Meet N.J. Gemmell, author of The Icicle Illuminarium

Nikki_Gemmell_authorphoto_2013SmThanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Nikki Gemmell,  about The Icicle Illuminarium (Random House Australia) and your other books.

It would be fascinating to look inside your brain. Your stories are bursting with interesting, unusual and unexpected ideas, such as the room of a thousand glow worms and the zipping ladders on rails in the Reptilarium. How do you develop your creativity?

Well, I guess my mind never stops whirring. I’m constantly seeking inspiration from everything around me, and jotting it down in a journal that’s always close to hand. I’ve been keeping my notebooks since I was 14. They’re more like scrapbooks, actually; full of clippings, title ideas, character descriptions, quotes, overheard conversations and various nuggety enchantments. It might be a decade or two before an idea in there is actually mined for a book, but I’m constantly dipping into my seventeen (and counting) journals. The aim with all my writing: to enchant, in some way. I have four kids and they’re a good sounding board as to whether I’ve succeeded or not. They’ll tell me quick smart (quite bluntly, actually, the little buggers)if something doesn’t work.   Icicle Illuminarium

Boys and girls, particularly in mid to upper primary school and junior secondary, will  love The Icicle Illuminarium. What bait have you used to get them (and keep them) reading?

I need a story to gallop along. I live in fear of boring the reader. Kids are the most exacting critics and I find kid’s fiction much harder to write than adult’s. The aim, constantly, is to get your reader to turn the page – and children are much quicker with putting a book down if they’re not interested. I remember the books I loved as a kid – Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, the Silver Brumby series, Little House on the Prairie etc. They’d moved me. Make me cry as well as laugh. I aim to do that with my own books, too. Lure readers by moving them, enchanting them, and keeping them obsessed with the story. I love it when I hear kids have stayed up really late, or finished my book in one or two feverish reading sessions.

There are references to war, which add intrigue as well as depth to the story. When are the books set?

The Kensington Reptilarium and The Icicle Illuminarium are set immediately after World War II, in December 1945 and January 1946. It was a time when the world was finding its feet again; a changed world, a dazed, broken world, working out how to get itself back into normality again.

Kensington Reptilarium

Your two children’s books are set in the UK, as well as in Australia. What are some differences between these places and what sort of children do they breed?

So many differences! Which is what this series is all about. It basically transplants four loud, sparky, resourceful Aussie bush scamps from the outback into the genteel world of upper crust England – where children are meant to be seen and not heard. Imagine four Ginger Meggs types ending up in a Downton Abbey world. What results is a huge culture clash, but I do have to say that I think that the Aussies have the upper hand in it (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?) The differences of climate, convention and attitude are enormous and a lot of fun to write – there are lots of laughs along the way. A few tears as well.

And, are your books selling equally well in both places?

I sell more kids books in Oz and more adult books in the UK – but weirdly, one of my strongest markets is France.

Your writing is superb, combining fast-paced plot with strong characterisation and well-placed insights and descriptions to create literary merit. How carefully do you craft the writing?

Thank you so much! I work really hard at it. I want my sentences to sing, and craft them carefully. This involves draft after draft after draft; and I welcome a rigorous edit. I love beautiful writing and use poetry as a tuning fork. I don’t think kids should be denied beauty in their writing – as long as the prose is clear and simple to understand.

I do love your weekly column in the Weekend Australian  Magazine. How invested in people do you feel yourself to be?

My weekly column feels so different to my fiction, but once again I aim for beauty in my writing, and to move readers. To complete 700 newspaper words about life, the universe, and everything else week after week, means you have to be passionately invested in people and the world around you, in all its minutiae. I live by Edna St Vincent Millay’s lines: “O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!” I feel that so strongly. There’s so much to be wondrous and grateful about. At this very moment I’m typing under a tree laden with ripe mulberries in the front garden – working under a gloriously nodding, bowing umbrella of green. Tasty, too!  It’ll be in a column on Aussie nostalgia sometime soon, no doubt.

You must be incredibly organised to achieve so much – you’re on the Today program also. Do you have a tip?

Tip: there is no social life. I dream of this one day changing, but am too exhausted by the evenings for anything but a glass of wine and a good lie down. With me, something has to give in that great female triumverate of family/work/social life – and it was the latter in my case. My other tip: when something comes in (like this blog request, for instance) jump onto it immediately and just get it done, or else – sigh – it will never be done (I live in horror of vast piles of to-do stuff cluttering up the place.) You should see the dormant volcano that’s our washing basket of clean clothes in the main bedroom. Just can’t face it – would much prefer to be writing.

Some of our readers will know you for your books for adults. Could you give us a quick run-down on these?Book of Rapture

I seem to write in trilogies. First of all there was the trilogy of coming of age stories about young Aussie women in different landscapes: Shiver (set in Antarctica), Cleave (Central Australian desert) and Lovesong (England’s Cornwall.) Then there was the trilogy exploring female sexuality – The Bride Stripped Bare, With my Body, and I Take You. A one off novel dealing with religion in a post 9/11 world, The Book of Rapture. And a few non fiction books made up of columns and essays: Pleasure, Honestly and Personally. Phew. I feel exhausted just typing all that.

Will we see the characters of The Kensington Reptilarium and The Icicle Illuminarium again soon?

Yes! I’m working on a third book, bringing my four sparky, scampy Caddy kids home to central Australia – all in search of their missing mum. A few of their English friends will be in tow, too, along with Bucket the dog of course. This family will not let me go!

Thanks for you incredibly generous – and speedy – answers, Nikki.

Bride Stripped Bare

 

 

Nikki Gemmell’s honest notes on life

‘I’m writing these pieces for that ultimate accolade: the fridge door.’

Honestly: Notes on Life by Nikki Gemmell

 This book celebrates a year of thought-provoking columns in THE AUSTRALIAN WEEKEND MAGAZINE from the bestselling author of The Bride of Stripped Bare and With My Body.

‘… I feel my work’s marked by bewilderment, vulnerability, as much as anything. I write to understand. It feels like there’s a lot of questioning and frustration in Australia right now; that the voice of regular people is often not being articulated, it is being drowned out by the shouters, the affronted, the haters, the furious. My columns are … presenting another way.’

This collection of writing covers a diverse range of subjects such as motherhood after 40, the end of a close friendship, the joy of a handwritten letter, connecting with nature, the necessity of tweezers, meeting the Queen and oral sex. It also includes exclusive new essays full of frank and uplifting insights, hilarious anecdotes, and some painful yet touching truths.

Nikki Gemmell is famous for her lyrical honesty and for saying those things other women think but dare not say. This collection confirms her reputation for fearlessness.

Buy the book here…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nikki Gemmell’s critically acclaimed fiction has been translated into many languages. Her novels include the international bestseller The Bride Stripped Bare, Shiver, The Book of Rapture and With My Body. She has written two non-fiction books: Why You Are Australian andPleasure: An Almanac for the Heart. Wollongong-born, she was based in London for many years and has now returned with her family to Australia, where she writes a regular column for the Weekend Australian Magazinewww.nikkigemmell.com.

Tony Abbott reveals preference for Australian ‘mummy porn’

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has revealed he’s a reader of “mummy porn” and his preference is for the homegrown variety.

Speaking on Sydney radio today, Mr Abbott, the father of three daughters, confided that he had read both The Bride Stripped Bare by Aussie author Nikki Gemmell and Fifty Shades of Grey by British writer E. L. James.

Asked if he had read Fifty Shades, Mr Abbott responded: “It was interesting, but, I must say … Nikki Gemmell has a book, The Bride Stripped Bare, which I think is a much better book.”

Upon learning of the remarks by Australia’s most senior conservative politician, Bride Stripped Bare author, Nikki Gemmell, said: “Regardless of your politics you’ve got to admire Tony Abbott for at least trying to understand the minds of women. If it encourages more men to read these books and understand what women really want, then I’m all for it.

“Of course, the big question now is, has the Prime Minister read The Bride Stripped Bare orFifty Shades of Grey? I’d be fascinated to know her take on all this. And I’m extremely pleased to see Tony Abbott is going in to bat for Australian literature over Brits like E. L. James!”

The Bride Stripped Bare was a publishing phenomenon when it first hit the bestseller charts nearly a decade ago. The original erotic sensation has since become a hit all over again on E. L. James’s home turf. It is currently top ten in the Amazon UK bestseller charts; the follow-up, With My Body, is also riding high in Britain in the top twenty.

The Bride Stripped Bare 

An explosive novel of sex, secrecy and escape. On her honeymoon, in the heat and shadows of sultry Marrakech, a conventional young wife makes a shocking discovery. Although confused by her husband’s betrayal, she finds it gives her the freedom to explore her deepest desires and rediscover the true self she has kept hidden from view so long. But her new life is clouded by complication and the raw desire that threatens to overwhelm her. She finds herself torn between the need for her husband and her yearning for something more. The Bride Stripped Bare is the story of a woman whose powerful awakening is as erotic as it is dangerous.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell / ISBN: 9780007163540 

With My Body

“There’s something incredibly erotic about a woman–” his voice drops into breath, he can barely say it, “–bound. Hidden,” he continues. “Wrapped. Think of Heloise and Abelard. Unwrapping themselves, all their clothes, their known lives – for each other, no one else. The cheongsam … will you wear it? For me?”

You nod your obeyance …

You remember a man whose only pleasure was in giving. You escape from the drudgery of married life in the memories of that first affair, with a man who thrilled you with desire. Who asked you to try everything in a quest to find the extremes of your love. The story of an education in love with the most compelling hero since Christian Grey; discover passion reawakened in With My Body 

With My Body by Nikki Gemmell/ ISBN: 9780732289720

From HarperCollins; full article: http://www.news.com.au/national/abbotts-read-50-shades-of-grey-but-prefers-bride-stripped-bare/story-fndo4eg9-1226441975367

BOOKS ALIVE

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

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

50 Books You Can’t Put Down

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