Interview with John M. Green, author of The Tao Deception

Today we welcome Sydney based author John M. Green to the Boomerang Books blog.

Welcome to the blog John. What can you tell us about your new book The Tao Deception? It’s an eco-political thriller, but what’s it about?the-tao-deception
Thanks Tracey. In The Tao Deception, a rogue Chinese elite – The Ten Brothers – conspire with the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea, to use spine-chilling technology to wipe out the West. Why? They’re committed to cutting dead the rampant global consumerism that’s turning China into the world’s waste dump and destroying the planet. Also, they’re bent on backing China away from its modern “path to prosperity”, U-turning it to its simpler, pre-industrial, rural roots.

Tori Swyft, ex-CIA spy, Aussie surfer and now global corporate wunderkind, is visiting China, working on a mega-merger between Chinese and European tech companies. She unearths the plot and, risking her life, is in a race against the clock to stop it.

What was your inspiration for the main character Tori Swyft?
What inspired Tori Swyft was a glaring literary deficit … the dearth of women as thriller heroes … the lack of female James Bonds. So I decided to create one.

So I’m especially thrilled that you’ve name Tori as ‘THE female James Bond’ in your review over at Carpe Librum.

Like James Bond, Tori’s young, tough and sexy, constantly finding herself in pickles most of us couldn’t possibly extricate ourselves from. But there’s more to Tori than that. This feisty, strong-willed woman carries a PhD in nuclear engineering and a Harvard MBA. People trifle with Tori Swyft at their own risk.

What inspired the threat in The Tao Deception?
On top of writing thrillers, I’m on the board of a global insurance company. Three years ago, when discussing the Top Ten emerging risks for the insurance world, a risk I’d never heard of jumped out at me and grabbed me by the throat.

I won’t say what it is – spoiler alert! – but it’s what The Ten Brothers in The Tao Deception are conspiring to unleash on the world. Experts disagree on how likely this risk is in real life. But if it did happen, the outcome would be catastrophic … a US Congressional Committee says that 200 million Americans would die within 12 months … from starvation, disease and societal collapse.future-crimes

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m juggling four books right now, three as research for my next Tori Swyft novel:
1. Eric Siblin’s The Cello Suites, about J.S. Bach and Catalonian cellist, Pablo Casals
2. Marc Goodman’s Future Crimes – Inside the Digital Underground
3. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia
4. Clive James’ Gate of Lilacs – A verse commentary on Proust – for its sheer delight (but also for Tori – see below)

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves at home?
How about a 1st edition of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, his second and arguably scarcest book? A slim volume, it’s heavily annotated by a notable mid-20th century American editor, critic and author, Maxwell Geismar. His notes give a fascinating glimpse into the mind and working methods of a major literary identity.

In the margins of one story, Geismar’s blue biro scratches this out: ‘This hero is better than Holden Caulfield of Rye … This is really the best story! … Most authentic … Good? … So far.’

john-m-green-nov-16
Author John M. Green

What book have you always meant to read but never got around to?
Like Tori Swyft – who’s always trying to read this one at the beach – it’s Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. A journalist once asked Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam if he’d ever read it, and he answered, ‘I’ve glanced at it extensively.’ That’s my approach too.

That’s hilarious, I must remember that phrase (I’ve glanced at it extensively). In your bio, I noticed that you sit on the Council of the National Library of Australia. What does that involve?
It’s been one of the most exciting boards I’ve had the privilege to sit on. Sadly for me, my term just expired. The NLA is a haven for Australia’s heritage. Two of the most exciting NLA projects I got to contribute to, in a small way, are Trove – the NLA’s astonishing on-line research resource which many authors use extensively – and the massive project to digitise the Library, to make it accessible on-line to all Australians, no matter where they live.

What’s next? Will Tori Swyft be back?
Tori Swyft is definitely on her way back, taking readers to Barcelona, Spain. She’s already four chapters into her next thriller, and the crisis she’s up against has got me sweating about how she’s going to survive.

Anything else you’d like to add?born-to-run
As well as Tori Swyft, I also adore a lead character from an earlier novel Born to Run, my US President Isabel Diaz – the first woman to ‘really’ to win the White House. Isabel had a cameo in my first Tori Swyft novel, The Trusted, and gets a far bigger role in The Tao Deception.

But I’m going to let you into a secret … while writing The Tao Deception, I recalled how much you raved about Isabel’s deaf stepson, Davey, when you reviewed Born to Run way back in 2011. Remembering that prompted me to bring Davey back in The Tao Deception. And I’m glad because he adds a crucial dimension to the story.  So thank you, Tracey! Davey’s return is down to you!

Wow, that’s amazing, what a thrill! I love it when authors listen to feedback from readers and to know I had a part in bringing Davey back is so exciting. Thanks John for sharing your secret and for joining us here on the Boomerang Books blog.

Click here to buy The Tao Deception.

Doodles and Drafts – In conversation with Tania McCartney over tea!

Tania McCartney March 2016 cropTania McCartney is no stranger to the world of Kids’ Literature. Her knowledge and ability to produce entertaining, endearing and enduring picture books is nothing short of remarkable and now sitting comfortably in her enviable arsenal of accreditations, is a re-discovered gift – illustration.

Sumptuously rich in detail and stuffed with enough iconic charm to make both Banjo Paterson and Con the Fruiterer feel at home, her first self-illustrated picture book, Australia: Illustrated delivers a (very satisfying) slice of all things Aussie to an audience who might still remember what a frog cake is as well as those young enough to regard the Wheel of Brisbane as their first Ferris wheel ride.

Australia IllustratedIt is a magnificent compendium of facts, landmarks, foods, cultures, flora, fauna, natural wonders, celebrities and attractions playfully illustrated in Tania’s unique, considered hand. Her drawings do more than just tell a story and describe a caption. They fill my visual soul. New South Wales’s Snowy Mountain region is resplendent with wild silver Brumbies (skiiing, horse riding and snowboarding as it were!) for example, revealing Tania’s cheeky take on life and no doubt, her own personal reflections of a land she clearly adores.

Her affection is contagious. From the divinely cloth-bound cover and very first end pages, clean and devoid of the congestion of civilization (a nod to the pre-settlement days of Australia perhaps), to each State and Territories’ four to five page expose of their specific peculiarities, Australia: Illustrated draws the reader in and, sublimely, educates and entertains along the way. The final end pages, a testament to the diversity and wonder that fills this wide brown land (with green bits, girt by sapphire seas) we call, home.

Today, we leave the draft table for a pair of comfy armchairs, a delicious cup of tea and a few precious moments with the gifted creator behind EK Book’s newest non-fiction picture book release, Australia: Illustrated.

Welcome, Tania. It’s great to finally spend some ‘virtual’ time with you.

So lovely to visit, Dim!

Your very first self-illustrated picture book, Australia Illustrated, is out any moment. Has this been a dream come true?

In a word: yes!

Have you been suffering heart palpitations? I know I’d be more anxious that than

Yes. How did you know??

I could hear them all the way up here in Brisbane.

I’m not surprised. They’re pretty thunderous.

Has this book been a bucket-list kind of thing?

Yes and no. It was more of a meant-to-be than a bucket-list-thing, though now it’s been ticked off my bucket-list, I’m happy it got onto that list!

It has actually just been a long-buried seed of an idea but it may not have even grown if the circumstances hadn’t been right. There was a grant I wanted to apply for, I needed a contract to do so, my publisher just happened to think the idea was fabulous at the time (this changes, as you know!) and I got a contract the next day.

You’re kidding?!

I know! If only all contracts were like that! This was a little scary, though, because the idea was quite ethereal at the time. I mean, I knew it would unfold okay… and it did. But I did it all the wrong way.

What do you mean?

I basically winged it. I had an outline, of course, but the content was pretty much an organic process. I was SO lucky to have this kind of opportunity. And I did the cover first. I mean, who does the cover first?

I don’t much about the illustrative process, but that does sound a little dotty.

SO dotty. But it worked because that cover was one of my favourite things to create, and it set the scene for the style and layout of the entire book. I highly recommend up-ending processes!

Are you proud of thi047 qld daintrees book?

I am for the fact that I finished it. It took a year and contains over 1000 hand-drawn images over 96 pages. Half of the finished pages are digitally illustrated, too, so it was a lot of work and I was also in learning mode at the time (re-learning my illustration skills and also learning digital skills—I basically learned as I went).

I’m also proud of it because it’s my first self-illustrated book and I think first self-illustrated books take a lot of courage. Like, a lot. It’s scary because I’ve had years to get used to writing criticism, but illustration criticism is a whole other colour on the palette.

So, my nerves are on standby, for sure—and I have to consistently tell myself I created this book for me, no one else—and that if kids and adults happen to take pleasure in it, that will please me very, very much. In fact, ALL creators should create books for themselves first and foremost. If we created them for other people, we’d never enjoy it as much or do our best work. And once our books are published, they become someone else’s anyway, so it’s nice to hang onto ownership during production!

Oh gosh, Dim, this tea is so good.

Thanks! Isn’t it divine? You’ve written several books about Australia. Will there be more?

Probably not. I do have ideas for books about Australian people (biographic), plants and animals but they won’t be Australia-centric, if that makes sense.

I don’t know why I’ve written so many books on Australia. It’s not a conscious decision. Perhaps it’s because the world is full of so much negativity right now—I fully realise and accept that our country (any country) is far from perfect, but it just feels so nice to celebrate what’s good here sometimes. And there’s so much that’s good. Australia Illustrated is a celebration of w007 au beautifulhat’s good.

Hear hear! What brought you the greatest pleasure when creating Australia Illustrated?

So much. The creative freedom. The ability to play and allow things to unfold. I know it’s not realistic, but it would be incredible if all books could be created in this way! It’s just so much fun. I loved relearning skills and meeting my characters and learning so much about this country that I never knew.

I loved the digital illustration and the layout and design. I also loved doing the finishing art in Photoshop. Creating the fonts was fun.

How did you do that?

With an app called iFontMaker. It’s fabulous. You can get so creative. You can even create fonts for your kids, using their handwriting.

Sounds fascinating, I’d love to give it a go.

You must. I also loved pulling the pages together. It’s so satisfying.

So, hang on, you did quite a bit for this book. Not just writing and illustrating?

027 nsw sydney ferriesI did heaps. I researched, wrote, fact-checked, drew, painted, did digital illustration and mono-printing, scanning, touching up, photography, fonts, layout, design, typography, cover layout and design—all to print-ready PDF. I LOVE doing all this. It’s so satisfying and skills-building. Then I had the wonderful Mark Thacker from Big Cat Design take all the PDFs and whack them in InDesign for the printer.

And my gorgeous publisher Anouska Jones was my editor and second eyes and ears, and I had a group of other eyes and ears, too, and then there was the team at Exisle and our printing coordinator Carol and publicist Alison and all the fabulous book reps and all the wonderful friends and colleagues who helped me authenticate things and help me out with research.

I have an entire page dedicated to thank yous! I also had the backing of the ACT Government—artsACT—for their grant to help produce this book.

So while I did a lot, I certainly didn’t do it alone. No one ever does it alone.

Gosh, we have an amazing bunch of people in this industry.

We do. I feel privileged to be part of it. This really is great tea, Dim.

Of course it is, it’s from Queensland! What’s next for you, Tania?

Well, I’ve just come out of a long rest! I took a lot of winter off, other than ongoing obligations and a little bit of production on some upcoming titles.

 Oooh – can you share them with us?

COVER FINAL smilecryfullcover-smallWell, one is a sequel to Smile Cry with Jess Racklyeft. The other is a follow-up to This is Captain Cook with Christina Booth—and we’re also in the middle of another picture book for the National Library. Tina Snerling and I have been working on books 6 and 7 for the A Kids’ Year series.

I’ve been planning my illustration style for my first illustration commission with the National Library and I’ve been working on a non-fiction pitch for them, too, which I’ll illustrate. And I’ve been finalising a junior fiction manuscript after talks with a gorgeous publisher. Oh—and just like you would, I have several thousand other little bits and ideas floating around.

Yes, something I can relate 100% to! But would you have it any other way?

No! Well, yes—I really needed that time out after Australia Illustrated. It was an enormous amount of work. 96 pages!! So happy to have my energy and mojo back now, though.

Mojo back is good! Tania, thanks so much for stopping by today. I’ve really enjoyed the chat.

Me, too, Dim! And thanks for the tea!

The kettle is always on…

This is more than a picture book, more than a resource; Australia Illustrated is a meaningful, beautiful, thoughtful, piece of art.

Order Tania’s, Australia: Illustrated, here.

Australia Illustrated Launch PosterFollow all the excitement of her Virtual Launch this week with reveals, sneak peeks, more interviews and giveaways, here.

EK Books November 2016

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

 

Review – Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst

imageHighly talented artist, Elise Hurst‘s illustrations seem to metamorphose with every title, from fluid watercolours to fine ink lines and bold, sweeping strokes of oil colours. In this latter artistic style, differing to that of some of her other titles, including My Boots in Season and Imagine a City, Elise Hurst has produced an intriguing, heart-stopping new book, its words and pictures working together to take your breath away; it’s Adelaide’s Secret World.

imageShe lives a solitary existence. A life once full of delight and wonders, now, a world confined in glass jars, hidden within a cloak and a red curtain. The town in which Adelaide lives is bustling with movement, but it seems the townsfolk are simply, and privately, just passing through each day. Longing for a connection, a serendipitous moment finds Adelaide at the door that opens her heart and soul to a whole new world full of possibilities. As she finds her inner calm, it is that very red curtain that once blocked her vision that she courageously uses as the missing link. By connecting the torn thread amongst the townsfolk, those who were once lonely and silent, including Adelaide, have now found a voice, and each other.

With her stunning collection of dreamy oil paintings and evocative words, Elise Hurst takes her readers on a soul-searching journey that touches a little piece of all of us. Feeling lost and isolated is not uncommon, particularly in a world of chaos. But Adelaide reminds us that friendship, humanity and self expression can always be found, and celebrated with a little bit of courage and an open heart.

imageThe exquisite mixture of colour, movement, emotion, and poetic softness in both text and illustrations work flawlessly together to evoke feelings of angst, peace, turmoil and calm. Pale yellows and greens in the beginning and end shed light on a world that is safe and comfortable, and becomes brighter even more so as Adelaide’s world is suddenly flooded with energy and an inner peace. The mid-section carries deep greens, blues and greys, signifying this spinning, chaotic whirlwind inside her mind. And throughout the book, pops of red burst with visual warmth, power and imagination.

‘Adelaide’s Secret World’ is undeniably uplifting and visually rousing, a perfect choice for early primary children to revisit over and over again. This book has potential to win awards and would make a gorgeous film. Highly recommended.

Allen&Unwin, 2015.

Click here for more information on Elise Hurst.

***Read my exclusive interview with the talented author illustrator herself! Click here!***

DOODLES AND DRAFTS – Carrying on with Sam Wheeler and Mister Cassowary

Australia is home to some exceptionally strange flora and fauna. The ubiquitous tropical heat of Far North Queensland seems to accentuate oddities and none typifies unique peculiarities more vividly than Australia’s heaviest flightless bird, the Cassowary.

Sam Wheeler 2Beautiful yet deadly, the Cassowary is a natural magnet of mystery and misinterpretation so naturally is a prime candidate as the main character in Samantha’s Wheeler’s latest children’s adventure, Mister Cassowary. Wheeler meshes misinterpretation of our native fauna extremely well with action packed, character driven, and emotionally sensitive adventures for readers seven and above.

City bred Flynn, is on a mission to Mission Beach in North Queensland with his dad to ready his deceased Grandad’s decrepit banana farm for sale. He’d rather be anywhere else than stuck in this sweltering sultry backwater with a father he seldom sees and barely knows.

Then he meets Abby and two baby cassowaries that slowly help him peel back the layers of mystery surrounding Grandad Barney’s death and his relationship with Big Blue, the meanest, largest, scariest Cassowary in the district.

Mister CassowaryJammed with intrigue, adventure and more cassowaries than you will find in Australia Zoo, Mister Cassowary is an exhilarating and absorbing read for primary schoolers and animal lovers. I’m rating it as high as or higher than her debut novel, Smooch and Rose, on my got-to-read-animal-story list, and Smooch and Rose was sterling.

Today we trek down its creator, Sam Wheeler and discover even more about the enigmatic Cassowary.

After growing up rescuing animals, Samantha studied Agriculture, worked with farmers, and taught science. Writing children’s books inspired by nature, she hopes to prove that ‘anyone can make a difference’.

Welcome to the draft table, Sam!

Who is Sam Wheeler? Describe your writerly self.

I’m an animal lover and crave the outdoors, green spaces and nature. Given a choice of shopping in New York or trekking Blue Mountains, I’d choose the Blue Mountains any day.

Your books for children centre on animals endemic to Australia. Why is this element important in your writing?

My background is in biology and science, which gives me a strong interest in the environment, and when I hear about what’s in store for our precious wildlife, I feel driven to write about them. They say write what you love, and writing books about animals gives me an excuse to spend more time with the things I love. It’s all about the story I want to tell.

How did Mister Cassowary’s tale evolve?

Smooch and RoseWhen I was writing Smooch & Rose, I was working as a tutor with the Ronald McDonald Learning Program. One of my students had to give a PowerPoint presentation on an endangered Australian animal, and having chosen the cassowary, he asked me for help. But I didn’t know anything about cassowaries! As soon as I found out that the males raise the chicks, the story started swirling in my head.

Mister Cassowary addresses various sub themes such as the FIFO father son relationship. Why do you think this holds significant relevance amongst your young readership?

I loved the parallel: the way the male cassowaries are so close to their young chicks versus human fathers who, because of work and other reasons, can sometimes be absent and distant towards their sons. I think many children whose parents work a lot, or travel away, have felt like Flynn. They may relate to his feeling that his dad doesn’t know who he is, and what he’s capable of.

Do you actively research each of your stories before you write them? What is the most mind-boggling thing you have learnt during the writing of Mister Cassowary?

Yes, I love the research! I travelled up to Mission Beach (North Queensland) twice to research Mister Cassowary, and would go again in a heartbeat. The people up there are so passionate about this beautiful bird, and are trying so hard to save it. I learnt so many interesting things: cassowaries don’t have a tongue, they can swim really well, they can run up to 50km/hour (which is why you shouldn’t run if you see one) they were the most treasured gift an emperor or a king could receive. I also think they can tell the time. Up at Mission Beach, a local cassowary turns up at the local dump at one minute to 10 every morning. The dump opens at 10!

What is the hardest part about giving life and soul to stories like yours?

Making sure they aren’t too preachy and the characters are believable. I have to make sure they’re real people, not just tools to push the issue.

What is on the draft table for Sam?

Exciting times! Two more ‘animal’ books are in the making, plus another special story about a girl who can’t talk.

Just for fun question (there’s always one): If you could be any Aussie animal, which would you be and why?

I wouldn’t mind being a willy wagtail! They always look happy and cheeky, and imagine being able to fly!

spud and CharliOh I can, Sam, I can! Thanks for today. May your flightless bird take off for you, as well!

Mister Cassowary is out now and features in Boomerang’s Kids’ Reading Guide 2015-2016. A perfect stocking filler solution!

University of Queensland Press October 2015

 

Review – Sad, the dog

Sad,the dogTrying new things can be an exciting, daunting and ultimately rewarding experience. Just ask Sandy Fussell, author of the acclaimed Samurai Kids series. She is venturing into the fastidious and fascinating world of picture book writing and I have to say, has come up trumps.

TogetheSandy Fussellr with illustrator, Tull Suwannakit, Fussell has brought to life one of the most endearing little dog tales I’ve read in a while. Sad, the dog is a title immediately provoking thought and possibly interpretation as nothing more than a smaltzy, over-sentimental excuse for a cry. It does in fact start a little unhappily at least for poor pooch, Sad so named because his well-meaning but blatantly non-dog-people owners, Mr and Mrs Cripps neglect to give him an identity of his own.

Tull SuwannakitSad receives the basics from them but in spite of his doggedness to impress them with his dogginess, he is largely ignored and tragically unloved. Then they up and go, and leave, without him!

Misery and loneliness pile up around Sad like mounds of autumn leaves until a little boy named, Jack enters his life. Jack is patient and kind and is exactly the sort of little boy Sad needs. Ever so slowly, Sad learns to like his new situation and especially Jack, so much so that he re-discovers his inner dog and a new whisper in his heart that helps him banish his sad moniker forever.

Sad, the dog is a picture book that invites repeated readings because each time you do, you will fall in deeper in love with the indomitable black and white canine and comically drawn characters.

Sad dog illo spreadSad represents the unquestionable loyalty and willingness to please that dogs possess and suggests that they experience the same sense of rejection and loss as keenly as humans do. When Sad’s beliefs are shattered and abandoned, it takes him a while to forget his fears and learn to be brave enough to try that ‘something new’ again. However, with the help of a new friend, he does. Sometimes, that’s all it takes; a special someone to tease the real you back out into the open again.

I love this intimation and heart-warming message that permeates throughout this picture book, and is captured so beautifully by Suwannakit’s glorious watercolour illustrations. Muted tones, appealing detail and ridiculously funny characterisation (I was reminded of Gru from Despicable Me at times) provide plenty of balance and personality, and exude love in an otherwise sad tale about an unwanted dog.

Sad eventually finds love after hiding beneath his pile of unhappiness. It is red and wonderful (and incidentally the colour of Jack’s hair and the falling leaves) and is anything but sad. You and young readers from the age of three onwards will feel it too whether dog lovers or not. Highly recommended.

Fellow blogger, Romi Sharp is interviewing Sandy Fussell, soon. Be sure not to miss her revelations and insight into Sad’s creation.

Walker Books August 2015

 

Doodles and Drafts – On Track with Kathryn Apel

KatApelAn aphorism by Will Rogers has been rattling around on my train of thought recently: ‘Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.’ One author who has not only found her right track but is chugging along it at an impressive pace is, Kathryn Apel. And with the recent release of her second verse novel, On Track just a year after her first, Bully on the Bus, Apel has certainly found her rhythm.

Both are extraordinary, breezy reads about not so light and easy life issues, eloquently told without a trace of tangled description. Each word reverberates with emotion, yielding characters of tremendous depth whose flaws are presented as poetically as their triumphs.

The thing you immediately notice about verse novels is their subtle power to deliver the weightiest message with consummate feather touch. Happy to report, both Apel’s novels reflect this promise.

Bully on the Bus follows the emotional downslide of seven-year-old Leroy, almost silenced into submission by the bully on his regular school bus route. Apel explores both the external extremes and internal conflict Leroy endures until he finally finds the courage to be a ‘bully-tamer’.

KatApelOn Track On Track looks at the relationship between siblings, Shaun and Toby; one with the ability to turn anything he touches into gold, the other a self-professed failure living in his brother’s shadow. Once the real reason for Toby’s weak links are identified however, he learns how to shine and in finding his own inner strength, ironically helps his brother, Shaun understand himself better too. Being imperfect is hard, but living up to the expectation of perfection is no walk in the park either, as this story so beautifully articulates.

There is plenty to cry over and love in these two novels. Apel allows her characters to endure uncomfortable situations that encourage them to hide behind bravado in order to cope or else withdraw into silence. Rather than let them flounder for the answers on their own, she nudges them in the right direction; shows them the safe places to head to for help and how to ask for it, so they are ultimately able to resolve their own problems. A purposeful message of empowerment if ever there was one.

Curious to know what keeps Kathryn Apel on track herself, I invited her to the draft table for quick chat. Here’s what she had to say.

Welcome Kathryn!

Who is Kathryn Apel? Describe your writerly self.

I’m that awkward balance of private person, public words. D.W. Winnicott said it so well, ‘Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.’ Writing is like peeling skin away to expose bones and pulsing heart – flaws and vulnerabilities. But I do it. Sometimes cringing. Always hoping that my words will resonate and make a positive difference.

What is your most outrageous writing goal (not yet achieved)?

Oh. Heh. Let’s go really outrageous and say book to movie. I don’t know if it’s a goal as such – more an impossible dream. But PlaySchool happened – and I’d never imagined that. (Kathryn’s picture book, This is Mud was read by Justine on Playschool in 2010! DP)

Why did you choose to tell Bully on the Bus and On Track in verse instead of straightforward prose?

KatApel Bully on the Bus Bully on the Bus started life as a chapter book. As I was mulling over it, I read my first verse novel – and loved it. Had to try one! I started writing what I dubbed (for many years) my ‘verse novel about training’, but had only written 139 words when I got a little overwhelmed and put it away. (I’m not a planned writer, so this ‘put it away’ stage happens frequently during my writing process.) It was at that stage that I took my ‘completed’ chapter book to my crit group. And there the strangest thing happened! A critter-buddy made a suggestion about the placement of some words in the text… and in that moment I realised that Bully on the Bus wasn’t the chapter book I had written, but the verse novel I wanted to write.

Turning the chapter book into a verse novel was one of the most exquisitely right things I have ever done. (So right, that I started at 10pm that same night, and kept going until my eyes wouldn’t stay open about 3am.) Once I started, there was never any doubt that it was meant to be a verse novel.

And I’m happy to say that the ‘verse novel about training’ did get there, and is now called On Track.

As to why verse? I love that writing in verse lets me find my voice and express things that I don’t think I could say, in a novel. My picture books tend to be quirky, humorous tales (though there are a few serious MSs in my files) – but my verse novels are all heart.

Do you find it natural writing in this style or is it harder to convey what you want in verse? What elements, if any do you have to sacrifice or conversely, incorporate to produce a winning verse novel?

I’m a very disciplined rhyming poet/picture book author. But rhyme can tangle your brains into a seething pot of worms – whereas free verse unravels the snarls and lets the story flow.

To me, there is no sacrifice in writing free verse. I often hear comments like, ‘After the first few pages I forgot it was a verse novel …’, or ‘Don’t be put off by the fact it’s a verse novel …’ – like it’s a bad thing to be a verse novel. But that’s usually followed by positive comments – that are perhaps twice as nice given their reservations in the first place.

As to what elements to include? Verse novels are almost illustrations with words. As in – your words ARE the illustrations. Consider your readers – their ability to make meaning from your words – but be adventurous. Let the words dictate placement and alignment, so that they speak for themselves. When I read verse novels, the words almost take shape in my mouth.

But don’t forget physical character descriptions. And setting. I say this, because I do. Forget them.* Often! I get caught in the emotions and character development, and forget about physical attributes/descriptions. And writing them in later feels very much like tip-toing through the kitchen with a soufflé in the oven.

* At which point I stop and think and realise there’s not a skerrick of character description in my current verse novel WIP … and it’s 7142wrds long. (?!)

This is MudMany of my farm raised relatives devoured crates of books each month as their main source of entertainment. As a country kid yourself, what stories from your childhood have stuck with you as an adult and how have they influenced the kinds of tales you want to share now as a writer?

I was over-the-moon elated when I found a tattered copy of ‘The Cow that Fell in the Canal’ at a library cull recently. I loved this story – and was given it on my graduation from Preschool. So sentiment was running high that day!

When I was in Yr 3 our teacher read ‘Emma’s Story’ by Sheila Hocken, to our class. I remember being very moved. I may even have sobbed. And been saddened for days. But I also remember it as a special story.

And I was an Enid Blyton girl. When I was in Yr 7, our Librarian culled all Enid Blyton books from the school library! I brought multiple Enid Blyton books to school and friends did the same, then we shared them amongst classmates to read in protest in the library – slumped around in beanbags and on the carpet. (For some, it was more about the protest, than the books, but their support was appreciated!)

I loved getting to know characters in a series – and having them stick around for a long while! Pollyanna, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon and Elizabeth Gail were some faves. I think because of their ability to make a difference – for good.

I can’t believe I didn’t appreciate Dr Seuss until I was an adult … but it’s a sad truth.

What’s on the draft table for Kathryn?

Always so many things on the go – but the one that’s taking the most time at the moment is another verse novel for early readers – this one about friendships. On the surface it sounds sweet and light, but as with friendship it’s a balance of the good and bad.

And there’s another rollicking rural rhymer getting some attention, too.

Just for fun question (there’s always one!): If you could be any animal on the farm, what would you be and why?

The dog. Because dogs have such a joyful presence. They get in there and help, but their emotional engagement, affection and connection is their biggest asset.

Thanks for including me on the Boomerang Books Blog, Dim, and for the intriguing questions. I’m off to lightly sprinkle some character descriptions through that friendship WIP.

Fabulous, Kathryn! As are these books. Be sure to have a look soon.

UQP May 2014 & June 2015

 

Review – Lulu

LuluAt first glance, life on the icy floes may seem appealing. (Unless you reside in SE Queensland as I do with no real concept of what cold is until you have to live through ‘an unseasonably cold winter’ with little more than a cotton tee-shirt and a pair of bed socks). In Lulu’s world, there is more ice than you can shake an Eskimo at and ‘mountains of fish’ to sate the largest appetite. What more could a young polar bear desire? Yet like many of us closeted in the everyday cosiness of the familiar, Lulu harbours dreams and a hankering to fulfil them.

Lulu’s name ribbons across the sweetly simple cover of Georgie Donaghey’s debut picture book, Lulu. Along with illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn, Donaghey has created a tale that will strike at least two chords with many young readers aged three and above: the need to chase one’s desires no matter how ambitious and dancing.

Lulu illoExpounding these themes, Donaghey uses carefully nurtured verse to draw the reader along with Lulu who sets off alone in pursuit of her dream of performing on the big stage. It’s not really a case of running away, rather running to somewhere. Pirouetting on the snow for her Arctic friends just doesn’t cut it for her anymore and in true grass-is-greener style, or in this case, the lights-are-brighter-than-the-aurora-borealis style, Lulu eventually conquers her ambitions, finds her place on stage and performs for many seasons in the big city.

It’s a life filled with glamour and fame, highbrow audiences and gratifying reviews but sadly not with true friends. Turns out, the ice is greener after all and eventually the call of home lures Lulu back.

Donaghey does well to point out to young readers that it’s okay to have dreams and great aspirations. We don’t always attain our goals, but sometimes, if we want them hard enough, dreams do come true. Lulu was lucky enough to experience the realisation of her strongest desires but also to realise that her most steadfast believers, her friends would always be there waiting for her no matter how far away her dreams took her. This conveys a positive message of security for children, stressing the importance of being self-assured.

Ann-marie Finn Finns’ considered colour choices for the illustrations are uncomplicated revealing mood, time and place with minimal clutter. White space replicates the vast pristine landscape of Lulu’s home with subtle colour shifts and blends from polar blues and whites to snowflake- pretty sunset yellows used to maximum effect on what could have been a monochromatic environment to illustrate. Little blips of pink provide contrast and encourage little eyes to focus on Lulu, the true star of the show.Lulu illo spread

With its soft matt cover (in this paperback edition), comfortable rhythm, and pleasing artwork it is hard not to be warmed by this story set on the ice.

Georgie DonagheyPop over to Romi’s interview with Lulu author, Georgie Donaghey now for more interesting insight into the creation of this plucky little polar bear and the fiercely determined creator behind her.

Lulu is now available, here.

Dragon Tales Publishing June 2015

Doodles and Drafts – Getting silly with Gregg Dreise

As one strolls about this wondrous planet, one encounters a variety of individuals who may astound, influence, enrich, or even, deplete you. Not everyone we meet ends up a friend. Life is often an ongoing cycle of trials and consequences. How we survive and interpret the progression of life builds character and shapes us as individuals. Some like Maliyan, the Eagle look, listen, and learn. Others like Wagun, the wombah thigaraa, a silly bird disdain the words of the wise often to their ultimate detriment.

Silly Birds Silly Birds by author illustrator Gregg Dreise, is an indigenous new picture book that focuses on the oft heard yet frequently ignored adage that it is ‘hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys’. At once dramatic and charming, this light-hearted yet meaningful narrative fostered from family yarns and a love of sharing (Dreamtime) morals reminds young readers that respect for each other, the environment in which they dwell and above all else, themselves is the true measure of power. Beautifully illustrated by Gregg, Silly Birds evokes the vivid spirit of the Dreamtime, depicting both the soaring majesty of Maliyan and the Elders and the reckless scorn of poor misguided Wagun, the silly turkey, with understated sensitivity.

Gregg Dreise is one of those individuals who fills the room the moment he cracks a smile. Recently, I had the immense pleasure of meeting and learning more about the impassioned creator and educator behind Silly Birds and today share his incredible art and deep respect and admiration for family at the Draft Table.

Gregg DreiseWho is Gregg Dreise? Describe your writerly / illustrating self. Which role describes you best?

I am proud. I am proud of my family, of where they have come from and where they are heading too. I am proud of my father Rod, a mechanic (I follow in his footprints building old cars all pre 1940s). He taught me that you can do anything that you put your mind too – if you give it a go and practice. I am proud of my mother Lyla, she has always had the gift of storytelling (especially through ballads). I am proud of my relatives; our families have ongoing stories of talented family musicians, artists, dancers, and athletes. I am proud of my brothers, sisters, and brother/sister in-laws. Almost all of us have worked hard to finish university (some even with Masters Degrees and Doctorates). I am proud of my children; they know to listen, learn lots and try their hardest. They are showing great signs of keeping family traditions alive with storytelling and art. They usually help open my book launches with traditional dance. I am proud to be a part of my dad’s family tree originating in Germany. And my mum’s family tree, originating from the Gamilaroi (Grandad / Knox) and Yuwalayaay (Grandma / Simpson) people. I am a proud cancer survivor. I am proud to be a teacher, I love to educate and entertain at the same time.  I am an entertainer. Writing, oral storytelling, painting, playing musical instruments…. they all take me (and hopefully my audience) to the days before television and computers. I love to take an opportunity to captivate and teach morals at the same time.

Is Silly Birds your first picture book? How does it make you feel seeing it out on the shelves? What is it that pleases you most about it?

Silly Birds is my first published book. I sent a manuscript off almost ten years prior, it was accepted, and then I got cancer inside my spinal cord. (The diagnosis was 6 months to live, luckily, the recovery was years.) Sadly, that manuscript/contract/and the lady who worked for Scholastic no longer works there. So that book never made it to the shelves.  It is so exciting when you see the first ones in shops. I don’t think that excitement has ever wavered. I love the morals. I think my artwork is very unique too.

The inspiration for this story came from your Uncle, Reg Knox. What appealed to you about his story and made you want to celebrate it?

Definitely the morals. When I was younger, I used to listen to and later did a couple of murals and school talks with Uncle Reg. He has always known how to tell a yarn. Sadly, age is catching up to him. Gladly, he has done so much. He is an inspiration. He has artwork in The Vatican, and an award from the Queen. National NAIDOC Elder of the Year, and more. He doesn’t brag about these things, but someone should share this with the world to celebrate. He has an exhibition (Muliyan-Go Reg Knox Retrospective) at the Logan Gallery in November. I hope this helps to bring back great memories that he has lost.

Silly Birds broaches the topics of family relationships, cultural differences, unlikely friendships, and social imbalance. What is the main idea you are trying to share with young readers?

Silly birds IlloChoose your friends wisely. Friends should be fun, but they shouldn’t change you into someone you never wanted to be. If other friends and family are reaching out trying to help you see what you are missing – look, listen and respect their guidance.

Maliyan endures a rite of passage and a fair bit of internal conflict before he emerges stronger and wiser. He regains the respect of his Elders and the younger, formerly ‘silly birds’ but his friendship with Wagun cannot be saved. Why is it important to show this eventual division of loyalties? Is this a key aspect of Dreamtime stories, to show the differences between right and wrong?

It is definitely an aspect of Dreamtime stories; they don’t ‘all’ live happily ever after. It is an analogy of life; that we don’t always remain friends with all of the people from the past. Sometimes we grow and move on. Wagun only creates the division with his stubbornness. Silliness can develop into maturity, however stubbornness can develop into loneliness.

I love your illustrated traditional line and dot paintings accompanying this story. How do you think this style enhances the integrity of your tale? What sort of symbolism did you infuse?

Silly birds Maliyan illoI really wanted the paintings to have texture to them. Like old paintings. I love it when I see people rub their hands over the cover – like they are going to feel the blobs of paint. (My Miss 9 actually did! Dimity) I knew that the artwork couldn’t be totally traditional. Too much symbolism would confuse my target audience (young children). Therefore, skies and horizons were added, but I kept the earth connected to spirits. Even some smart children have noticed that the Rainbow Spirit in the earth leaves when the billabong is being disrespected.

Had you considered a less traditional style of illustration for this book? Would you ever incorporate other illustrative styles and techniques into subsequent Dreamtime tellings?

The one definite thing I know about these stories is that if I can’t illustrate them, then someone from my tribe should. I wouldn’t publish Dreamtime morality tales with less tradition. I am currently writing a chapter book for upper Primary students, and the illustrations for the edges of the pages are designed like comic books. Keep an eye out for “The Adventures of Captain Wombah” coming out in hopefully the not so distant future. I am also writing an inspirational picture book, about being proud of my culture. I have been working with my niece (an art student) to illustrate that. She does beautiful portraits of young indigenous faces.

We are all surrounded by turkeys from time to time. Are you ever tempted to be one yourself? Do you think Wagun and turkeys like him could ever change, eventually?

Like lots of authors, there are bits of your characters in you. I was once a teenage boy. I was loud, tried to be funny, and looked for an audience. Yes, there are bits of Wagun in me. My next book Kookoo Kookaburra, is all about a story teller that took things too far. I am sure in my attempts to entertain as a teenager, I crossed the line and was very much a turkey. Luckily, I have always tried surround myself with motivated and proud people. As they say “no-one is perfect”. Support, guidance and honesty, can go a long way. I do act wombah (crazy) every time I do a live show!

What’s on the storyboard for Gregg Dreise?

Kookoo Kookaburra Silly Birds is a part of hopefully a bird trilogy. Silly Birds 2014; Kookoo Kookaburra 2015; Mad Magpie 2016??? The Adventures of Captain Wombah is almost ready to send to the publishers. I have finished two other picture books that I am in the process of sending off, “Dreamtime Dance” and “My Culture, My Spirit & Me. Plus there is a top secret chapter book for adult fiction slowly coming to life. I am about to record the song/animation for Kookoo Kookaburra – Look out for it on Youtube soon. I would love to find the time to record an album of my own soft rock music. A friend and I are looking to form a band (we both lack time), it has been years since I was out and about gigging. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day.

Just for fun question. If you were given a chance to go back and reinvent yourself, what would you change and why?

I would change something that a lot of my family doesn’t have. We have talent, but we don’t have self-promotion. Over the years, I have seen talented people who can’t sell or promote themselves – their talent goes sadly unnoticed. I have also met ‘very’ driven people (with less talent) make it. Please support new talent. Go to a young local art exhibition – Don’t wait for a big name tour. Go see an up and coming band for $10 over a famous one for $500+

When you find a great one – tell everyone you know about it. It just might start a career for someone, before they give up on their dreams.

Thanks Gregg!

Discover the delightful, Silly Birds, here.

Kookoo Kookaburra is just released and available, here.

Magabala Books June 2014

 

Player Profile: Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On The Train

paula-292x300Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On The Train

Tell us about your latest creation:

The Girl on the Train is psychological thriller which examines the fine line between normality and the loss of control wrought by addiction. It’s all about how when you peel back the veneer of everyday life, you can find something really quite disturbing just underneath…

9780857522320Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I was born and brought up in Zimbabwe, but have lived in London since 1989.

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

I loved creative writing as a child, and I have always dreamed about writing a book, but my first career choice was journalism.

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

This one! This is the first novel I have written under my own name, and it’s the one I’ve been wanting to write.

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

I have a little office downstairs in my house. It’s crowded and chaotic: filled with books, papers, random junk and a treadmill…

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

Kate Atkinson is my favourite author – her latest, A God in Ruins, is out this year and it is simply outstanding. I read a lot of psychological thrillers written by women – people like Harriet Lane, Louise Doughty, Cara Hoffman, Gillian Flynn and Tana French. I also love Donna Tartt, Cormac McCarthy and Sebastian Barry.

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

Wuthering Heights and L’Etranger.

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

I’d quite like to be Ursula Todd in Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, a woman who gets to live her life over and over, trying to get it right

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

I like watching football. Not sure if that’s surprising or not…

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

A really good rare steak and a very dry white wine.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I don’t think I have a hero. I have huge respect for people who devote themselves to serious and difficult work – medical professionals, for example – who get so little thanks from governments.

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

I think encouraging anyone to spend time reading books in an age of ever decreasing attention spans is going to become more and more difficult.

Website: http://paulahawkinsbooks.com/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/PaulaHawkinsWriter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaulaHWrites

Player Profile: Alexandra Cameron, author of Rachael’s Gift

Alexandra Cameron Author PIcAlexandra Cameron, author of Rachael’s Gift

Tell us about your latest creation:

Rachael’s Gift begins when talented artist, fourteen-year-old Rachael, accuses her teacher of sexual misconduct, but the principal has suspicions that she is lying. Her father, Wolfe, is worried about his daughter’s odd behaviour but her mother, Camille, will not hear a bad word against her. A fraught investigation ensues, culminating in a showdown on the other side of the world in Paris. The story is about ambition, art, talent, truth, how we pass unresolved issues from one generation to the next and a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter.

9781742613987Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I was born in Sydney. We lived in Paddington until we moved to Mackay in North Queensland. When I was eight we moved to a small town in country NSW called Currabubula where I attended the local school where there were forty-eight children from kindergarten to sixth grade all in one big classroom. We then lived in Willoughby, Vaucluse and Randwick. I spent a year in Paris and then moved to London. After several moves back and forth, I currently live in London but I still call Australia home!

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

When I was a kid I had a long list of things I wanted to do when I grew up: one of them was to be an author but I also wanted to be an architect, a photographer, a fashion designer and an inventor. This was also when I was eight.

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

That would have to be my one-year-old son, Hamish… Seriously, I have only written one novel so far, so that would be Rachael’s Gift.

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

Currently I hot desk it around the house. My mac has been moved to the bedroom because the spare room is occupied. There is usually a large window I can stare out of, which helps with the daydreaming up of ideas. I am ordered and I am also chaotic. It’s a case of sliding from one end to the other. There is usually a pile of books on my desk from which I am taking inspiration.

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

I like to catch up on something I have not read but should have – currently its Nabokov and then I might have something that is new and has caught my interest. This was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

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

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Because he totally gets what being a kid is all about.

Later, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s a perfect story that inspires me to be a better person.

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

Anne of Green Gables

I love that she’s a fighter and a writer and a hopeless romantic.

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

Spare time? I run around after my one year old. Sleep

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Tomato pasta. Oooh champagne on special occasions.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My mum. She is an incredibly strong person who brought up five children (without help) amongst other adversities. I don’t know how she did it. I struggle with just one! She read to me everyday when I was growing up.

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

The biggest challenge will be keeping kids interested in reading and books when there are so many other distractions for short attention spans. If kids grow up loving books they will always read, but they have to be encouraged early on.

 

Player Profile: Kimberley Freeman, author of Evergreen Falls

9780733630033Kimberley Freeman, author of Evergreen Falls

Tell us about your latest creation:

Evergreen Falls is set at a luxury hotel in the Blue Mountains in the 1920s. A forbidden love affair sets off a chain of events with tragic consequences, and it all gets covered up. In the present, a young woman arrives at the same hotel and stumbles across a bundle of old love letters and starts to wonder…

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

Brisbane, Queensland.

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

 I always wanted to be an author or a rock star. Given I don’t like performing, it seemed safer to go with the former.

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

Evergreen Falls is my best work. It’s my 25th novel (my 6th as Kimberley Freeman) and I feel like I’ve finally figured out what makes a novel tick.

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

I write a lot in bed, in my pyjamas, with two chihuahuas sleeping on me. It’s not very glamorous. My desk, when I do use it, is immaculate and my pens are all lined up. I’m tidy to the point of being quite quite boring.

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

 I love reading Marianne Keyes, and I love reading non-fiction especially about history.

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

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. To this day, I used it as a test of people. If they loved Anne with an E, they are okay by me. My 11 year old son read it last year, and I feel as though I initiated him into a secret club.

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

I’ve always felt an affinity with Jane Eyre. She has a good moral compass and a strong sense of self. I think I’d like to be more like that. I have a feeling I might be more like Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights, always brooding and losing my temper.

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

I’m a mad-keen cyclist and my favourite kind of riding is hill-climbing. I live at the foot of Mt Coot-tha and I cycle up and around it regularly. I have thighs of steel.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Tea and a crumpet. Hands down.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I admire my mother so much. She is calm and patient and we have never fought (I’ll just let that sink in… not even when I was a teenager). If I had half her wisdom and grace, I’d be a better person.

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

Getting people off Facebook. And that includes writers.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KimberleyFreemanAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KimberleyTweets

Blog: www.kimberleyfreeman.com

Player Profile: James Carol, author of Watch Me

11886a7ef65c3f7fdc925bcbb07f4402James Carol, author of Watch Me

Tell us about your latest creation:

The next book in the Jefferson Winter series is WATCH ME. This time Winter is heading to northern Louisiana to investigate the murder of lawyer, Sam Galloway. All he has to go on is a video of Galloway being burnt alive…

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

St Albans. It’s a cathedral city just outside London.

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

 I wanted to be a rock star.

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

 I’m really hoping that my best work is still to come. I’d hate to think that I’ve peaked already!

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

 Complete chaos. I write at the kitchen table, and I have two children aged 2 and 5. Let’s just say that it gets interesting at times.

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

 I read most things, but my favorite writers are Stephen King, Lee Child and Jodi Picoult – their books go straight to the top of my reading pile.

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

Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. I was 11 when I got hold of a copy, and reality has never been the same since. I reread it recently and it was as amazing as I remember.

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

 I think it would be fun to be Hannibal Lecter for a day or two…

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

 I train horses and riders, and I teach guitar … but not at the same time!

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Favourite food: duck pancakes with hoisin sauce
Favourite drink: Fortnum and Mason tea

Who is your hero? Why?:

 I’m going to have two. Stephen King is my literary hero and John Lennon is my musical hero. The term genius is overused these days, but I think it is more than appropriate to use it in these two cases.

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

The biggest challenge is getting kids to read. They’re the readers of the future, and without them the publishing industry will wither and die.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/james.carol.90

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JamesCarolBooks

Website: http://www.james-carol.com/

Player Profile: K.T. Medina, author of White Crocodile

L1050082Katie Medina, author of White Crocodile

Tell us about your latest creation:

The name of this novel, my debut, is White Crocodile.

White Crocodile is a thriller set in the land mine fields of northern Cambodia.  Teenaged mothers are disappearing from villages around the minefields, while others are being found mutilated and murdered, their babies abandoned.  And there are whispers about the white crocodile, a mythical beast who brings death to all who meet it.

Tess Hardy thought that she had put Luke, her violent husband firmly in her past. Until he calls from Cambodia and there is something she hasn’t heard in his voice before.  Fear.  Two weeks later, he’s dead.  Against her better judgment, Tess is drawn to Cambodia and to the killing fields.

Caught in a web of secrets and lies that stretches all the way from Cambodia to another murder in England, and a violent secret twenty years old, Tess must find out the truth, and quickly – because the crocodile is watching…

9780571310753Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I live in Wimbledon, London, virtually next door to the All England Tennis Club where the Wimbledon tennis championships are held.  I am also lucky enough to have a tiny, three hundred year old thatched cottage by the sea an hour’s drive from London, where I go for weekends and holidays with my husband and children.  My mother is from Brisbane, Queensland and so I have duel British and Australian nationality. I lived and worked in Sydney for two years, ten years ago and would love to repeat the experience.

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

My parents have a photograph of me, aged five, with a crew cut, wearing an Army camouflage outfit. I was an outdoorsy tomboy and always wanted to be a soldier, which is probably why I ended up spending five years in the Army Reserve, and working for Jane’s Information Group, the world’s leading publisher of defence intelligence information as Managing Editor, Land-Based Weapon Systems.  However, I have also always loved to read and write, and much of my childhood was spent immersed in stories.

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

White Crocodile is my first novel, but it is very personal to me and, as such, will probably always be my favourite.

I had the idea for the novel while working at Jane’s.  As part of the role, I spent a month working alongside professional mine clearers in Cambodia, to learn more about the information they needed to help them clear mines more safely.  I was privileged to be able to get to know both Western and Khmer clearers and to spend time talking with Khmers who had lost limbs to land mines.

Separately, I also met a professional mine clearer, Paul Jefferson, who had been seriously injured in a land mine accident in Iraq. He is now a good friend, and I have dedicated White Crocodile to him.

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

I work in a small attic room, which is freezing in winter and sweltering in summer.  However, because I have three children, two dogs and a cat, the location gives me space to escape!

I am not a tidy person – something the Army tried and failed to knock out of me – and so my work space is a litter of paper and post-it notes.  I spend a couple of months laying out a detailed plot on the wall with post-its before I start writing.  The plot of White Crocodile is complex and contains multiple interrelated sub-plots and I would have completely
lost track without my post-it note map!
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I am an avid crime and thriller reader, which is why I chose to write in that genre.  I love writers such as Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Martina Cole, Mo Hayder, Michael Robotham and Lee Child among others.  One of my favourite books is Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, which I think is an enduringly excellent thriller.  I also enjoy books that explore people’s psychology, such as the classic Lord of the Flies, as I have a degree in Psychology and am fascinated by human behaviour.

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

Two books spring to mind: Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird.  They are both fantastic children’s psychological thrillers, with great story lines and vividly drawn, memorable characters. I have read these novels a number of times over the years and never fail to appreciate them.  I was also an avid reader of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and, in common with many other tomboys, wanted to be George.

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

I would like to be Jack Reacher, because of the freedom that he has to go wherever he wants and to behave however hewants, without rules or boundaries. I think it would be incredibly liberating to have no home, no possessions, no commitments and no dependents – for a while at least.  I also love the fact that he knows how to handle himself.  No body gets one over on Jack Reacher!

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

Apart from reading, I spend as much of my spare time as I can by the sea.  I am probably more Aussie than Brit in my heart, as I love being outdoors, love the beach, swimming, sailing, and anything to do with being out on the water.  I also have a vegetable patch, which I find fascinating. My home grown vegetables always look wonky and never quite the
right colour, but they taste fantastic – much better than shop bought

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

In the winter, which is unfailingly cold and rainy in England, I love roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and a cup of tea.  In the summer, it has to be shellfish and a cold glass of Aussie
sauvignon.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My hero is personal to White Crocodile and to me, and is Paul Jefferson, the friend who was badly injured while clearing land mines in Iraq.  He lost a leg and is blind, but continues to lead a more active life than many of the able bodied people I know (including myself) completing a degree in Archeology, travelling, working for charities, renovating a house in France and leading an active social life.  He never complains, is energetic and fearless, and I find him incredibly inspirational.

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

I think the biggest challenge for books and reading is lack of time.  The world feels as if it is getting increasingly challenging and competitive, and people have to run faster just to keep up. It can be hard to find the time to curl up with a good book – though there are few things more enjoyable when you do.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Whitecrocodilebyktmedina

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatieMedina11

Website/Blog: www.ktmedina.com

Player Profile: Michael Robotham, author of Life Or Death

bytonymott_545Michael Robotham, author of Life Or Death

Tell us about your latest creation:

 LIFE OR DEATH is a love story and a thriller and a story of redemption. It’s a standalone novel that introduces Audie Palmer, a man who has spent a decade in prison for armed robbery, but escapes the day before he’s due to be released. For ten years Audie  has been beaten, stabbed, throttled and threatened by prison guards, inmates and criminal gangs, who all want the answer to the same question – what happened to the money? But Audie isn’t running from trouble. Instead he’s trying to save a life more important than his own.

9780751552898Where are you from / where do you call home?:

My books might not be set in Australia, but I’m a home-grown boy. I was born in Casino, on northern NSW and grew up in Gundagai, where the dog sits on the tuckerbox. After living overseas for many years, home is now on Sydney’s northern beaches, where I write in what my daughter’s call, ‘Dad’s Cabana of Cruelty’.

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

 I wanted to be an author from the age of 12, when I discovered Ray Bradbury and wrote him a letter via his New York publishers. Three months later, I came home from school and found a package on the kitchen table. It contained the four or five Bradbury titles that weren’t available in Australia, along with a letter from the great man
himself, saying how pleased he was to have a young reader on the far side of the world.

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

That’s like asking me which is my favourite daughter! All my books are special to me, but the one that changed my life was the first one: THE SUSPECT, which caused a bidding war at the London Book Fair and allowed me to fulfil my dreams. The latest book LIFE OR DEATH is a story I’ve wanted to tell for twenty years, but didn’t think I had the skills until now.

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

 As mentioned earlier – I write in the Cabana of Cruelty, a lovely outside space with wrap-around windows and a shingle roof, overlooking tropical gardens and a swimming pool. It is sometimes hard to conjure up the means streets when I’m looking at paradise.

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

 I read very widely. Mainly fiction. Although I have my favourites like James Lee Burke, Daniel Woodrell and Dennis Lehane, I tend not to read much crime fiction, but I do have about a four books on the go at the one time, in different rooms of the house, as well as an audio book on my iPod.

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

 The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury opened my imagination and transported me and frightened my pants off. Lord of the Rings was also special. I borrowed it so often from my school library the librarian banned me from taking it out again. So I took to hiding it in the library. She found out, but instead of punishing me, she gave me the book. It is battered, broken and taped together, but still has pride of place on my shelves because it is the first book that I ever truly ‘earned’.

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

Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. Nick calls himself ‘one of the few honest people that I have ever known’ and he prides himself on maintaining his standards in a corrupt, fast-moving world. He is a wonderful observer of people and events. He can see their flaws and foibles, but refuses to be overly critical. If I were Nick, maybe I could save Jay Gatsby from himself.

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

I’m so boring. When I’m not writing I’m reading. When I’m not reading I’m walking. And even when I’m walking I’m listening to a book. Peter Corris tells the story of bumping into David Malouf at a function and asking if he was writing just then,        ‘What else is there to do?’ he answered. That’s what it’s like for me…breathing.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

 I love a gin & tonic at the end of the writing day and a glass of wine with dinner. As for food, it has to be spicy whether it’s a curry, stir fry and homemade pizza.

Who is your hero? Why?:

 My heroes are those people who we never hear about. The parents who look after disabled children and the wives who escape from violent husbands and the teachers, nurses and volunteers who give back more to their communities than they ever receive

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

 I think the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading is for publishers, authors and booksellers to find a business model that works for everyone.  Heavy discounting by online sellers and self-published authors, is  suffocating bricks and mortar stores and prompting more and more readers who think a book should only
cost 99c or $2.99. On top of this we have the spectre of piracy and illegal file sharing that is becoming more widespread with digitalisation.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelRobothamAU

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelrobotham

Website: www.michaelrobotham.com

Player Profile: Alafair Burke, author of All Day And A Night

author photo centerAlafair Burke, author of All Day And A Night

Tell us about your latest creation:

ALL DAY AND A NIGHT

A murder case with ties to a convicted serial killer leads a young defense lawyer and an NYPD homicide detective into parallel investigations with explosive and deadly results in this superb mystery from “one of the finest young crime writers working today” (Dennis Lehane).

        The latest story dominating New York tabloids—the murder of Park Slope psychotherapist Helen Brunswick—couldn’t be further from Carrie Blank’s world handling federal appeals at one of Manhattan’s most elite law firms. But then a hardcharging celebrity trial lawyer calls Carrie with a case she can’t refuse. Anthony Amaro, a serial killer convicted twenty years earlier, has received an anonymous letter containing a chilling detail about Brunswick’s murder: the victim’s bones were broken after she was killed, the same signature used in the murders attributed to Amaro. Now Amaro is asking to be released from prison.

        Carrie has a reason to be interested. Her older sister, Donna, was one of Amaro’s victims. Determined to force the government to catch Donna’s real killer, Carrie joins Amaro’s wrongful conviction team with her own agenda. On the other side of Amaro’s case is NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, who, along with her partner, J.J. Rogan, is tapped as the “fresh look” team to reassess the investigation that led to Amaro’s conviction. The case is personal for them, too: Ellie wonders whether they got the assignment because of her relationship with the lead prosecutor, and Rogan has his own reasons to distrust Amaro’s defense team.

        As the NYPD and Amaro’s lawyers search for certainty among conflicting evidence, their investigations take them back to Carrie’s hometown, where secrets buried long ago lead to a brutal attack—one that makes it terrifyingly clear that someone has gotten too close to the truth.

resized_9780571302314_224_297_FitSquareWhere are you from / where do you call home?:

New York City

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

Some days I wanted to be a writer, but I also wanted to be an actress, pop star, hairdresser, and an eavesdropping switchboard operator (I watched a lot of old movies).  Turns out, I became a lawyer, working as a prosecutor for several years.  It was through my work as a prosecutor that I got an idea for a book.  That idea became my first novel, JUDGMENT CALLS (2003).

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

I really like my new book, ALL DAY AND A NIGHT.  It bends genres, combining a police procedural, legal drama, and a psychological thriller into one novel.  It also allows two very strong female characters to share the canvas.

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

I can write just about anywhere.  I have a studio apartment that I use as a full-time office.  I get it nice and tidy once a year right after I finish a book and find some downtown.  Then it becomes increasingly cluttered until the next overhaul, but I always know where everything is.

My secondary office is a Mario Batali wine bar down the street called Otto. I find a quiet corner and write in the middle of the day.

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

I read a ton of crime fiction.

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

It’s hard to pick only one but I’ll say THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konisburg.  Before Harry Potter ever heard of Hogwarts, Claudia and Jamie lived secretly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  To this day, I can’t go to that amazing museum (where coincidentally my husband works) without nursing fantasies of sneaking in overnight.  I was also a big Encyclopedia Brown fan.  Oh, and Amelia Bedelia.  Mysteries and bad puns were the ultimate entertainment –
not much has changed for me thirty-five years later.

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

Nancy Drew.  I love to solve a mystery.

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

 I’m crazy about my dogs and golf.  If only my dogs could play golf, that would be the perfect day.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

A good margarita with fresh lime juice, on the rocks with salt, is hard to beat.  I eat anything, but have a special compartment in my stomach for raw clams and oysters.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My husband.  He’s a good person in every way.

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

Making sure that people have access to a diverse selection of reading materials

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/alafairburkebooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alafairburke

Website: www.alafairburke.com

Author Interview with Wanda Wiltshire and giveaway of Betrothed and Allegiance

Please welcome Australian author Wanda Wiltshire to Boomerang Books. Thanks so much for joining us Wanda.

Congratulations on the launch of your YA novel Allegiance, the second in the Betrothed series. For those who haven’t read Betrothed, can you tell us a little bit about this fantasy series?
Thanks Tracey, it’s a pretty exciting time! The Betrothed series tells the story of Amy Smith, a 17 year old girl with serious health issues, school bullies and a strong feeling that she doesn’t belong. In the first instalment of the series Amy discovers her suspicions are true when she meets the drop-dead gorgeous Leif in what she believes are dreams. After telling Amy she is betrothed to him, Leif urges her to seek her true identity. Soon Amy learns that not only is her birth name Marla but that she is a faery – exiled from her homeland, Faera. Amy – who begins to think of herself as Marla – is swept up in the thrill of her discovery and comes to believe that the only hurdle to happiness is overcoming Leif’s father, the cold and callous King Telophy. She is soon to learn there is so much more to her new reality.

photoWhat’s your inspiration for the land of Faera?
Betrothed was the answer to a prayer and Faera came to me as part of that. It’s the kind of world I long to live in with aspects of it continually being revealed to me. Faera is not like any particular place I’ve seen, but I do occasionally catches glimpses of it in the real world – a shaft of sunlight falling through a lush forest, a beautiful display of colour as the sun goes down or an exquisite flower growing wild. It is a place of old forests, glittering rivers and majestic mountains. The Fae create their homes amongst this beauty but would no more destroy a tree to do so than tear off one of their own wings. Faera is not a perfect world, as Marla soon discovers, but one where the Fae share the resources, do what they love and work together.

Betrothed has been receiving fantastic reviews both in Australia and overseas, have you been surprised by how well it’s doing?
What truly surprises me is that I wrote Betrothed. In the beginning I never actually believed I could finish it, so writing ‘the end’ on the manuscript was one of the highlights of my life. To celebrate I had a tiny book made for my charm bracelet. Sometimes I twirl that little gold book in my fingers and have to pinch myself! What I’ve found with Betrothed is that the people who love it, really really love it. I can’t say I’m surprised about that because I feel exactly the same way. I’m not very surprised either that lovers of Betrothed are looking forward to finding out what happens next. Betrothed did end at a crucial moment, and I know if I were a reader I’d want to know.

Is Allegiance a stand-alone book or should readers seek to read Betrothed first?
Allegiance is the second in the Betrothed series and while I think it could be enjoyed on its own, readers will get much more out of it if they have read Betrothed first. Not only to be up to date with the story, but – love them or hate them – it’s through Betrothed we come to know the characters. We also see changes in Marla between the two books. In Betrothed she is completely dazzled by both Leif and Faera – to the point where she thinks of little else. In Allegiance the illusion of perfection is shattered. She discovers that all is not as it seems in the magical land of her birth. Nor is being betrothed to the Prince the fairy tale she imagined. Rather, she is faced with a series of challenges and obligations in her new life completely unknown in her former one. It remains to be seen how she will deal with them.

You’ve created a handmade bookmark to give to the winner of the giveaway below, can you tell us how this started? How did you start making bookmarks for fans of your books?
I love interacting with Betrothed’s fans. They give me such wonderful encouragement and feedback on all aspects of my writing – from my style to the characters, to the story itself. Making the bookmarks is a kind of connecting experience and a way I can show my appreciation for the support my readers give me – mostly through my author page on Facebook. And it’s a lot of fun too! I can see myself making bookmarks for each of the books in the series.

Are you still planning to write six books in this series?  What can you tell us about the next one?
Right from the start, I knew the beginning and the end of Betrothed. That hasn’t changed. However, as I’ve written Marla’s story, more and more details have been revealed to me. In that way the series has grown. When I started writing and realized her story wouldn’t fit into one book, I thought her adventures might fill two. Two very quickly became three, then four. Five and six came to me sometime later. Honestly, I can’t see the series growing any bigger than that. The seventh book will be a prequel and occurred to me when I started to get images of how the land of Faera and its first inhabitants came to be. As for the third book, I can tell you the title is Confused. I will also say that as different to Betrothed as Allegiance is, so too will be Confused to each of the books that came before it. Sound confusing? Stay tuned.

Anything else you’d like to share with Boomerang Books readers?
Only thanks for having me, Tracey. I hope readers of Marla’s story fall in love with it. If so, come and join me and other Betrothed lovers on my Facebook page. I think it’s a friendly place to be.


Giveaway Details

Prize: Wanda is giving away a copy of Betrothed, a copy of Allegiance and a handmade bookmark.

Eligibility: you must be an existing Boomerang Books member to be eligible for this giveaway.  (Not a member? Click here to join; it’s free and easy to create an online account).

To enter:  comment below and tell us what cause you would pledge your allegiance to.

Entries close: midnight, Thursday 31 July 2014

Winner announced: Wanda Wiltshire will help me to choose the winner which will be announced here on the blog.

Read a FREE extract of Betrothed, here, and click here to buy the book.

Read a FREE extract of Allegiance here, and click here to buy the book.

Meet Suzy Zail, author of Alexander Altmann A10567

Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books, Suzy.

Alexander Altmann

Your second novel for young adults, Alexander Altmann A10567 Black Dog Books (Walker Books)  is a candid account of a Hungarian boy’s experience in the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In spite of the horrific events, you have crafted a story of human indomitability and hope. Was this a deliberate strategy?

Yes.   There’s no episode more grim than the Holocaust. Alexander Altmann A10567 doesn’t shy away from the fact that the world can be a bleak and crushing place, but I also wanted to remind readers that we’re capable of great things, that we can help – in big and small ways – and that our capacity for friendship can powerful.

 Why are you interested in the holocaust?

My father inspired me to write the book. I was a litigation lawyer when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1998. My father had survived Auschwitz as a thirteen-year-old, but had never talked about his experiences. Once he was diagnosed he wanted to tell us everything. He didn’t want us to be victims or victimise others.

I left the law and spent the next 5 years writing his story, promising him, on the day he died, that I’d get it published. Writing The Wrong Boy and Alexander Altmann allowed me to remember him and pass on his warning never to forget.

Alexander Altmann was inspired by the true experiences of Fred Steiner, who worked in the elite horse commando at Auschwitz. What was the most disturbing thing he told you? The most hopeful?

The most disturbing episode was when he was forced to throw his baby cousin over a barbed wire fence hoping his aunt would catch him. (She did and that cousin is now living in San Francisco in her 60s.) The most hopeful was when Fred was severely whipped by the Commander but his wife called him by name and fed him cake.

How has the 2013 CBCA short-listing of The Wrong Boy changed your writing life?

wrong boy

 I came to writing fiction through non-fiction. It was a steep learning curve: from interviewing people to imagining them into existence. The short-listing allowed me to believe that my writing could touch people and I could master the craft of storytelling.

Why are you writing YA?

I didn’t pick YA. My stories did. Young adults are the next generation of leaders. They’re our future and the perfect audience for a story set in Auschwitz. The only way to prevent something like the Holocaust recurring is by trying to understand it and the best way to help kids do that is giving them a character to care about. Not millions of Jews – just one – a girl or boy their age with the same fears, dreams and insecurities.

I knew teenagers would relate to the stories because their lives, like Hanna and Alexander’s, can also involve betrayal, abandonment, loneliness and shame. They’re also discovering their identity, so a book that encourages them to examine intolerance and question how they want to live is powerful.

 

 

Player Profile: Stav Sherez, author of Eleven Days

stav-sherezStav Sherez, author of Eleven Days

Tell us about your latest creation:

Eleven Days – 11 Days before Christmas and a small convent in West London is burning. When the detectives get there they find ten dead nuns and one unexplained body. The case stretches back to South American and the upsurge of Liberation Theology in the 1970s. I always wanted to write a locked room mystery and this was my attempt to do so. It’s also the closest to a cosy I’ve written (or am likely to write) 🙂

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

London / London.

9780571290536When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

Always an author. Since the age of ten or so. I always loved books and read all the time. There never was any other possibility!

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

I like all my books for different reasons. Eleven Days is the one where I’m most happy with the writing.

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

I have an office room which is quite bare. I face the wall not the window to avoid distractions. I keep it quite ordered otherwise the chaos clutters up my brain.

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

Crime fiction, of course. American literary fiction. Poetry.

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

I read a lot of the geopolitical thrillers that were very popular in the 1970s – Alistair Maclean, Frederick Forsyth, Wilbur Smith as well as Stephen King.

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

Always impossible to answer this as all my favourite literary characters have awful lives.

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

Mainly listen to music! Not that surprising, I know but it’s the only thing that allows my brain to switch off from narrative discourse.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Burgers and Coke.

Who is your hero? Why?:

William Burroughs – for showing that anything is permissible in the novel.

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

The many electronic distractions of our lives.

Website: www.stavsherez.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/stavsherez

Player Profile: Alan Baxter, author of Bound

alan-kirkAlan Baxter, author of Bound

Tell us about your latest creation:

Bound (The Alex Caine Series, Book 1)

Alex Caine, a fighter by trade, is drawn into a world he never knew existed— a world he wishes he’d never found.

Alex Caine is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents’ moves before they know their intentions themselves.

An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight andreveals, ‘I know your secret.’ Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else.

A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards destruction and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist. Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him – the shards of the Darak. But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.

9780732299101Where are you from / where do you call home?:

 I was born and raised in Britain, then travelled the world, met a lovely Australian girl and we got married. Now I live on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales, about half an hour south of Wollongong.

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

 I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a marine biologist and a martial arts instructor. Two out of three ain’t bad (I’m not a marine biologist.)

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

 I would like to think my best work is yet to come. How’s that for an evasive answer?

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

 I have a home office that also doubles as the spare bedroom and it’s a study in ordered chaos. Honestly, I know where everything is. Almost. I think.

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

 Everything. I’m a voracious reader. I love novels and short stories in all genres, but I tend to favour the dark fantasy and horror stuff the most, which is also mostly what I write.

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

 It’s hard to say, but there is no question that Clive Barker’s “Cabal”, Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” books and the “Hellblazer” comic series (particularly the Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis runs) were massively influential on me

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

Batman. As if you need to know why.

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

 I teach kung fu (which is a job, rather than “spare time”, but also a lifelong passion), I play video games, walk the dog, look after my infant son and pay tribute in the form of sacrifice to the Dark Lord of the Western Nethers, upon whose whim the universe turns.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

 I love a good roast beef dinner, and I can’t ignore a good single malt scotch.

Who is your hero? Why?:

 I have many heroes, for many reasons. In truth, anyone who is true to themselves, just and fair, and follows their dreams with passion is a hero to me.

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

 It sounds trite, but a single bloody ebook format would be good. ePub is almost ubiquitous, but Amazon do insist on mobi. Pushing to a single DRM-free format is something that needs to happen, but I don’t know if it will any time soon.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alan-Baxter/115972625096325

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/AlanBaxter

www.alanbaxteronline.com

Doodles and Drafts – On a Quest with Rosanne Hawke

9780702253317Tales of aid working in disaster-ravaged lands may not be the first thing young readers reach for. However, Rosanne Hawke’s junior novel, Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll is a captivating mixture of enchantment and adventure with the added bonus of being rich in cultural awareness and humanity, attributes Hawke is well known for.

Almost nine year-old Kelsey is plucked from her comfortable Australian existence and ‘stuck in Pakistan’ after her parents decide to help the flood victims there. She misses her friends and her Nanna Rose, and regards her temporary confinement within a remote country village as something of a jail-sentence.

Fortunately, first-world modern conventionality co-exists comfortably alongside third world simplicity and Kelsey is able to keep in touch with Nanna Rose through Skype and emails. Through these media, the two of them conjure up a whimsical tale about a beguiling porcelain doll called, Amy Jo who is searching for love and a place to call home. Amy Jo’s quest takes her through jungles, over waterways, and in and out of many hearts and hands until she finally discovers her true destiny and becomes intrinsically entwined with Kelsey’s own fate.

Rosanne HawkeFinding ones sense of place and belonging and feeling loved and appreciated are emotions every child will have little difficulty identifying with. Just how Rosanne Hawke manages to do that through the eyes of a doll is about to be revealed. Today, I welcome her to the draft table.

Q Who is Rosanne Hawke? Describe your writerly self.

I read a lot, think about things and love to write. If I don’t write I can become downhearted. I journal in order to work out who the characters are and what they are like. My research often goes in to the journal as well. Images help me with ideas and so I like to cut and paste (Always have since I could use scissors). Sometimes I draw (not very well). I like to go to a place which will be the setting of my story as it’s the fine detail like a flower or a certain animal that lives there which can bring a genuineness to the story, and it’s easier for me to visualise as I write. It isn’t always possible – I couldn’t go to Afghanistan when I wrote the Borderland series but I met many Afghans in Pakistan and poured over National Geographic issues and spoke to people who had been there.

Q You’ve written a varied collection of stories for children. Name some of your favourites. Why do you regard them as standouts?

Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll as it is my youngest novel in print and gives young readers a taste of culture and adventure with a link to Australia. Also Zenna Dare for YA as it explores reconciliation on many levels and is set in Kapunda. There is so much of my family and myself in the book as is in The Messenger Bird, which is actually set in my house.

Q You were partly inspired to write about Kelsey by stories about lost things and being found like, The Lost Coin, The Velveteen Rabbit and The Tin Soldier. How strongly did Amy Jo want to be heard and have her tale written about? What makes her story special?

Amy Jo plaitsAmy Jo was lost and wanted to find someone to love her even while she was lost herself. What makes her story particularly special is that my daughter’s real doll is named after a person called Amy Jo who was my daughter’s friend. Years later Amy Jo died in childbirth and my daughter said how nice it would be to write the doll stories that I told her about Amy Jo when she was nine and to dedicate the book to the memory of the real Amy Jo.

Q I particularly enjoyed the way you dedicated different chapters to different characters depending on which part of Amy Jo’s adventure or Kelsey’s story we were in and who was telling it. How important was it for Amy Jo to have her own voice? Do you think this makes her quest more believable?

Yes, I think readers would want to know what Amy Jo was thinking and doing, so I put the storytelling in different chapters. Also I thought this may be less confusing for younger readers than having it all together in one chapter.

Q Your stories are often set in distant lands, introduce young readers to peoples and places, and food and customs they may not have encountered before or fully understand. How important is that for you as a storyteller? Why?

Firstly I loved stories set in diverse places when I was a child; secondly, because I lived in the Middle East I miss it and so tend to write about it. Also since I am interested in it I may hear or read of a topic like trafficking or a forced marriage and want to write to give a voice to children in the world who don’t seem to have one at the moment. In setting a story outside Australia I hope readers will be able to ‘see’ the characters and experience where they live, and discover that although the setting and problems are different the characters are not so different from themselves. In this way children may discover that knowledge dispels fear. I also write books set in Australia, especially with Cornish themes, as I am a fourth generation Cornish-Australian descendant.

Q Kelsey is an appealing character for 8 – 12 year-olds. Would you like to see her mature through further adventures or do you prefer to write stand-alone stories?

MustaraThank you, I usually write stand alone stories and because so much goes into them, they usually feel finished to me. When I wrote The Keeper I knew there was still unfinished business so when readers asked for a sequel I did so. There are three books now in The Keeper series. I had this same feeling about Mustara. The end papers show Taj and the explorers setting off which is a new beginning, so that’s why I wrote the novel: Taj and the Great Camel Trek.

Q What’s on the draft table for Rosanne?

I am finishing a children’s novel about an immigrant girl from Cornwall set in 1911 who comes with her family to farm in the South Australian Mallee. It’s a huge difference from Cornwall and she doesn’t like it. For YA I’m working on a novel about a high school girl in Pakistan who is accused of something dreadful.

Just for fun question: Have you ever encountered the Headless Nun whilst wondering around Kapunda?

No, I haven’t, but Kapunda has a ghostly reputation because of the mines and tunnels under the town. I live in a house with underground rooms too but so far it’s just us here.

Sounds thrilling nonetheless, thanks Rosanne!

Read a full review for Kelsey and the Quest for the Porcelain Doll here.

UQP June 2014

 

Player Profile: Nicholas J. Johnson, author of Chasing the Ace

Nick-JohnsonjpgNicholas J. Johnson, author of Chasing the Ace

Tell us about your latest creation:

Joel Fitch has watched every twist-happy movie there is about con men, and he thinks he knows it all. He thinks he is going to be a master con artist.

Richard Mordecai is a real-life swindler. But, at the end of a long career of lies and betrayal, Richard is tired and jaded. He’s ready to retire.

Until he meets Joel.

They form an uneasy partnership and Joel soon finds himself thrust into a world of bottom dealers and fraudsters.

And when the pair accidentally scam the wrong mark, they have to draw on every last trick to get themselves free and walk away with the money … and hopefully their dignity.

9781925030181Where are you from / where do you call home?:

Originally from Canberra (the natural home of all good Australian con artists) I moved to Melbourne in 2007.

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

When I was a child I wanted, more than anything else, to be a dog. My parents did not support my dream but were very encouraging of my goal to become a professional magician.

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

Chasing The Ace is my first novel and, by default, my best. I hope to top it soon with the sequel, Fast & Loose.

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

 I love writing in cafes. There is just enough distraction to stop me going insane and steady source of good food and
quality caffeine to keep me focused.

There are half a dozen Melbourne cafes that see me as a ‘regular’. If only they knew how I cheated on them.

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

I read a lot of older books. I love Lawrence Block, particularly his early work. I also have a large library of books on
con artists, card cheats and swindlers. If you want to commit fraud, I’m the guy to see.

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

What A Mess. The adventures of that mutt made me realise it is ok to be messy, disorganised and scatterbrained. Even when everyone else around has got it together.

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

 I wouldn’t be a literary character. Their lives are at the whims of authors who are, as well all know, terrible people.

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

 Magic. I love magic. Card tricks, mentalism, kid’s magic. I love it all. Pick a card, any card…

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

BBQ Chicken, avocado, cheese and lettuce on a toasted pide with a lemonade.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I’m not one for heroes. I’m fair too cynical.

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

The biggest challenge is decline in quality. More and more people can write and get their work out there thanks to self-publishing and the internet. However, that also means that we now have poorly edited books selling thousands of copies filled with clunky writing, bad speling and grammar incorrectly.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/honestconman

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CountLustig

Website: www.conman.com.au

Blog: www.chasingtheace.com.au

Player Profile: Chris Ewan, author of Dead Line

AuthorPic-380x570Chris Ewan, author of Dead Line

Tell us about your latest creation:

My latest book is Dead Line. It’s a noir kidnap thriller set in Marseilles, with a twist — the hostage negotiator at the heart of the story is concealing a dark secret of his own.

Daniel Trent’s fiancée, Aimee, has gone missing without a trace, and Trent does everything he can to find her. He suspects that shady businessman Jerome Moreau has something to do with her disappearance, and he plans to abduct and interrogate him. But before he has chance, Moreau is kidnapped, and now Trent must get him back quickly — and alive — before time runs out.

9780571287987 (1)Where are you from / where do you call home?:

 I’m from Taunton, England originally, but I’ve lived on the Isle of Man for the past ten years. If you’ve never been to the Isle of Man, think of somewhere small and windy in the middle of the Irish Sea. Then add motorbikes.

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

 I wanted to be a chef, which was pretty dumb, as I’m not a great cook. Then I wanted to be a travel writer, which explains why a lot of my books end up set in exotic locales. And the Isle of Man.

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

 I think there’s probably some kind of law that says I have to tell you that my most recent book is my best, but in the case of Dead Line, I think it’s probably true. It’s definitely the novel that’s turned out to be closest to the book I had in mind when I started to write it. And I really fell in love with the city of Marseilles. It’s the perfect setting for a thriller.

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

I usually write in a small study carved out of the eaves in the attic of our Victorian terraced house. Just at the moment, though, I’m on vacation in Switzerland (where part of my new book will be set) and I’m writing with a spectacular view of Lake Brienz.

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

 I mostly read crime fiction. Any list I give you is going to be woefully incomplete, but some of my favourite contemporary writers include Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Stav Sherez, Helen Fitzgerald, Ann Cleeves and Harlan Coben.

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

 Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword, Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Plus The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes and many more.

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

Tom Ripley, without the psychosis and the murder habit. Take those out of the equation, and I reckon he had a pretty neat lifestyle.

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

 I’ve just taken up running. So far, I suck at running, but I live in hope.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Maybe not my all-time favourite food but I’m partial to the Manx national dish – chips, cheese and gravy. It tastes better than it sounds.

My favourite drink has to be coffee. I couldn’t write without it.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Raymond Chandler. Reading ‘The Long Goodbye’ for the first time made me fall in love with crime fiction, and every time I go back to it, I fall headlong under its spell all over again.

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

 I’ve just finished a stint working as a writer in residence in Isle of Man schools and I’m stunned and dismayed by how few kids are reading for pleasure. There are challenges everywhere, but it seems to me that getting the next generation of potential readers to engage with books is one of the biggest.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/chrisewanauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrisewan

Website: www.chrisewan.com

Player Profile: John Gordon Sinclair, author of Blood Whispers

JGS hi res cleanJohn Gordon Sinclair, author of Blood Whispers

Tell us about your latest creation:

The title of my latest novel Blood Whispers was inspired by a quote from Hermann Hesse: “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question the stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.” Keira lynch is a criminal lawyer working in Glasgow, Scotland. She has taken on a case involving a young prostitute who has escaped the clutches of a Serbian drug gang. When the CIA get involved Keira realises that things aren’t quite as straight forward as she’d first imagined. What no one realises though is that Keira has a secret of her own and she’s never more dangerous than when she’s under threat. The question is: will she trust her instinct and listen to the message her blood is whispering to her?

9780571283903Where are you from / where do you call home?:

 I was born in Glasgow, although I have lived in London for the past 34years. My wife is Scottish too and we still have a lot of family there so we travel back and forward a lot. We’re never away from Scotland long enough to miss it. I still refer to it as home.

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

 When I was a kid I had no real idea what I wanted to do in life. I still think it’s impossible to make up your mind without having experience of whatever your chosen profession might be. The only ambition I really had was to be in a Woody Allen movie…either that or become Batman. I’m still tempted by the latter.

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

 Blood Whispers is only my second novel, but I enjoyed the writing process much more than the first (Seventy times Seven). I think the positive reaction to the first gave me more confidence, so If I had to choose i’d probably go for Blood Whispers. Although having said that, I have a nagging feeling that the best is yet to come.

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

 I write in a hut at the bottom of my garden called the Roald Dahl social club. I have a flame-effect fire on the wall, a sofa bed and a beer fridge. If it had running water and a Nespresso machine i’d move in permanently. I try to keep it fairly tidy, because I find mess to distracting, but I write ideas on anything that comes to hand so my desk is littered with torn bits of envelopes, scraps of paper and even the odd sheet of loo role.

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

I read a lot of non-fiction. That’s where most of the best ideas are hidden; Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins,  Anne Cadwallader. For fiction, Elmore Leonard, Dickens, Iain Banks, Patrick Suskind, Cormac Macarthy, Albert Camus and Vladimir Nabakov are pretty high up the list of favourites. Any one of them could take the top spot.

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

 I read a lot of Enyd Blyton when I was young but the books that made the biggest impact were the Lord of The Rings trilogy. I still remember the thrill of discussing the story in the playground and to this day am slightly envious of people who belong to reading groups and book clubs. It was the first time i became aware of words being able to paint pictures in your head.

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

 Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. I’m roughly the same height and share his utter disdain for Hypocracy and “the phonies”.

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

 I have two young children so spare time has been missing off the options list for quite a few years now. I used to ride a motorbike and race jet-ski’s. (I cmae 2nd in the first championships in held in Scotland) When the kids are a bit older I’ll get my helmet back on and get out there.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

If it ever came to the point I was asked what my last supper would be i’d opt for Crispy Aromatic Duck and a cold beer, preferably a St Mungo (it’s brewed in Glasgow and is only one of a few beers in Britain granted the German standard for purity).

Who is your hero? Why?:

 My Dad. I remember going into the pub with him when i was in my early twenties and everyone telling me what a great guy he was. “Do anything for you, a real gentleman and one of the good guys,” were the typical sort of comments. I want to be more like him.

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

 The convenience of ebooks has made them very popular, but their sales are starting to plateau. I have one myself, but I still prefer a book. No matter what form your reading takes your always going to need content and with the cost of a novel running at about half that of a cinema ticket, i’d much rather have ‘words’ creating images in my head than someone visualising it for me on a big screen. I think the future’s a bright one.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jgs-x

Player Profile: Chris Pavone, author of The Accident

chrispavoneChris Pavone, author of The Accident

Tell us about your latest creation:

THE ACCIDENT is an international thriller about ambition and corruption; the story takes place over one long, perilous day in the life of a literary agent who receives an anonymous, dangerous manuscript about a powerful man’s secret past.

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

 I’m from New York City, and except for university and a modest expat stint in Luxembourg, it’s where I’ve always lived.

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

As David Byrne of the Talking Heads supposedly said, “I wanted to be a secret agent and an astronaut, preferably at the same time.” Which is to say: I didn’t have any rational expectations.

9780571298938What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

THE EXPATS is the novel of mine that’s more true and more special; THE ACCIDENT is a more thrilling thriller. They’re different books, but I think there’s no “best” in the comparison.

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

 I write in a member’s club, which is sort of like a fine hotel lobby, with waiters bringing coffee and food, and a swimming pool on the roof, and lots of people around, all the time. I’m not productive in quiet solitude.

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

 I read primarily what’s referred to as literary fiction, and also a steady diet of various types of crime novels.

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

The Sun Also Rises is the book I read the most closely, the most frequently, and thought the most meaningful.

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

 I’d be James Bond. I don’t think I need to explain why.

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

 I cook, play tennis, do crosswords, play ball with my kids. Sometimes when I ought to be writing a novel, I’ll instead paint the dining room walls.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Negroni on the rocks is my go-to cocktail. For the past couple of years, my favorite food to cook has been a 24-hour pork roast, recipe courtesy of the River Cottage Meat Book.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My twin sons share that honor jointly. Every day I’m amazed at their capacity for empathy, kindness, humor, enthusiasm, and overall goodness. I suspect the world would be much better if it were run by the children.

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

Consumers are spending huge sums on culture and entertainment, but they’re increasingly paying it to device manufacturers, cable network operators, and internet/telecom service providers. Then they expect the intellectual property itself–the books, the news, the films, the TV shows, the games, the apps–to be “free” or approaching it. We have been tricked into lining the coffers of immensely profitable international corporations, while withholding fair compensation from individual artists, performers, writers, and other creators. This is not only unjust; it’s untenable.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChrisPavone

Website: http://www.chrispavone.com/

Player Profile: Geoffrey McSkimming, author of Phyllis Wong and the Return of the Conjuror

1_McSkimmingGeoffrey1Geoffrey McSkimming, author of Phyllis Wong and the Return of the Conjuror

Tell us about your latest creation:

Phyllis Wong and the Return of the Conjuror

This is the second Phyllis Wong mystery and in it, Phyllis Wong, that brilliant young magician and clever sleuth, discovers a crime that dates back to the time of Shakespeare and is seeping into the 21st century. As Phyllis herself says, ‘Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, the ride will get bumpy!’

9781743318379Where are you from / where do you call home?:

 I divide my time between Sydney, Australia, and Cawdor, Scotland.

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

 I wanted to be a ventriloquist, then a puppeteer, then a magician, then an actor, then a writer. I tried a few of the former, then found out that writing was for me!

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

That is such a hard question. I’m happy with all the books I’ve had published. Phyllis Wong and the Return of the Conjuror is a personal favourite, though; Phyllis is such a clever girl and I loved transporting her (and me) back to Shakespeare’s time.

9781742378213[1]Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I write sitting on an old, art deco lounge which once upon a time belonged to my grandmother. It’s a big, comfortable sofa and I can surround myself with cushions, my manuscript and notebooks, cups of coffee, pens and other things I need when I’m writing.

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

 I love reading old crime novels. I have a lot in our home library, some dating back to the 1920s. At the moment I’m finishing reading all the detective novels by Nicholas Blake (Cecil Day Lewis, the Poet Laureate and father of Daniel Day Lewis).

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

 The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury; Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury; The Three Investigators series of novels; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis; Travels with a Gherkin by Justine van Orgling.

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

 Cairo Jim. Because after writing 19 books in which he appears I have come to know him very well.

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

 Dream up plots for stories … and watch my favourite magician doing magic ..

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

 Anything red.

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

 I think it’s the same challenge that’s always been there: to keep producing great quality books and stories. It doesn’t matter what format people will be reading them on — whether it’s paper or electronic versions — if the quality and the pleasure is not there for the reader, the reader won’t be there for the story

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Phyllis-Wong-mysteries-by-Geoffrey-McSkimming/244387125644779?ref

Websites: phylliswong.com ; geoffreymcskimming.comcairojim.com

Player Profile: Jane Paech, author of Delicious Days in Paris

img_23161
Jane Paech at Carette tea salon, Place des Vosges, Paris. (PHOTO Vincent Bourdon)

Jane Paech, author of Delicious Days in Paris

Tell us about your latest creation: Delicious Days in Paris. It’s a series of walking tours that explore the food and culture of Paris, with visits to both legendary and little-known cafés, restaurants and pâtisseries along with small museums, art galleries, gardens and markets – all at a civilised pace, with time to daydream.

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

Adelaide, South Australia

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

A chef.

9781921383045Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

During periods of intense writing my study gets pretty messy, but I can’t work like that for too long. It’s essential for me to have lots of light and a large window to connect me to the garden and the outside world.

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

Books in the food/travel genres

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

The enchanting Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

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

I love to cook (and eat!). I also enjoy lap swimming a couple of times a week, and taking long walks on the beach or along Adelaide’s Linear Park.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?: A crispy-skinned confit de canard with sautéed potatoes, and a glass of Sancerre Blanc.

knifeandforkintheroad.wordpress.com

Player Profile: Rjurik Davidson, author of Unwrapped Sky

RjurikDavidson2-300x245Rjurik Davidson, author of Unwrapped Sky

Tell us about your latest creation:

 Unwrapped Sky sits somewhere between fantasy and science fiction, in a little subgenre sometimes called the New Weird. It’s set in the fantastic city of Caeli-Amur, which is something like an industrial version of Ancient Rome. Steam trams chug along the streets. A ruined forum lies close to a huge arena. Three dictatorial Houses rule the city. It’s filled with strange wonders. Ancient Minotaurs arrive for the traditional Festival of the Sun and New-Men bring wondrous technology from their homeland. Hideously disfigured Wastelanders stream into the city and strikes break out in the factory district.

Unwrapped Sky Cover ImageThe novel tells the stories of three people. The philosopher-assassin Kata has debts that need settling and will do anything to ensure they’re met. The ambitious bureaucrat Boris Autec rises through the ranks, turning his back on everything he once believed, and soon his private life turns to ashes. The idealistic seditionist Maximilian resolves to overturn the oppression dominating the city, and hatches a mad plot to unlock the secrets of the Great Library of Caeli Enas, drowned in the fabled city at the bottom of the sea. 

Unwrapped Sky is a novel of adventure and suspense, but also – I hope – a book that has something to say about oppression and liberation, progress and destruction, gender and class, love and betrayal.

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

 Originally, I’m from Melbourne. At the moment, I’m splitting my time between Australia and Finland. As a child I spend a fair bit of time in Europe. I lived a few years in Paris. So I feel equally at home in Australia and in Europe, though I guess, in the end, Melbourne is my place. That’s where my friends and most of my family are. They become increasingly important as you get older, I find.

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

 For some time I used to say I wanted to be a scientist, and I did show some proficiency for it as a child. As a teenager I switched to writer, and though it’s been a long trek, that’s how I make my living now – for the moment at least.

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

 There’s a story recently republished in the Time Traveller’s Almanac, called ‘Domine’, which I’m particularly proud of. It’s a ‘slow’ science fiction story, a character-driven story about a man whose father is on the first serious trip into space. Because of the laws of relativity (what’s called time dilation), the father returns to Earth younger than his son (thirty or so years pass for the son, but only one for the father). So for the son, the father is in some ways younger and older than he. I’m proud of that little Carver-esque story. Having said that, the world of Caeli-Amur is my most sustained creation. So the stories and the novel set there will probably be the way most think of me.

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

 At the moment, I’m writing standing. The laptop sits on a chair, which is itself set on a table. I’ve had some back and neck problems, so I must stand up nowadays. I quite like it, though my feet get sore sometimes. Gone is all the bohemian mess I was used to! But I do occasionally walk off to find reference books and cookies. Or just cookies.

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

 This year I’ve resolved to read more, though my tastes are varied. I’ve always thought it important to read outside one’s genre. You need to know what else is happening. Opening yourself up to many influences is one way of developing original work. On my list at the moment are: ancient history, quantum physics, Hilary Mantel, Jean-Paul Sartre and Scott Lynch. The only thing you’re unlikely to find is poetry, not because I don’t like it, but because I don’t know where to start.

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

 No doubt there were sundry fantasy novels, but I think the ones which really get you are ones you read at about nine or ten years old. For me, I think, there were novels of Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff: books about Vikings and ancient Romans. The love of other worlds was with me already. I wanted to go back in time and see those places. I still do.

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

 Maybe Tristan Smith, from Peter Carey’s strange and wonderful novel The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. For those unaware, Tristan Smith is a young, four-foot man with a stutter, who spends much of the second half of the novel dressed in a mouse suit. I’d like to spend more of my time in a mouse suit. I’m ordering one over the internet now. Thanks for the idea.

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

 Books about hypnotism and the unconscious. In particular, hypnotist, spiritualist and magic shows of the nineteenth century fascinate me: that unusual combination of emerging science, performance and demonstration really fires the imagination. I’m going to include some of it in my third novel, a steampunk book set in Melbourne during the 1880s or 1890s.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

 Authentic Indian gets me every time. The deep, rich flavours, the meat which melts in your mouth, the heat. In terms of drinks, white spirits are nice. I once went to a bar in Russia where the vodka was free but you had to pay for the soft drinks. It wasn’t very good vodka, mind you.

Who is your hero? Why?:

 Most heroes are unseen and unheard: nurses, teachers, carers. But I admire Jean-Paul Sartre, who is an example of a writer who is engaged with the world. I’d like to write books that might do more than simply entertain. If you’re going to spend a year or so writing a book, it should be about something. Sartre’s ability to move between literary forms – theatre, essays, novels – is enviable, and he stood for something. That’s all too rare.

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

The digital revolution means that books – and films and television – are easily reproduced (with the click of a mouse. So it’s going to be hard to sell them in the future, especially as this current generation grows up. The result will be that the current structure of the industry won’t be able to support writers. Quality will go down: just look at paper journalism nowadays. In the short term, I can’t see a way around this, but we live in hope.

Player Profile: Anna Jaquiery, author of The Lying Down Room

mjKPYQE-Anna Jaquiery, author of The Lying Down Room

Tell us about your latest creation:

It’s a crime novel set in France and the first in a series. The main character is a senior French detective at the Criminal Brigade in Paris. This book opens with an investigation into the murder of an elderly woman. Others will die. The main suspects are two evangelists, a man and a boy, who go door-to-door distributing religious pamphlets. I won’t give the rest away – I hope you’ll read the book!

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

There’s no simple answer to this. My father is Malaysian and my mother is half French, half Spanish. My father was a diplomat and we moved every three years or so. I went to French schools, but only lived in France once I’d turned 17 and enrolled in university. I love Southeast Asia and feel very comfortable there. New Zealand holds a special place in my heart and is possibly the place I would call home, if I had to choose. I spent many happy years there. It’s where I met my husband and where one of our two sons was born.

9781447244448When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

Yes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Nothing else.

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

This is my first published novel. Hopefully, my best work is yet to come!

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

I’m not a particularly tidy person but my writing room is reasonably ordered. It’s probably the only room in our house that doesn’t have action figures or pieces of Lego lying around. It’s filled with books and photographs. There are books everywhere in our house, but my favourite books are in this room. I also have lots of photographs here of my two boys. I write next to a window that looks out onto the garden.

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

I read everything. Lots of crime fiction – Ian Rankin, Denise Mina and Robert Wilson are among my favourites. I also love the books of Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lionel Shriver, Jonathan Franzen … I could go. Non-fiction authors I like include Patrick French, William Dalrymple, Orlando Figes and the BBC journalist John Simpson.

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

My earliest memory of reading intensely dates back to when I was a teenager. I devoured books by Jane Austen, F. Scott. Fitzgerald, the Bronte sisters, Henry James, Thomas Hardy …. I remember reading the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell and being mesmerized.  Reading the Catcher in the Rye was a defining moment. The authors I come back to again and again are Graham Greene, Anton Chekhov and William Trevor.

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

That’s a difficult one. Maybe Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! Not for her asocial and introverted nature, but because of her strength of character. She takes charge of her own destiny. I see her as a moral character. She is a fantastic creation. I absolutely loved the Stieg Larsson trilogy.

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

 

I have two young boys and so family life is what takes up most of my spare time – no surprises there, I’m afraid. I recently went back to university, and I also work with an amazing group of people who provide support to refugee families here in Melbourne.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

My favourite drink has to be red wine and my favourite foods tend to be Asian, be it Vietnamese, Thai or Indian. My parents live in Malaysia and I love going there for visits, because it means I get to eat all my favourite things.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I don’t really have one particular hero. But the people I admire are generally intellectually passionate and engaged with the world. At the moment I am reading a memoir by Penelope Lively called Ammonites & Leaping Fish, in which she reflects on her life. She is eighty and yet so full of life still, and intellectual curiosity. I admire people like Salman Rushdie and the late Christopher Hitchens for their brilliance and for having the courage to speak their mind, even at the risk of offending others.

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

 The biggest challenge is keeping independent bookstores in business, and libraries open. So that our children and their children will continue to read and to understand the immense value of books – the many ways in which they enrich our minds, our lives and our communities.

Player Profile: Kathryn Fox, author of Fatal Impact

bf7c232487990ad8976f06.L._V192219222_SX200_Kathryn Fox, author of Fatal Impact

Tell us about your latest creation:

 It’s Anya Crichton’s latest adventure. This time she’s in Tasmania, visiting her increasingly erratic GP mother. Anya becomes involved in the death of a young girl and a fatal outbreak of food poisoning. Evidence of the source points to an organic farm, facing ruin. However, delving deeper, Anya discovers a world of corporate corruption, genetically modified foods, a murdered scientist and buried scientific research. Meanwhile, Anya questions her mother’s sanity. Then the stakes turn deadly…

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

Suburban Sydney, the part most people forget exists. I’ve lived here for about twenty years now.

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

 No. From the age of five I wanted to become a doctor and cure autism. I knew if I studied medicine, I could write in the future. I didn’t cure autism, but the writing worked out.

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

 My children, definitely! In terms of books, I think Fatal Impact is my best and most ambitious story. Hopefully, an author learns and improves her craft with each book!

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

 I like order and peace, so I spend mornings writing at a quiet café without internet distraction. The staff is fantastic and know me pretty well after four books there. After that, I head to my home office and catch up on emails/speaking/plan workshops before another session of writing in the afternoon. I love order, but often the desk is messier than I’d like.

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

 Newspapers, blogs, biographies, and at the moment there are so many good YA books around, as well as crime. Anything but unsolved mysteries.

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

 I must have reread Pollyanna dozens of times because of the mix of characters. In high school, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood made me question whether or not evil actually existed. Loved Othello and learnt what I did not like – Sons and Lovers, for example! I also devoured everything I could on Helen Keller in a quest to better understand how a blind, deaf woman learnt to communicate and inspire the world.

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

 Probably Pollyanna. It sounds trite, but I have so much to be grateful for. After seeing so much death and tragedy in medicine, suspect I suffered before my art. It’s easier now to find the positive – or learning potential – in most situations. You learn not use catastrophic language for non-catastrophic events and it helps see the world differently.

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

 Scrapbooking, struggling to learn the harp and piano (not at the same time!) and watching Days of Our Lives. Yes, that’s my guilty vice.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Anything flavoured Chocolate and orange. That’s food and drink!

Who is your hero? Why?:

John Lasseter, head of Pixar studios. He is the Walt Disney of our generation and a brilliant story teller, crusader and humanitarian. Who else could have given us Toy Story films and Monsters Inc? Then there’s UP and the list goes on! He was fired from Disney because the old animators believed computer animation would ever take off. His story is now history.

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

 Keeping the public interested and aware of what’s new. Publishers need to adapt. Some were slow to accept ebooks, but they’re here to stay, and print books will never be completely replaced. I suspect on demand printing will become more common. Reading is living multiple lives in one lifetime, time travelling, relating to people from other worlds and cultures. As long as there are great stories, reading will thrive.

Charles Dickens serialised his books over a century ago, and the internet may mean authors do the same, leaching chapter by chapter in an insanely busy information age. Writers are already adapting with blogs and branding, so it will be interesting to see how books evolve.

Player Profile: Naomi Wood, author of Mrs Hemingway

Naomi-Picador3Naomi Wood, author of Mrs Hemingway

Tell us about your latest creation:

The latest creation is called Mrs. Hemingway. It’s a historical novel, told from the perspectives of Hemingway’s four wives and mistresses: Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary. Set from 1921-61 it all happens in France and America, in places you’d probably like to go on holiday to, and which I had the arduous task of visiting, for research purposes only, of course.

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

London is home. I grew up in Hong Kong but have been back in England now for quite a while. Although I don’t have family in London it’s where all my friends are – my urban family.

9781447229742When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

When I was a kid I wanted to become “a bloodsucking lawyer” which was a cute if annoying phrase I stole from Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family (one of my favourite movies still). Only later did I realise I wanted to write – and I was twenty-three when this desire to write really took hold.

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

I’m definitely happiest so far with Mrs. Hemingway. I’m proud of the amount of research I put into it and I’m pleased that I got to give voice to four impressive and under-known women.

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

 I live in London where the rents are astronomical, and my room is tiny! This is a guilty thing to admit but often I write in bed with coffee and toast. The room is too small to even have a desk. And if I’m under the duvet I can save on the central heating. It all gets a bit chaotic and invariably there’s ink all over the bedcovers.

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

Too many writers to possibly name but! Kazuo Ishiguro, Marilynne Robinson, James Salter, and I am slowly getting into the work of Kent Haruf. Beautiful work, beautiful sentences.

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

The classics, really – anything by Roald Dahl. I was also a real sucker for the tender friendship shown in Charlotte’s Web. In my early teens I had a brief but intense swing into fantasy and adored the books of Robin Jarvis – all I can remember about them now is that they
were about some rather plucky mice and that I couldn’t put them down.

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

I’d like to be the marvellously damaged Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Beautiful, urbane, and able to drink like a fish.

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

 I like to work on small patch-working projects – things like cushions and small quilts. You can find pictures of my designs on my website. I like working with colour. It’s very pleasing to the eye after the black/white nature of writing.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I love Korean food and would like to put kimchi into everything. Fave drink = red wine, of course.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Martha Gellhorn – for her work, her bravery, her independence at a time when women war correspondents just didn’t really exist.

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

The biggest challenge to the written word is probably the image. Images, especially movings ones, are incredibly easy to consume, they tell a story in half the time, and they give the same emotional punch. Will people read if TV box-sets and movies take over? I hope so. But  it might be a dwindling proportion of us.

Website: www.naomiwood.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NaomiWoodBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NaomiWoodBooks

Player Profile: Jaclyn Moriarty, author of The Cracks in the Kingdom

moriartyjaclyn02Jaclyn Moriarty, author of The Cracks in the Kingdom

Tell us about your latest creation:

The Cracks in the Kingdom is the second book in ‘the Colours of Madeleine’ trilogy.  The Royal Family of the Kingdom of Cello are trapped in our world.  Madeleine, who lives in Cambridge, England has been exchanging letters with Elliot who comes from a farming town in the Kingdom of Cello, through a crack in a parking meter.  Now Madeleine and Elliot must work together to locate the Royal Family, figure out how to open up the crack, and bring the Royals home.

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

I grew up in the north-west of Sydney, spent a few years living in the US, the UK and Canada, and now I’m back in Sydney.  I live close to the harbour and beaches. I like being near water.  When I lived in Montreal, I kept looking for the coast.

9781742612874When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I wanted to be an author from when I was about six.  I also wanted to be an astronomer, an astronaut, a flight attendant, a teacher, a psychologist, and a movie star.

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

I always have trouble with this question.  I think it’s a bit like being asked to choose your favourite child.  And what if I chose one, and then one of the other books happened to see my answer here?  How hurt would he/she be?  I’d have to pay for therapy for him/her for years.

I like all my books for different reasons eg Feeling Sorry for Celia, for being my first book and having a lot of me in it; Finding Cassie Crazy (or The Year of Secret Assignments) because I love the characters; Bindy Mackenzie, because I feel protective of Bindy because everybody hates her, and so on.  I’m proud of A Corner of White and The Cracks in the Kingdom because I spent years imagining the Kingdom of Cello, months researching colours, science, and music, and they are closest to what I want to write.

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

Most mornings I work at one of the outside tables of a local cafe.  So my writing environment is noisy, sunny (or rainy, cloudy, stormy etc) and cluttered (there is nowhere to put my tea because the table is always covered in notes, textas and pens).  In the afternoon I work at my desk in my study.  It’s always important to me to clear the desk completely and tidy up the room before I begin writing.  That’s probably just procrastination.

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

I read a lot of children’s and YA books.  Some of my favourites are Diana Wynne Jones, Louis Sachar, Libba Bray, Frank Cottrell Boyce, David Levithan, Rachel Cohn, E.L. Konigsburg.  Some of my favourite writers for adults include Lorrie Moore, Lisa Moore, Virginia Woolf, P.G. Wodehouse, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Carol Shields, Alice Munro, Barbara Kingsolver, Karen Joy Fowler.

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

In primary school, the defining books were E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet, Roald Dahl’s The Magic Finger and James and the Giant Peach, Madeleine L’Engle’s, A Wrinkle in Time,  Enid Blyton’s, The Folk of the Faraway Tree.  I could go on for a long time.

In high school, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Virigina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. 

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

I always imagine I am Elizabeth Bennett, but I think a lot of people imagine that about themselves.  I grew up identifying with Clover, the second sister in What Katy Did.  Like me, she was a second sister with a charismatic older sister she adored, and she was quiet but sometimes funny.  And I was very taken with her name.

Also Eva Ibbotson wrote some great historical romances with heroines who were quite ordinary-looking but whose faces scrunched up when they smiled, and who therefore caught the attention of the sexy male hero.  I’m pretty sure my ordinary face scrunches up when I smile.

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

I have a seven-year-old son named Charlie so mostly I spend my spare time trying to get him to do his homework, or trying to get him to stop throwing balls around the apartment. (‘There’s quite a lot of thudding up there,’ the man who lives downstairs said to me the other day.)  I’m also addicted to baking cakes (especially anything with ginger and cinnamon), and I am learning the cello, and, if there was a frozen lake anywhere, I would like to skate on it.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Favourite foods include chocolate, blueberries and fine-quality peach; favourite drink, champagne or hot chocolate.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My hero is my mother because she raised six children, took care of over 50 foster children, and made every single child feel special.  She seems like a gentle, quiet person but actually has a wide streak of stubborn strength and a wicked sense of humour. My dad is also very impressive to me because he built up a big successful surveying business out of nothing, learned how to fly planes and helicopters, and he can fix things.

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

The fragmentation of the concentration span.  Nobody wants to read more than two or three lines any more.

5Q Interview with Pip Harry, author of I’ll Tell You Mine

0002846Pip Harry is a freelance journalist who has worked on magazines for many years, including chasing celebrities as Entertainment Editor for NW and Deputy Editor for TV Week before turning herself into a yoga-loving frequent flyer as Health & Travel Editor for Woman’s Day. She’s the co-founder of relationships website, realitychick.com.au and has had short stories published in the UTS Writer’s Anthology and Wet Ink. She became a published author with her debut YA novel I’ll Tell You Mine. Her second YA novel, Head of the River is arriving in 2014, along with a non-fiction ebook about relationships, co-written by Rachel Smith. Pip lives in Sydney with her partner and their gorgeous daughter, Sophie. When not at a keyboard, she can be found searching for the perfect flat white and competing in ocean swimming

Can you remember the first story you ever wrote and, if so, what was it?

It was a fantasy picture book about faeries and magical lands.  Lots of world building and illustration.  I was seven when it was self published and distributed amongst my friends and family. Reviews were glowing.

9780702239380How many novels did you write before your ‘first novel’ was published?

Four. One adult, two YA and a middle grade. All not quite there, but great practice.

What sorts of books do you love to read?

Contemporary YA and adult fiction. Real, funny, gritty and relatable writing always grabs me. My writing buddy Pam Newton also turned me onto smart crime fiction like Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

If you were forced to co-write a novel with someone (as we’re not presuming that you’d want to co-write with anyone necessarily) who would it be?

Is John Green available? We could write a YA love story set in the US & Australia. I’ll have to give him a call and set that up. I’d also love to co-write with my brother Michael, who is a brilliant young writer and editor. We just need to get less busy!

What are you working on now and next?

Now I am putting the finishing touches on a contemporary YA set in the world of competitive school rowing called Head of the River.  It’s out in 2014 with UQP. Next I have co-authored a relationship non fiction ebook with Rachel Smith for Xoum publishing.

Author website: http://www.pipharry.com/

Twitter: @piphaz

 

Player Profile: Anita Heiss, author of Tiddas

Photo Credit: Amanda James
Photo Credit: Amanda James

Anita Heiss, author of Tiddas

Tell us about your latest creation:

My new novel is called TIDDAS. Tiddas, for those who don’t know, is a generic Aboriginal term for your close female friends, those who are like sisters to you. And the tiddas in my novel comprise five women (three Koori, two non-Indigenous) who were born, raised and knocked around together in Mudgee (Wiradjuri country). Over the course of their lives they all move to Brisbane and as they approach their 40s they are each going through a particular journey that puts pressure on themselves and each other. The novel looks at the strengths and challenges of life-long friendships, and deals with a range of issues including substance abuse, identity, unplanned pregnancies and failed attempts at pregnancy.

The structure of the novel revolves around monthly book club meetings, with most titles opening up group discussion of Aboriginal arts, culture, politics and social justice. Identity in all forms is also discussed and unpacked.

For me, Tiddas is also a story that celebrates sameness – what makes us the same as women, the shared human emotions we experience, how we all value our friendships and how many of us are people who like to read.

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

Sydney is my home but my mob are from central NSW, Wiradjuri country – Tumut, Brungle, Cowra and Griffith.

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

As a kind under ten, I wanted to be a nun, then an air-hostess and at one point I wanted to be Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligans Island). As a teenager I was a great penpal, but in my youth I never imagine that I would be an author.

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

I think that my latest novel TIDDAS is my best to date. I guess I hope that after a number of novels my storytelling has improved. TIDDAS is also something that is also very close to me and I think that passion and love for it comes through in the work.

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

I’m currently at a beautiful desk my late father made. And I try to make my office tidy, really I do, but I have paper and books and chocolate and notes usually all over my desk while writing. I have a gorgeous big computer screen which in recent years has made a difference, especially when I spent on average eight hours a day in front of a computer. I also have a vision board in eyesight to remind me of what my goals are for the year.

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

I read across genres – for example, this year alone I’ve read fiction, kids fiction, a couple of picture books, non-fiction and aI’m just about to delve into and anthology of Indigenous writing from a group in Canberra. The list looks like this: Home by Toni Morrison, Dear Life by Alice Munro, The Swan Book by Alexis Wright, How Successful People Lead, by John C. Maxwell, Alfie’s Search for Destiny, David Hardy, The Spotty Dotty Lady, Josie Boyle, illustrated by Fern Martins, Liar Bird, Lisa Walker, Dead Man’s Gold, by Michael Torres, illustrated by Sharyn Egan, By Close of Business: Us Mob Writing (anthology).

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

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – because it was the only book we read at school that talked about race and race relations.

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

At 45 I took up running. Mid-life crisis? You decide. I also love to chill at the beach, a LOT!

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Favourite bad food is chocolate, favourite good food is the humble banana

Who is your hero? Why?:

My Mum – she is strong, kind, always there for me, and she’s good for laugh.

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

I think competition with electronic media – hand held games etc. A lot of kids have a game in their hands constantly, rather than a book. I think nurturing that love of reading in our young people is one of the biggest challenges.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anita-Heiss/24222663243

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnitaHeiss

Website: www.anitaheiss.com

Blog: http://anitaheiss.wordpress.com/

5Q Interview with Tristan Bancks, author of Two Wolves

bancks, tristanTristan Bancks is a writer and filmmaker. He has a background as an actor and television presenter in Australia and the UK. His short films have won a number of awards and have screened widely in festivals and on TV. Tristan has written a number of books for kids and teens, including the Mac Slater, Coolhunter series, It’s Yr Life with Tempany Deckert, and My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up. Tristan’s drive is to tell inspiring, fast-moving stories for young people.

1. Can you remember the first story you ever wrote and, if so, what was it?

I think it was a rip-off of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in which kids could gain all their essential nutrients by eating ice cream flavoured like meat, pumpkin, brocolli etc. When I visit schools now and run workshops with younger grades I notice that kids are still writing that story. I am considering suing several of them because their work is way too close to my version. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

 97808579820322. How many novels did you write before your ‘first novel’ was published?

My first novel Mac Slater, Coolhunter was published but I had written lots of short films, a couple of un-produced feature film screenplays, hundreds of articles and a number of Educational fiction and non-fiction titles prior to having that book published.

 3. What sorts of books do you love to read?

I seem to love page-turning reads with unadorned prose and strong characters that explore an idea. My favourite adult books include Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Jack London’s White Fang. My favourite children’s and middle-grade reads include Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Markus Zusak’s Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Tim Winton’s The Bugalugs Bum Thief.

 97818647181714. If you were forced to co-write a novel with someone (as we’re not presuming that you’d want to co-write with anyone necessarily) who would it be?

I have co-written a novel, it’s yr life with Tempany Deckert, which really brought the writing process alive for me. I also love collaborating with illustrators. These days, I think I find it difficult to co-write but I would love to collaborate with a Web / Gaming person to build interactive elements into the story as I write.

5. What are you working on now and next?

I am working on my third book of weird-funny-gross short stories in the My Life series and, in the background, I am exploring another darker middle-grade crime-adventure book along the lines of Two Wolves.

Author website: www.tristanbancks.com

Twitter: @tristanbancks

 

5Q Interview with Marion von Adlerstein

marion-von-adlersteinMarion von Adlerstein worked as an advertising copywriter in Melbourne, London and New York in the fifties and sixties. Between 1976 and 1998 she held several posts with Vogue Australia publications, including Travel Director. During those years Marion wrote about many subjects, including fashion, beauty and interiors. She is the author of The Passionate Shopper, The Penguin Book of Etiquette and The Freudian Slip.

1. Can you remember the first story you ever wrote and, if so, what was it?

I was in my early twenties, newly married. The story was entitled Aren’t they Sweet? and it was about the difference between how a relationship seemed and how it really was. I sent it to The Ladies Home Journal in America and I can’t remember ever having received a reply.

97807336293962. How many novels did you write before your ‘first novel’ was published?

Only one completed manuscript. It was turned down by the publisher with the words, ‘Marion should stick to non-fiction.’ Fortunately for me, I ignored the advice.

 3. What sorts of books do you love to read?

For the past several years, I’ve been stimulated by the fiction of contemporary North American writers: Deborah Eisenberg, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon, Paula Fox, Alice Munro, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, William H Gass (Middle C is wonderful, but I had to give up The Tunnel, his hefty, famous and grubby endurance test, after the first 500 pages.) I can’t write the kinds of books they have written which may be why I’m attracted to them.

But I also love: the mournful works of W.G. Sebald; Amanda Mackenzie Stuart’s biographies of Diana Vreeland and Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt; Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes.

 97807336317884. If you were forced to co-write a novel with someone (as we’re not presuming that you’d want to co-write with anyone necessarily) who would it be?

I couldn’t imagine collaborating with anyone. I must be too possessive of my words. I don’t show anyone my work until I consider it finished.

 5. What are you working on now and next?

A few disparate ideas are scrambling about in my head. I find that I have to lie fallow for a while after my latest novel has been published until I’m so bored with uneventfulness I have to start living in my imagination again.

 

Player Profile: Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar For Life

wilsonsarah01Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar For Life

Tell us about your latest creation:

I see this as a follow-up book to help make cooking, eating and our health more elegant and joyous. A framework for simple, no-brainer health that supports sugar-free living. Which is what we’re after, no?

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

I’m from Canberra, or the outskirts of… but these days Sydney is home.

9781742613734When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

When I was seven I told mum I’d be the first female prime minister of Australia. I studied law and politics with that ambitious vague aim in mind, but soon realised i wanted to do something that could actually impact the world. My writing career very much evolved in an organic way, as did the I Quit Sugar journey. I never sat with a whiteboard to map out my career, I’ve stumbled from one step to the next.

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

Setting up IQuitSugar.com where I’ve been able to employ eleven incredibly talented and passionate people and provide a livelihood for them and their families.

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

Definitely chaotic and changeable! I write my best on planes, in airport lounges and in doctors waiting rooms. Which is fortunate given that my lifestyle doesn’t allow for very much writing time anymore. I’m always envious of writers who talk about having a specific, beautifully laid out spot where they write each day. But my personality adjusts well to chaos, and I’m quite possibly more creative on the fly.

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

Evolutionary biology texts, and memoirs about physical adventure treks.

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

Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. My only memory of it is the description of the smell of the goats, and the goats milk in the mornings. It’s still in my nostrils to this day.

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

Winnie The Pooh

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

Bush walking. You can follow my adventures on Instagram (check out the hashtag #bushexcursion). And eating. I spend a lot of time cooking and thinking about food!

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Drink – at the moment its a natural pinot noir from Harkhams wines.. I’m not generally a fan of pinot noir, but this one is an exeption. Food – it’d have to be something involving pork. Roast pork with sweet potato would have to be up there!

Who is your hero? Why?:

Victor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. His capacity for clarity and forgiveness and understanding of the human spirit shortly after being imprisoned in a concentration camp is truly beautiful.

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

I think it’s a positive one – to embrace people’s hankering to get away from their digital lives and back to “old school” engagement.

Player Profile: Joy Dettman, author of The Tying of Threads

881974-joy-dettmanJoy Dettman, author of The Tying of Threads

Tell us about your latest creation:

My latest creation is the end result of a six year commitment to the Woody Creek series, 160,000 words to add to the 800,000 plus of the previous five. Readers who have followed Jenny from her birth in 1923, will, in The Tying of Threads, celebrate with her as she approaches the new millennium – then bid her a fond farewell – as have I.

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

I was born in Echuca, in country Victoria. My childhood was spent in small towns on either side of the Murray River. I married in Echuca then moved to Melbourne where I remain.

9781742613864When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

As an eight year old, when all things are possible, I decided that when I grew up I was going to write books about Australia. It took a while but I got there in the end.

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

That is asking a mother to choose her favorite child. Mallawindy’s labor was ten years long and I remember every year of it, but  Henry’s Daughter made me laugh when I didn’t feel like laughing and One Sunday was my faithful companion through the dead of many dark nights. I’d choose them.

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

Back in 1990, my first big bulky old computer and desk found a home in a spare bedroom, with the excess chairs, filing cabinet, elderly bookshelves and sundry. Spare rooms too soon become store rooms. Some years ago, mine made the transition to junk room. The junk forced me out to work in the family room, on a laptop, where my husband reads newspaper items of interest aloud and the television flashes its commercials. Chaotic? Oh, yes – but out of chaos comes creation.

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

My most recent read was Gone Girl. I enjoyed it. I will read any genre, if the characters are strong enough to make me care if they live or die. Many books I begin don’t make me care and these days I don’t have the time to waste on them. As ever, if I am in need of a good read, I’ll reach for one of my old faithful friends who never disappoint.

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

Man Shy, by Frank Dalby Davison, stumbled on in my primary school’s small library. I was eight years old. Until opening that book and finding Australia between its covers, I’d believe that authors only lived in England and America. Twenty-odd years ago I stumbled again on that book, at a garage sale, where I snatched it, and paid over my twenty cents so I might add it to my top book shelf where only the most prized of my odd collection live.

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

Superman – though my husband may suggest Frankenstein.

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

I play canasta with my grandchildren. Having managed to addict three of my seven early to the game, they keep coming back for more. I sew during the cricket and tennis season when the television plays nonstop, and have been known to play around with oil paints and canvas.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

A scotch filet steak, fried fast in butter, served with mashed potatoes, green beans and caramelized onion rings. My favorite drink, a champagne cocktail.

Who is your hero? Why?:

A much abused four letter word, hero. Other than my eighty-seven year old aunt, I don’t have heroes.

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

It is my hope that a good book will always be read, however, the life style of today’s child will dictate the future of books. Unless we can trap him early with the magic world that lives between the covers, he won’t become a reader and without him, the book may die.

Player Profile: Jennifer Smart, author of The Wardrobe Girl

smart, jennifer (1)Jennifer Smart, author of The Wardrobe Girl

Tell us about your latest creation:

The Wardrobe Girl follows the story of Tess Appleby, the new standby assistant on long-running Australian soap – Pretty Beach Rescue. It’s not quite the BBC, where until recently Tess has  been working, but it should be an uncomplicated return to Sydney life after 8 years in London and a humiliating end to a relationship. But, just like a soap opera plot, Tess’s life is soon anything but uncomplicated when the cast of characters, including the soap’s leading man, her retired actress mother and aspiring actress sister, the paparazzi, even her pet dog, Eric, all seem to conspire to create chaos. But Tess isn’t phased, not until the man who broke her heart 8 years ago arrives at Pretty Beach Rescue as a new Director.   The Wardrobe Girl is loosely based on my experience working in the Australian TV industry, including 5 years on Home and Away.

9780857982513Where are you from / where do you call home?:

Home is Balmain, in Sydney.

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

I wanted to be either a ballerina or an architect.

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

As The Wardrobe Girl is my debut novel, I will have to claim it as my best work.

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

My desk is cluttered more often than it is tidy, but it sits under a window that looks out onto my street and the passing parade of Balmain locals. I have a large board covered in inspiring clippings, family photos etc. There are books and artworks, some reflected in the large deco mirror that belonged to my grandmother and now hangs over the mantlepiece.

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

I’m not a big reader of non-fiction, but my fiction taste is broad. I’ll happily curl up with a Marian Keyes, or a Hilary Mantel. I had a Graham Greene phase last year and I’ve just finished Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road To The Deep North, which I loved.

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

I adored Milly Molly Mandy and Noddy when I was very young and a full colour Disney edition of Mary Poppins – read by all my daughters. As a teenager, I read lots of Jean Plaidy before discovering Daphne du Maurier.

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

Once I stood on an elephant’s back in a river in Laos and I felt like Marlena in Water For Elephants. I’d like to think I have the wit and charm of Elizabeth Bennett and the intellect of Hermione Granger. But most mornings, especially school mornings, I feel like Mrs Weasley.

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

I love dancing, and have taken ballet classes & am about to take up tap again. Give me a garden or an art gallery to potter around and I’m very happy. Munching popcorn & sipping champagne whilst watching films. I knit, a lot. Playing Lego with my youngest daughter and Scrabble with my husband.  Live theatre, dance & music.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

My favourite food is cooked by someone else and my favourite drink is French Champagne, preferably pink.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Germaine Greer is my hero. I love her fearless expression of her opinions, even when I don’t agree with them. Her academic scholarship on all things Shakespeare is extraordinary. She has a great sense of humour. Above all, she has fought a tough battle for women and still does.

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

As long as people are writing/telling stories, people will want to read them. We may not always have books in exactly the
same physical form we experience them as now, but I believe they will always be with us.

Blog: http://asampler.wordpress.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jennifer-Smart/152139994852604

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jennnifer_Smart/

Player Profile: Tony Cavanaugh, author of The Train Rider

tc_photoTony Cavanaugh, author of The Train Rider

Tell us about your latest creation:

It’s called The Train Rider and is the third in the Darian Richards series of novels that I began a few years ago. The Train Rider is a serial killer in Melbourne – Darian was unable to catch him and that failure tore at him to the point where he abandoned the job in Homicide and fled to the Noosa River, hoping to push the demons away. Now he discovers that The Train Rider has followed him up to the Sunshine Coast and has embarked on a twisted psychological game in order to damage Darian as much as he can.

9780733630675Where are you from / where do you call home?:

Originally from Ararat in Melbourne, went to school in Geelong, lived in Melbourne for many years, then moved to Brisbane, then up to the Sunshine Coast and am now living on the Gold Coast.

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

I wanted to be a film director. This was in the 1960’s when there wasn’t a film industry so it seemed like a hopeless dream. I had a lot of pressure to sell cars as my dad and grandfather sold Holdens… I escaped that and managed to get a job at Crawford Productions, working in TV. The idea of becoming an author didn’t really emerge until a few years ago. It’s still feeling kinda weird.

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

Yikes! I don’t know. I do the best I can at the time and hope each work resonates with people. To have created something, be it a novel or a TV series or a movie, for people to watch or read, is such an honour.

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

I have a wooden desk in the middle of a large open room with wooden floors and old casement windows. The desk is a blend of clutter and order – the clutter is pushed to the edge of the desk in an orderly way. On the wall, looking over me, are retro movie posters, images of Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan, Noel Coward, Lady Gaga, Goya and Edward Hopper. My walls are totally covered with big and small posters and photos.

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

Anything – as long as it’s good. At the moment I am reading Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln. Just finished Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd and The Mission Song by John Le Carre. I read a lot of crime fiction and I love non-fiction, especially if it’s about African politics. I always go back and refresh on Roberto Bolano, Chandler and Damon Runyon.

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

John Fowles’ The Magus had a huge impact on me when I was 12. Up until then I was into comics – Superman and The Phantom, Ghost who walks! I read a lot of dross – movie tie-ins mostly so it wasn’t until I was 16 when the next book affected me. That was Othello.

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

The Phantom – Ghost Who Walks! Man Who Cannot Die! (Not that I want to be immortal – he’s just so cool.)

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

I love cooking. I’m big on Sicilian caponata at the moment. I also love cooking up a pot of ratatouille. It’s something I share with my lead character, Darian, who tells us how to cook the prefect ratatouille in The Train Rider. I used to love reading Rex Stout – his hero, Nero Wolfe, cooked up a feast (and gave us the recipe) in all of his crime novels. Other than reading, writing and cooking I don’t do very much. I think I need to get out more. I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen and the Hunters and Collectors in Feb 2014 so I guess that counts.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

It used to be roast chicken but then I became vegetarian (almost vegan) a couple of years ago so now, if it’s not one of the Italian stews, it’s a salad with tons of fresh crusty bread and good vino. Having been a raging drunk in a past life, inhaling anything that resembled alcohol, I now drink in great moderation – usually a riesling.

Who is your hero? Why?:

John Lennon – because he wasn’t afraid to put himself up for denigration when he wrote Imagine. “You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” In a hard world it’s a lyric like that which I find incredibly hopeful and uplifting.

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

Dealing with the growing expectation that entertainment – reading in this instance – should be free. Movies are free, TV is free, music is free – illegally gained of course but that’s not stopping people and the proliferation of this free material has created an awareness and expectation that you don’t need to pay. I’m not sure what the answer is. Interestingly, when Radiohead put out an album a few years ago and said: pay what you can afford, what it would cost in a shop or nothing if you can’t afford it, most people (I think the percentage figure was incredibly high)paid full price.

Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/tonycavanaugh888
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/TonyCavanaugh1

Player Profile: P.M. Newton, author of Beams Falling

art_pm-newton-420x0P.M. Newton, author of Beams Falling

Tell us about your latest creation:

Beams Falling. The novel is set in the early 1990s when drugs and violence began to tear apart the fragile refugee community that had  put down roots in the outer south-western Sydney suburb of Cabramatta. The press reports of the day refer to the ‘wall of silence’ that met police, my novel explores the walls built not just by criminals and victims, but by police as well. It is a follow up to my first book The Old School, continuing the story of Detective Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly and if the title – Beams Falling – seems oddly familiar it’s because it comes from a story Sam Spade tells about a man named Flitcraft in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

9780670074525Where are you from / where do you call home?:

Sydney, born and bred. I’ve lived in different parts of Sydney, up the north coast of New South Wales, in England, Mali and India but Sydney keeps drawing me back. Sandstone, red gums and the harbour foreshores are like nothing else in the world.

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

When I was very little I wanted to be a horse, but when I worked out that probably wasn’t going to happen, I switched to wanting to be a jockey, followed by wanting to be a mounted police officer, followed by actually being a police officer – though not one on a horse. I then spent 13 years in the police, most of it as a detective. Being an author was something that I rather stumbled into  when I began to write after I’d left the police force.

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

What a tricky question! Beams Falling builds on the characters and the story and the history of the first book The Old School. It builds on my experience in writing the first book, but it’s a different book, and at times that previous experience felt like it counted for nothing. I suspect that is the truth of writing, that each book, each story, each essay is a new exploration and demands new approaches. Iris Murdoch said, ‘Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.’ So perhaps all one can hope for is slightly better wreckage each time?

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

I long for order and live with chaos. I have moved my writing place about four times in the last few years from room to room, which probably explains why I still love a pen and notebook and a good walk somewhere.

I’m mainly using a laptop now, so I can move about with it, on the lounge on my lap, but I’m trying to stand more now, so I’ve sort of set up a
standing desk of boxes on an old desk. I don’t think I’ve found the right place yet.

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

I’m an eclectic reader. I’ll follow tips and recommendations from friends, from reviews I stumble across, mentions of authors and books I overhear.

This has meant in the last little while discovering Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, a sci-fi novel about Jesuits in space which was amazing. I’m currently reading The Lover by Marguerite Duras on the recommendation of Walter Mason – whose travel memoirs Destination Saigon and Destination Cambodia are stunning. I return constantly to old friends, such as Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and The Quiet American by Graham Greene.

I’ve also started reading a bit of research material around some ideas for the next book which has led me to some extraordinary memoirs about the Hare Krishna movement in the USA in the 1970s and 80s – wild times indeed.

When it comes to crime I await with great anticipation Malla Nunn’s latest, along with anything by Attica Locke.

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

The Silver Brumby books by Elyne Mitchell. I was horse mad but all the books I read featured English girls on ponies in little villages in the Cotswolds. Reading The Silver Brumby, set in my land, featuring my landscapes, my native animals, written from the animals’ point of view was a mind blowing moment.

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

Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because there was a dude who really knew where his towel was. It would require a sex change for one – or the other – of us but with the Infinite Probability Drive I think it would be doable.

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

I watch TV like I read novels. I love nothing better than to have a juicy drama series to get my teeth into – currently Borgen – but it has been The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, The Eagle, Broadchurch, Buffy. I buy DVD box sets and keep them alongside my books.

I also love to walk around the bush tracks along the harbour side and to swim at North Sydney Olympic Pool.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Nasi Lemak – I can’t resist it. I try it at every Malaysian restaurant I go to.

Love discovering a good cocktail, although I’m currently on a bit of a Caipirinha roll.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Hero is one of those words that gets diminished by overuse. I’m loathe to put people on pedestals and I suspect most of the truly heroic remain nameless, never truly known. A woman whose name we do know was Hypatia a mathematician, philosopher, astronomer in Alexandria @ 400AD who was murdered by a Christian mob unhappy with her teaching.

A literary hero would be Sethe from Tony Morrison’s Beloved, who had the courage to live on.

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

As an Australian author I see maintaining local access and interest for local stories as being the biggest challenge. I think readers will always read but it’s a question of whether we start to see a lack of diversity in our reading. There’s a blockbuster mentality where everyone reads from the same narrow list, rather than lots of people reading across a wide range of books. This is linked to the way people access their reading and what is made available to them, often determined by the electronic delivery system they’ve locked themselves into. As an author telling local stories, I hope that a local market will still find a place.

Blog: www.pmnewton.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PM-Newton/269458397200

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pmnewton