs, asking…

Do you want sex with that?

Our attitudes to sex in society have hit the headlines more than once in recent weeks – the public reaction to the Kyle and Jackie O lie detector debacle in which a teenage girl was forced to submit to an on-air interrogation about her past sexual experiences; the enormous social media-led outcry, prompted by Mia Freeman’s blog, over clothing chain Cotton On’s increasingly inappropriate t-shirt slogans (I’m A Tits Man) for babies; and the ongoing political debate about same sex marriages.

Sex sells, it’s true, and in Australian society today it seems that there is so much of it to buy. The alternative is, I guess, to simply ignore it but, from billboards to music video hits on weekend television, it’s becoming a tougher thing to do.

I’m thinking about all this – and much more – in the lead-up to my appearance at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. Never done the writers’ festival thing before – not as a speaker anyway – and now trying to come up with intelligent points to make about the topic at hand. It’s actually Women Talking Erotica but from that, I’m sure, will spring an argument or two about where we are at with sex in Australian culture today – an age where sex and the advertising of its influence seems to dominate our visual media, like it or not.

Sometimes, my conservatism alarms me. Other times, I try to pick up the phone to give Mum a heads-up to all my ‘wild days’ revelations about to be published in my new book and think I should have been more conservative when I was younger. Just a bit. (I still haven’t made that phone call.)

I’ve had my share of it it’s true – breathed excitement into men as a fantasy phone call operator, been on the set of porn films and at swingers’ parties in my role as feature writer for various magazines and newspapers across the country and have, in the biblical sense, utilised it for its ‘higher’ purpose in the conception of four children. And in the end it’s probably motherhood, more than anything, that has shaped my current attitudes.

And so I am thinking, trying to make sense of a topic that has the power to cause people to make no sense at all. Do I want sex with that? Sometimes. And the other times – in the delivery of my barbecue chicken advertisement, or my toddler’s fashion statements? Well, no, actually. But is anyone listening?

Do You Want Sex With That? by Claire Halliday
Combining memoir and reportage, this is an extremely brave and honest look at the place of sex throughout Australian life: from the pervasive sexualisation of advertising and children, to the more minority pursuits of swinging and porn-films, as well as the rise of the abstinence movement.

September Book Giveaway

SEPTEMBER MAJOR GIVEAWAY

Let this month’s prize pack take you on an unforgettable journey – globe-trot with Joel Magarey, get lost among the desert elephants of Namibia, pig out in northern Spain. Relax and soak in William McInnes’ reflections on his father, and unleash your inner-child with the hottest children’s releases. The pack includes:

A Man’s Got To Have A Hobby by William McInnes SIGNED

Ivory Moon by Sally Henderson

Exposure: A Journey by Joel Magarey

Everything But The Squeal by John Barlow

Schooling Around: Robot Riot! by Andy Griffiths

Looking For Flavour by Barbara Santich

It’s Yr Life by Tempany Deckert & Tristan Bancks

Gone by Michael Grant

The Greatest Blogger In The World by Andrew McDonald

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close September 30, 2009.

Ivory Moon
Everything But The Squeal
Gone

SEPTEMBER FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

When you join our Facebook Group, not only do you become a part of one of Australia’s fastest growing online book groups, you also go into the draw to win prizes! This month, one lucky member will win a pack that includes:

The Pheonix Files: Arrival by Chris Morphew

Brainjack by Brian Falkner

Big Stories From Little Lunch by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane

Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson

Allie McGregor’s True Colours by Sue Lawson

Tales From The Labyrinth/The Stone Ladder by Peter Lloyd

Jetty Road by Cath Kenneally

Chinese Cinderella: The Mystery of the Song Dynasty Painting


Big Stories From Little Lunch


Scatterheart


Allie McGregor's True Colours


Tales from the Labyrinth / The Stone Ladder

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Black Dog Books, Hachette, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Random House, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

Indigenous Literacy Project

Video courtesy of: Eden Media

Frequent readers of the blog will know that Boomerang Books is a proud supporter of the Indigenous Literacy Project. On September 2, 2009, we will be donating 10% of proceeds from book sales to the cause, so if you’ve been holding out on a particular purchase, and you want to do your part to help close the gap and improve Indigenous Literacy, drop by the store.

About the Indigenous Literacy Project

The Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP) is a partnership between the Australian Book Industry and The Fred Hollows Foundation.  

Working closely with the Australian Booksellers Association and the Australian Publishers Association, The Fred Hollows Foundation purchases and supplies books and other culturally appropriate learning materials to remote communities where The Foundation works.  Communities select and order reading material from catalogues and sample books provided by The Australian Booksellers Association.  The Fred Hollows Foundation staff also identify other literacy needs.  The books are then supplied to schools, libraries, early learning centres such as crèches, women’s Centres and other identified institutions, to enhance their pool of literacy resources.

For more information on the Indigenous Literacy Project, click here.

BOOKS ALIVE

Books Alive, an Australian Government initiative, aims to encourage all Australians to turn off their screens and get reading.

In choosing to purchase one of its “50 Books You Can’t Put Down”, you are eligible to receive a FREE book – either a dazzling collection of brand-new short stories by ten of Australia’s best writers, or Grug Learns to Read, a new title in the classic Australian series.

50 Books You Can’t Put Down

The Book of Rapture by Nikki Gemmell
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
The Rip by Robert Drewe
Dead Man Running by Ross Coulthart & Duncan McNab
The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Too Close to Home by Linwood Barclay
206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
Shatter by Michael Robotham
How to Break Your Own Heart by Maggie Alderson
Dear Fatty by Dawn French
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Parky: My Autobiography by Michael Parkinson
The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Through a Glass Darkly by Caroline Jones
Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement by Virginia Lloyd
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
The Night My Bum Dropped by Gretel Killeen
To Love, Honour and Betray by Kathy Lette
The True Story of Butterfish by Nick Earls
Occy by Mark Occhilupo & Tim Baker
True Colours by Adam Gilchrist
A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
Australian Tragic by Jack Marx
Pacific Fury by Peter Thompson
1788 by David Hill
My God! It’s a Woman by Nancy Bird
The People’s Train by Tom Keneally
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Dog Boy by Eva Hornung
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Wanting by Richard Flanagan
Dark Country by Bronwyn Parry
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn
It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Eagle Day by Robert Muchamore
Robot Riot! by Andy Griffiths
Somebody’s Crying by Maureen McCarthy
Pearlie in the Park by Wendy Harmer
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Nixie’s Song by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black
From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly & Kev Carmody
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Tempany Deckert

As a kid growing up on a farm on the outskirts of Melbourne, children’s books were my sanctuary.

They were the closest group of friends an isolated girl could ask for. They provided me with reassurance and inspiration whenever loneliness got the better of me. The Magic Faraway Tree gave me hope that sheep, snakes and chooks weren’t my only friends. If I looked hard enough, I could find magical lands, pixies, sprites and a cavalcade of fun friends. Came Back To Show You I Could Fly taught me all about city kids and the harmful affects of drug and alcohol abuse, So Much To Tell You showcased bravery and finding your own voice, and The Secret Seven surrounded me with the close-knit group of friends that I’d always pined for. To Kill A Mockingbird transported me to a faraway land called America that as an adult I now call home. 

So, not surprisingly, the books I’ve written all deal with isolated kids trying to find connection in the world too. I hope they provide kids with warmth, comfort, and a trusted friend when there’s no one else to turn to. The Fashion Police are two shy teen girls who manage to generate new friends and acceptance when they design cool clothes for their peer group. Radio Rebels are a bunch of kids in a small country town who challenge the status quo when they start up a youth radio station. But my new young adult novel, ITS YR LIFE, portrays two teens from vastly different worlds that discover that friendship knows no bounds when push comes to shove. 

If it weren’t for children’s books, my childhood could have been a very lonely one. But instead, I was surrounded with a slew of positive and inspiring peers. The fact that they were fictional made no difference. In my child’s mind those characters were possibly even more authentic than the real people that surrounded me. For that reason, I love children’s books and I feel very lucky to be able to create new ones.

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.

*********

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.”

Hacking into Brainjack

Brainjack is a relatively fast-paced thriller. What literary devices did you employ to the narrative to keep the pace alive?
Not many, consciously at least. To create suspense, the story hinges more on a constantly twisting plot that leads the reader in one direction then abruptly turns in an unexpected way. I have occasionally used devices such as foreshadowing and intercutting just to make sure that the tension doesn’t flag, but I am very aware that if overused, these devices become obvious and lose their power, so I would rather that the pace and suspense springs naturally from the story.

How important was the need to have technical knowledge of cyberspace when devising the plot of Brainjack?
It was absolutely vital. I have a background in the IT industry, but even so it took months of study to understand the world in which reallife hackers move. Of course it has been fictionalised, and ‘futurised’ a little but to create the fiction, and to imagine the future I first had to understand the reality. I also had to do a lot of research into the ‘neuro’ technology which is at the heart of the story, and every few weeks it seems we see on the news some further advance in that field.

Protagonist Sam is a very likeable character. How important is it to have your readers like the main character and what do you see as Sam’s most endearing qualities?
Generally if you don’t like the protagonist, you won’t like the book. Of course there are notable exceptions to that rule, but I don’t think I would be brave enough to try to write one. I have always believed that while we are reading, we are the protagonist, or at the very least we care about the protagonist. If we don’t care about them, we don’t care what happens to them, and so we have no interest in finishing the story. Sam is a geek. He lacks confidence, particularly with girls. In the real world he is clumsy and awkward, but in the cyber world he is fast, sleek and graceful. In early drafts of Brainjack he had the online nickname Penguin because they possess the same kind of qualities in and out of water. However this was removed as it got a bit too confusing. I think many people can relate to a hero who is shy and awkward, but has hidden strengths.

How much research did you have to do into real life hacking for the novel?
A lot. There are some very good books on hacking, that analyse the techniques and skills to teach IT administrators how better to protect their systems. Unfortunately these books would also make a good manual for the bad guys, so I won’t name any of them. I also did a lot of online research and interviewed colleagues in the IT industry who have knowledge of hacking.

What are you working on next?
A story set in Iowa, USA. I spent three months in Iowa City last year as part of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. While there I saw potential for a story aimed at slightly younger readers, and this is my current focus. I can’t talk about it yet, as it is still in progress, but so far it is loads of fun.

Write on time

In Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait the main character, Spider, struggles with the concept of time travel–and readers see its possibilities and consequences. What event would you go back in time to see or is there something from the future that you’d like to witness?

I’d be seriously tempted to go forward, like the hero in Wells’ The Time Machine, some great big gulp of time, to see what I might see (and hoping I could stay as close to my time machine as possible, in case it turns out that the future is not quite as happy and shiny as I might hope). However, if I were to go back in time, I wouldn’t mind seeing something amazing: what really killed the dinosaurs? How did life on Earth actually begin? Who first came up with the idea of coffee?

Your novels appeal to the science-fiction community. What inspires you to write this genre, and have you considered writing something other than sci-fi?

I write sci-fi because I’ve always felt like I’m living in a very science-fictional world. The key influence for me was watching the first moon landing, on live TV, when I was six years old. Seeing this skyscraper-tall rocket blast off, and then actual guys bouncing around in big white glary suits, on the moon only a few days later, was gobsmacking. I was just old enough to start to understand what I was seeing. I could go outside at night, and look at the moon, and imagine that if I could just squint and peer enough, I might see those guys bouncing around. When in later years I got a telescope, the first thing I wanted to see, if possible, was the equipment left behind by the lunar explorers. Sadly, my telescope wasn’t up to it, but it didn’t keep me from trying. This whole thing led me to an extreme interest in what at the time was referred to as ‘outer space’, which at the time was deeply uncool. It continues to astonish me that I’ve lived to see, if not more people on the moon, then at least the so-called ‘geek ascendancy’. That’s a sci-fi development no writer ever saw coming. If I were to write some other genre, it would be crime or spy-fiction, my other two great loves. You can see the influence of this material in all my books, most of which are mysteries as much as they are sci-fi tales.

In Time Machines Repaired While-UWait, there are endless shifts in timelines, and past and present versions of ‘Spider’. Do these events and characters evolve in order as you write from start to finish, or do you have pieces of ‘events’ and slot them together as you go?

No. It’s a big chaotic mess that usually requires a great deal of sorting out once I’ve finished the first draft. I love time travel stories, but I do hate the organisational and logistical hassles involved in making them work properly.

On one of your blogs you mention you have a sequel to Time Machines Repaired- While-U-Wait, is that what you are working on next?

I am working on a sequel, tentatively titled Time Never Sleeps. I’m currently about 23,500 words into it, and it’s going quite slowly, because of the problem I referred to in the previous answer, that it’s very difficult to keep everything straight. Fortunately, it’s just as difficult for my poor hero, Spider Webb, as well, who utterly hates time machines and time travel with the fury of a thousand suns!

The Truth Will Out

You’ve referred to Truth as ‘the so-called sequel’ to The Broken Shore because, although that’s how it’s likely to be pitched, it’s not really a sequel. Why did you choose to focus on Villani, rather than write a second book on Cashin? Were you trying to avoid another series?
I love the Jack Irish series in a parental way. It’s part of me. And, to my great surprise and joy, many people want another Jack Irish book in the same way I once wanted another James Bond novel (well, perhaps not quite as much). But the idea of another series fills me with terror. When it came to think about what to write afterThe Broken Shore

, I found myself thinking about Stephen Villani (a minor player in The Broken Shore). I’d enjoyed his character and I thought I’d try to capture him and his world in a way that treated cops as ordinary people who, as the poet said, have to save the sum of things for pay.

The Broken Shore won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger among many other awards. How did the success of that book affect the writing of this one?
It’s not the success or otherwise of the last book that matters. It’s that every book drains the well and it takes an ever-greater effort to begin each new one. I also have a horror of repeating myself, something that doesn’t help matters.

Truth follows two homicide investigations but also takes in the world of media and politics. Do you draw on your experience as a court reporter in creating your plots? Do you do a lot of research to get these worlds right?
Writing draws on everything that’s ever happened to you. My aim is always to get the feel of the book right. But it’s fiction. I make stuff up. That’s the fun of it.

As with The Broken Shore, one of the very appealing aspects of Truth is that the pared-back nature of the book makes the reader work a bit harder to keep everything in their head–to make connections, remember characters. Is this your intention?
I like reading books that make you work, make you join the bits, reach your own conclusions, and so I try to write books like this.

Truth is set in the city but visits the country and The Broken Shore included descriptions of the natural world; what appeals to you about writing about nature?
Part of being a writer is being an observer. I like looking closely at things. I like staring at things, waiting for them to reveal themselves. To capture these impressions in ways that speak to the reader is the great challenge of writing. It’s also its greatest pleasure.

You’ve said that when you’re writing a book you don’t know where it’s going. Can you tell us at what point in the writing process you worked it all out? Was your publisher at all worried?
I generally begin to understand the story about three-quarters of the way through the writing. I don’t know how the process works but I now know that there is a process at work. I think worried is too mild a word for my publisher’s state of mind while he waited for the book. I think he had secretly given up on it. But he understands what miserable, lying creatures writers are and he never lets them off the hook, never gives them the excuse they are looking for to chuck the whole thing in.

Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
I’m fiddling around with the fifth Jack Irish novel and thinking about returning to the territory ofIn the Evil Day.

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’.

BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS! August Book Giveaway

This month, Boomerang Books are giving you more chances to win! Alongside our regular monthly giveaway and our Facebook-exclusive giveaway, to celebrate August being the month of the Children’s Book Council Australia’s Book Week, we have a special children’s prize pack to giveaway.

AUGUST MAJOR GIVEAWAY

This month’s prize pack is an eclectic mix set to capture your imagination, touch your heart and tickle your tastebuds. While Judith McNeil paints an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s, Angela Valamanesh’s art inspires, and Ben O’Donoghue and Mary Taylor Simeti share recipes that plot you on the path to becoming the Masterchef of your household. The pack includes:

Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett SIGNED
Here is Plum Coyle, on the threshold of adolescence, striving to be new. Her fourteenth birthday is approaching: her old life and her old body will fall away, and she will become graceful, powerful, at ease. The strength in the objects she stores in a briefcase under her bed – a crystal lamb, a yoyo, an antique watch, a penny – will make sure of it.
Over the next couple of weeks, Plum’s life will change. Her beautiful neighbour Maureen will begin to show her how she might fly. The older brothers she adores – the charismatic Justin, the enigmatic Cydar – will court catastrophe in worlds that she barely knows exist. And her friends – her worst enemies – will tease and test, smelling weakness. They will try to lead her on and take her down.
Who ever forgets what happens when you’re fourteen?
Butterfly is a gripping, disquieting, beautifully observed novel that confirms Hartnett as one of Australia’s finest writers.

Outdoor by Ben O’Donoghue (Hardcover) SIGNED
In his first-ever cookbook, Ben brings the wide-sweeping world of barbecuing to your backyard via one of the most stunningly designed books around. No need to walk over hot coals to impress your BBQ guests, these divine recipes will leave a lasting taste in everyone’s mouth.
Try Grilled Lobsters from Norfolk, or Pork Loin With Bay And Balsamic from Italy or even a Thai-inspired dessert of Grilled Pineapple With Rum Ginger And Lemongrass Syrup. Yum! And while you grill, serve guests a Southern Cross Pimm’s barbecue-side. Fresh in every way, this cookbook is a summer staple.

Letters to Leonardo by Dee White
On his fifteenth birthday, Matt receives a card from his mother – the mother he grew up believing was deceased. Feeling betrayed by both his parents, Matt’s identity is in disarray and he begins writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci as a way to sort out the ‘mess’ in his head. Through the connections he makes between his own life and that of Leonardo, Matt unravels the mystery that his life has become and discovers his mother’s secrets and the reasons behind his abandonment.
A unique and powerful story about a fifteen year old boy who tries to deal with his mother’s mental illness by writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci. Ages 12+. 

A True History of the Hula Hoop by Judith Lanigan
A beguiling and utterly original debut novel about two women born centuries apart but joined by the spirit of adventure and a quest for true love.
Catherine is a hula-hooping performance artist, a talented and independent individual plying her trade on the international burlesque stage. Columbina meanwhile is a feisty female clown and a principal in a 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte troupe.
As Catherine and Columbina struggle to make sense of an increasingly nonsensical world – and to assert their rights as performers and women during times of profound change – their lives, as if by magic, seem to interact.

No One’s Child by Judith McNeil
Judith takes you on a journey back to her childhood – as a ‘railway brat’, growing up in small towns along the tracks while her father worked on the lines. Judith’s life was one of hardship and poverty. The eldest of six children, she soon took on the role of provider and carer, while desperately craving affection from a mother too tired to give it and a father who resented her because she wasn’t a son. Yet there was still joy to be found: in the vibrant Gypsy camp, full of laughter and love in the eyes of Tom, the engine driver who believed in her and fed her thirst for knowledge and in the friendship of Billy, the boy who could see into her soul. No One’s Child is an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s. With a vivid cast of characters and set against the backdrop of the ever-changing outback landscape, it will leave you marvelling at the indomitable spirit of one little girl who was determined to forge her own destiny.

Angela Valamanesha: About Being Here by Cath Kenneally (Hardcover)

Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy’s Abundant Isle by Mary Taylor Simeti

Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close August 31, 2009.

AUGUST FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

As always, we have a great prize pack to give away to one of our Facebook Group members, which includes: Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, Shakespeare: The Most Famous Man In London by Tony Thompson, Third Transmission by Jack Heath, A Tale of Two Women by Christina Slade, Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger by Sandy Fussell, Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule.

Shakespeare Third Transmission A Tale of Two Women Shaolin Tiger

Boomerang Books is fast becoming one of Australia’s biggest book groups on Facebook, so what are you waiting for? Join Now!

BONUS AUGUST CHILDREN’S GIVEAWAY

Entering this bonus giveaway is easy enough. 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? It has to be in 20 words or less. When entering, mention which prize pack you’d like to be in the running for – picture book or fiction for ages 10+. Entries close August 31, 2009.

Section A: ‘Book Safari’-Themed Picture Books: The Little One: The Story of a Red-Tailed Monkey by Kaitie Afrika Litchfield, The Gorilla Book: Born To Be Wild by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Chimpanzee Book: Apes Like Us by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Penguin Book: Birds In Suits by Dr Mark Norman, The Antarctica Book: Living In The Freezer by Dr Mark Norman, The Great Barrier Reef Book: Solar Powered by Dr Mark Norman, When No-one’s Looking: On The Farm by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo, When No-one’s Looking: At the Zoo by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo.

The Little One The Chimpanzee Book Penguin Book At The Zoo

Section B: Fiction 10+

Samurai Kids: White Crane (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Monkey Fist, Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures by Sam Bowring.

White Crane Owl Ninja Letters to Leonardo The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures

A big thanks to our friends at Acorn Press, Black Dog Books, Exisle Publishing, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Picador, Penguin, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

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.

The Water Dreamers: How Water and Silence Shaped Australia by Michael Cathcart

I’m glad for books like Michael Cathcart’s The Water Dreamers. In recent years, history has been reinvigorated by taking new slants on old narratives. Here, Cathcart traces the familiar narrative of Australian history by concentrating on water, namely a lack of it, in a dry ‘silent’ continent. What this approach allows is a kind of environmental, as well as economic, history to unfold as the new colony rapaciously moves outward, subsuming indigenous communities in search of scarce water resources. This is contrasted with the indigenous husbanding of the land and its water, and the deep knowledge and often ingenious systems devised to use water in concert with the land, rather than against it. Overlaying this is the larger cultural picture of Australia as a hostile place, with an enormous silence at its heart. In the European mind, the land is under-utilised, waiting for the civilising touch of resource exploitation and development. The question that constantly came to mind while reading was ‘How far have we come?’. As recent history has shown and Cathcart suggests, the answer is not far. This is a fascinating history that fits nicely into the larger picture of Australia, while exploring some of the things we take for granted in our national psyche.

Interview with DEBORAH ABELA

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be a speaker at the NSW Writers’ Centre’s 4th Annual Kids and YA Festival, able to rub shoulders and exchange quips with authors infinitely more famous than I. With all the events leading up to the main Saturday, I was bumping into authors at a frequency I’m not quite used to. One of those authors was Deborah Abela. I took the seventh time I ran into her in as many days as sign enough to pull her aside for a quick interview.

For those that don’t know, Deborah is the author of, among other things, the wildly successful Max Remy series, which only recently came to a close. Not long ago, she was being asked, “What’s next?” Well, now, she’s released it – a fun, quirky novel whose jacket illustration I’m secretly insanely jealous of, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen. I sat down with Deborah to discuss books past, present and future.

The Max Remy series spawned ten books… How hard was it to say goodbye to the franchise?
I knew the series was going to end at Max Remy Part 10: The Final Curtain. I had great fun writing it, but found that over the next few weeks, I felt despondent and irritable and wanted to crawl into corners to sleep or cry. Not being like this usually, I eventually worked out that I was grieving for my characters, especially Max and Linden, my two young superspies I’d sent all over the world to save it from multiple bad guys. I’m okay now, though.  
 
Which of the characters in the Max Remy universe was your favourite?
Max will always have a special place in my heart, because the idea for the series came from this young feisty but clumsy girl spy who is the hero of each book, but her cute spy partner Linden, who is calm, smart and funny, is my fav. I’ve had letters from readers wanting to be his girlfriend, so I guess other people feel like I do. 
 
In a sentence, pitch your new book, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen.
Aurelie Bonhoffen adores living on a seaside pier amusement park with her family, but on her twelfth birthday, she discovers that some of them are ghosts.  

What’s the hardest thing about writing for children?
I love writing for kids! Apart from trying to find enough time to write, one of the hardest parts is getting the tone of the book right and finding the voices of the characters. This can be very fast as with my soccer legend, Jasper Zammit, but sometimes, as with Aurelie in The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen, it can take its good sweet time.

What’s next for Deb Abela? Another Aurelie Book?
At the moment I am working on a book where a major city has flooded. Most people managed to escape but a group of kids were left behind and have to find new ways to survive in this world of floating building tops. There are sea monsters, flying machines and evil harbour lords. Its been soggy but lots of fun.
 
Sounds great. Of your books – which one has the best opening line?
I like the opening line from The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen:

The girl lay in her coffin with a faint smile on her powder-white face.

Its a quirky, comic novel by the way.
 
Who would you say were (and are) your biggest influences?
Children’s authors, books and the kids themselves. More and more I love hearing authors speak. There is so much to learn about writing. I also love getting kids excited about books by speaking to them during author visits and at festivals. Of course, I love reading and always get excited by a well-written, well-told kids story. 
 
If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?
I think, perhaps in a previous life, I was Norman Hunter who wrote the Professor Branestawm book about a wacky, inventive professor whose inventions often went terribly wrong. Either that or we’re related. I loved those books as a kid. 
  
The last Australian book you read?
The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks. Very funny, twisted and seriously subversive as far as all those other vampire books go. 

What is the most valuable piece of advice you were never told?
The more you write sometimes the harder it gets, but oh how sweet it is when it all clicks into place. I was also never told how wonderful and generous and supportive kids’ book writers are… This has been an especially sweet discovery.

Historical Element

Was heightened awareness of water issues in Australia the spark for this book?

I starting thinking about this book in the early 1990s, long before the water crisis. I wanted to write a national history that focussed on a challenge which was common to all Australians. At the same time, I was preoccupied with two brilliant but very different books. The first was The Tyranny of the Distance in which Geoffrey Blainey showed how distance was the great challenge which had shaped both the pattern of Australian settlement and key Australian attitudes. I have tried to treat water in much the same way. The second book was Paul Carter’s elusive The Road to Botany Bay, which redefined the way historians think about exploration. In the 1990s, few people understood what I meant by ‘a history of water’. The subject sounded esoteric–as if I was writing a history of dirt. But today, water is the number-one challenge to our future–and everyone gets why it’s vital that we understand its history.

 

Is Australia still the ‘silent’ continent?

Colonial Australia was ‘the silent continent’ just as colonial Africa was ‘the dark continent’. The first colonists imagined that Australia was a brooding silent place covered by a vast and gloomy wood. Many of them thought of the Aborigines as a sort of shadow people who were living in a timeless limbo. These colonists believed that they were destined to bring Australia to life with the sounds of industry. They would sweep across the continent, cutting down trees and firing guns–shattering the silence and startling the continent into life. They would fill it with ‘the hum of industry’. But the continent had other plans. At its heart it remained stubbornly silent. The 19th-century explorers referred to this lethargy of the inland as a ‘death-like silence’. It was filled with foreboding. They experienced the inland as silent because it was dry. Today, I suspect that many of us experience the ‘silence’ of the outback as a spiritual experience. We think, not of death, but of eternity.

 

Do you think Australian history can be characterised as one of anxiety towards and alienation from the landscape?

By 1900, Australians were gripped by a fear that they have failed to occupy inland Australia.The symbol of this failure and disappointment was the vast salt lake, Lake Eyre. It was the withered remnant of the inland sea which ought to occupy the centre of Australia, but didn’t. Just as the whites had robbed the Aborigines, on the grounds that they never properly occupied the country, so the white feared that Asian hordes would descend and claim this still unoccupied land for themselves. Many whites believed that their sole hope of truly possessing this land lay in hydro-engineering. Through their own ingenuity, they would make the deserts bloom.

 

What can Australia learn from our history of mismanagement of scarce water resources?

For too long, white Australians thought of the bush and the outback as places where nature was absent or weird. They regarded engineering, not as a way of enhancing nature, but of compensating for the great void at the heart of Australia. The challenge today is to understand how nature and engineering can work together to produce a water system that is productive, sustainable and which nourishes the soul. But we should also celebrate the water systems which we have managed well. The most outstanding of these is the water supply for Melbourne. The vast closed catchments in the ranges northeast of the city have been managed by government authorities for over 100 years. The result is an affordable and reliable supply of the best urban water in the world.

 

What are your broader hopes for The Water Dreamers?

I have writtenThe Water Dreamers as book which speaks to all Australians. I hope that it challenges and changes the way we think about our past, and about who we are.

 

What are you working on next?

I have recently finished a TV documentary about the runaway convict William Buckley who lived with an Aboriginal tribe called the Wathaurong for over 30 years. I am now writing a book about him.

The Roy is back in Town

James Roy has more awards under his belt than you can count. Ben Beaton asks him about Edsel Grizzler: Voyage to Verdada, the first book in a new three-part series.

Where did the concept of Edsel Grizzler: Voyage to Verdada and all that it entails come from?
The first part of the story had been rattling around in my head for over 10 years– the idea of a quirky boy who discovers a mysterious inter-dimensional pod/portal. But that was as far as the story went. Then, in my usual way, I simply forced myself to launch into the story and ‘follow my nose’. What I ended up with was something of a classic three-act structure, but ironically, the first act, despite being set in the real world, felt too surreal, almost cartoonish. Whereas Verdada was a rather more austere, soulless kind of place, despite its pretense of being ‘A Place of Forever Fun’. So I had to make Edsel a rather more sad, lonely kind of individual than he’d originally been. I also think there’s a bit of a fable going on, speaking to this idea of reality and artificiality. There might even be a touch of humanism–I find the idea of people disregarding the wonder and joy of being in the present while they look for something better, quite sad. I don’t think life is a dress rehearsal.

Your hero Edsel Grizzler faces a difficult choice, and suffers the consequences. What messages are there for readers about signing up for a ‘sure thing’ before reading the fine print?
I find the word ‘message’ suggestive of some kind of agenda, which young readers despise. Having said that, if a kid were to read my book and, as a result, begin to think about how they can find joy in the everyday, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Voyage to Verdada sits comfortably alongside Alice in Wonderland, or even The Wizard of Oz, where the simple pleasures of home outweigh the excitement of the discovered world. Were you thinking of the ‘stranger in a strange land’ scenario when you wrote the novel?
I think that all good stories put characters in different ‘worlds’. Harry Potter and the Narnia books are obvious examples. But in some ways, ‘realistic’ books deal with this idea as well. One of my favourite books is Josh, by Ivan Southall, which is about a city kid who ends up in a country town where his pedigree dictates that he should fit in, but he doesn’t. But if I were looking for a real link to the ‘stranger in a strange land’ scenario, I’d probably look at the nine years I spent in PNG and Fiji as a missionary kid. Perhaps at some subconscious level I’m exploring my own questions of belonging. That’s what writers do, isn’t it?

What do you think teens are looking for from a good book in this digital age?
I don’t believe that what young people want from their entertainment has changed all that much. Basically a good story with strong, believable characters will do it every time. What has changed a little is how we access that story. The Sunday night TV movie has declined in popularity, because we now prefer to buy the DVD of a show we really like and watch several episodes in a row, rather than sitting down to watch it at a prescribed weekly time, interrupted by ad breaks. In the digital age the method of getting the story–audio book, digital reader, ebook, graphic novel, or conventional novel–is somewhat secondary to our universal desire for a strong story. We love stories. It’s actually very simple.

What are you working on next?
I’m really excited to be putting together some of the planning for City, a follow-up to Town, which was a collection of linked short stories I find short stories both challenging and liberating. And when City is done, it’ll be time to return to Edsel. I can’t wait..

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!

July Book Giveaway

Another month, another giveaway. July’s is Ashes-tinged and filled to the brim for cricket fans and avid readers alike, so be sure to register HERE for your chance to win copies of:

Cricket Kings by William McInnes  SIGNED
Step into the lives of a team of regular middle-aged men who meet each week to play cricket in their local park. With these characters William will make us laugh and cry. And never again will we think that someone is just a regular bloke – everyone can be a king or a queen in their own suburb.

 

Glenn McGrath: Line and Strength by Glen McGrath SIGNED
From working the land in Narromine to winning cricket’s World Cup three times, Glenn McGrath has always faced life with fierce determination and an unerring will to succeed despite the odds. Now, following his retirement from international cricket, McGrath shares the story of his life – in cricket and off the field.
 

The Cricket War by Gideon Haigh SIGNED
It was the end of cricket as we knew it – and the beginning of cricket as we know it. In May 1977, the cricket world woke to discover that a businessman called Kerry Packer had signed 35 elite international players for his own televised World Series Cricket. The Cricket War is the definitive account of the split that changed the game on the field and on the screen. In helmets, under lights, with white balls, and in coloured clothes, the outlaw armies of Ian Chappell, Toney Greig and Clive Lloyd fought a daily battle of survival. In boardrooms and courtrooms Packer and cricket’s rulers fought a bitter war of nerves. A compelling account of the top-class sporting life, The Cricket War also gives a unique insight into the motives and methods of Australia’s richest man.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas SIGNED
A novel about the relationships between children and adults, and the new Australian multicultural middle-class from the controversial cult author of Loaded and Dead Europe.

 

 

 

Starting An Online Business For Dummies by Melissa Norfolk
Turn your dreams into profitable reality with this straightforward guide to setting up and running an online business. Including strategies to help you identify your market, set up a website and promote your business online.

 
Just Macbeth by Andy Griffiths
Take one Shakespearean tragedy: Macbeth, add Andy, Danny and Lisa the Just trio, whose madcap exploits have already delighted hundreds of thousands of readers for the last ten years. Mix them all together to create one of the most hilarious, most dramatic, moving stories of love, Whizz Fizz, witches, murder and madness. Ages 9+.

 

Brief Encounters: Literary travellers in Australia 1836-1939 by Susannah Fullerton
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, countless distinguished writers made the long and arduous voyage across the seas to Australia. They came on lecture tours and to make money, to sort out difficult children sent here to be out of the way for health, for science, to escape demanding spouses back home, or simply to satisfy a sense of adventure. In 1890, for example, Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, arrived at Circular Quay after a dramatic sea voyage only to be refused entry at the Victoria, one of Sydney’s most elegant hotels. Stevenson threw a tantrum, but was forced to go to a cheaper, less fussy establishment. Next day, the Victoria’s manager, recognising the famous author from a picture in the paper, rushed to find Stevenson and beg him to return. He did not. In Brief Encounters, Susannah Fullerton examines a diverse array of writers, including Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, Stevenson, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, HG Wells, Agatha Christie and Jack London, to discover what they did when they got here, what their opinion was of Australia and Australians, how the public and media reacted to them, and how their future works were shaped or influenced by this country.

Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark
This is the modern traveller’s bible. Travellers and pilgrims seeking a unique experience can now uncover the ancient secrets of convents and monasteries around Europe. We reveal these atmospheric and affordable places that accommodate tourists or those pursuing a pilgrimage or spiritual retreat. Convents, monasteries and abbeys have always been places which generously welcome weary travellers. That tradition continues today and Goodnight & God Bless takes you on a tour of religious hideaways offering tourist and pilgrimage accommodation throughout Europe. Suitable for the traveller, the pious and the curious alike, this user-friendly travel guide provides invaluable information, travel tit-bits and anecdotes against a fascinating backdrop of history and religion.

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit SIGNED
Enchanted by Bella, the Fairy of Pure Heart, Prince Arthur follows her into the immortal world. Angered by this, the powerful dragon Nemesis captures Arthur. To rescue her prince, Bella must complete the Great Dragon’s Hunt, and collect five magical tokens. As Bella and her butterfly friend Teague carry out her quest, they meet many mystical creatures, including a witch and a werewolf, elfins and leprechauns, and two very forgetful goblins.

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Random House, Melbourne University Press, John Wiley & Sons, Dragon Publishing and Paratus Press for supporting our monthly giveaway.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 31 July, 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 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 Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit (SIGNED), Mascot Madness! by Andy Griffiths and Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark.

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.