The Valentine’s Day post

I’m not a reader of romance novels. But threads of romance often weave their way through all sorts of stories — from action/adventure to science fiction; from YA to grown-up stuff. So, in honour of today being Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d reminisce about some literary romances that I found to be particularly memorable.

Aleksandar is the Prince of Hohenberg and he’s on the run from his own countrymen. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, and she’s a girl disguised as a boy. Deryn very quickly starts to fall for Aleksandar, but Aleksandar doesn’t even know that Deryn is a girl. This “will they/won’t they” relationship is strung out over the course of three YA steampunk novels by Scott WesterfeldLeviathan, Behemoth and Goliath. Needless to say that things work out for them in the end. Yay!

Sticking with the steampunk theme, we have Colbert Porpentine, grandson of a giant juggernaut’s supreme commander, and Riff, one of the Filthies, a sub-class of people who live in the juggernaut’s lower decks. Separated by class, education and even revolution, their love for each other still brings them together in Richard Harland’s Worldshaker and Liberator.

Casting my mind back to my late teens, I remember reading about a teenage boy from the wrong side of the tracks, John Fell, and the mysterious, manipulative older woman, Delia. It’s not a match that’s destined to succeed, in ME Kerr’s Fell, but there is a lovely scene in which John makes French Toast for Delia that is emblazoned on my memory. For that scene alone, I consider it a memorable romance.

Rickey and G-man are two boys growing up in New Orleans. The odds are often stacked against them, but they make things work, and they stay together and they follow their dream of opening a restaurant together. I’ve followed the adventures of these two likeable guys over the course of five novels (The Power of X, Liquor, Prime, Soul Kitchen and D*U*C*K) and numerous short stories by Poppy Z Brite. I’m sad that their adventures are over, but very pleased that they had each other.

At the other end of the scale is an utterly doomed romance that doesn’t even really start — rich bitch Eliza Boans and nice guy Neil Fernandes in Shirley Marr’s Fury. If only Eliza had opened her eyes to see what was right in front of her all along.

Finally we have Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Now, Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are memorable to me for a very different reason to all the others. Reading this book at Uni, I took an intense dislike to these two characters. In fact, you could say that I HATED THEM BOTH with a passion. And I have no qualms about saying — they deserved everything they got.

And so on that note, dear readers, I will bid you all a fond farewell and a happy Valentine’s Day. 😉 If you’ve got a favourite literary romance you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment.

Catch ya later,  George

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Not waiting for the end of the series

In my last post, I wrote about waiting for the end of a series before starting to read the first book (see “Waiting for the end of the series” — go on, read it first. This post will make more sense if you do.). I’m not the first reader ever to have done this, and I won’t be the last. As a reader, it’s all well and good. But as a writer, it’s a rather problematic approach. Let me explain…

If every reader was to hold off and not purchase the first book in a series until after the final book was published — then anything beyond book one would never get published. If book one of a series doesn’t sell well, a publisher isn’t likely to invest in a follow-up book. So…

I got to write Gamers’ Challenge because the first book in the series, Gamers’ Quest, sold well. Now, I’m in a holding pattern. I have a third book planned, but my publisher wants to wait. We need to see if book two will sell well enough to warrant a third. And so it is for other authors as well.

So, dear readers, the future of any book series is very much in your hands. If you want to see a series progress beyond book one, don’t wait — get it straight away; read it straight away; and if you enjoy it, tell people about it… spread the word. (But it you don’t like it, then… shhhh!)

I think it probably helps a series if at least the first book can be read in isolation. Richard Harland is an author who seems particularly adept at this. Ferren and the Angel, the first book in his Heaven and Earth trilogy, can be read as a stand-alone — it’s a complete story in its own right, it has closure, but it also leads on to another two books.

Harland’s Wordshaker / Liberator duology is another great example. Each book is complete in its own right. Although it’s better to have read Worldshaker first, you don’t need to in order to understand and follow the story of Liberator. And although Harland has now moved on to work on other things, there is still plenty more scope in the Worldshaker universe for more novels should he wish to return to that series at a later date.

It’s interesting to compare Harland’s steampunk novels with Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy. Each of these books is very much part of a large whole. You simply cannot read them in isolation. Much as I have loved the first two books, the story is incomplete and I have been seriously annoyed at the wait. I will not have achieved closure until the third book has been read. (It’s out this month… YAY!)

I’ve aimed for a similar structure to Harland’s books with my Gamers novels. They are part of a series, but each is a complete story in its own right. Hopefully that means readers won’t wait for the proposed third book before getting books one and two… otherwise they may be waiting an awfully long time. 🙂

Catch ya later,  George

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Richard Harland and Liberator

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading Liberator, the sequel to Richard Harland’s YA steampunk novel, Worldshaker. Having loved Liberator just as much as Worldshaker, I contacted Richard and asked him for an interview. Here it is…

Did you always plan to (or at least hope to) write a second book? Or was Worldshaker meant to be a stand-alone novel?

It happened the way it usually happens for me. I planned Worldshaker as a stand-alone, but on the way through writing it, I started to think about possible future developments. By the time I reached the end, I knew what strands I needed to leave open to bud the sequel from.

The big difference this time was that I actually planned a sequel and a third book, making a trilogy. But my publisher said too much time would have passed by the time book two appeared, so why not create a duology rather than a trilogy? When I started putting the material for books two and three together, it locked in perfectly. That was never planned at all.

Was it difficult getting back into the heads of the characters for the sequel?

No, but then I didn’t have to get back to them in the same place where I’d left them. Liberator starts three months after the end of Worldshaker, and the whole situation has changed in those three months. So it was more a matter of working out how the characters would have adapted in their new circumstances. Which took a whole lot of thinking and imagining — but it was great fun, new creation and not just more of the same.

Worldshaker was very well-timed, as steampunk was rising in popularity. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

The only conscious decision was that I didn’t start writing Worldshaker until I could see some hope of getting it published in Australia — and that depended on the first signs of the steampunk trend appearing. But I’d already been planning the novel for ten years, like a private hobby. Steampunk was what I’d always wanted to write — I just didn’t know it could be called ‘steampunk’!

Maybe I was also lucky that it took me five years to write. Jay Lake told me at the Melbourne Worldcon that he thought his steampunk novel Mainspring (great imagination, I highly recommend it!) came out too early, before steampunk really hit its straps.

I love the way you people your novels with bizarre characters — they’re often weird, but with enough grounding that the reader still cares about what happens to them. Do you consciously plan to include ‘odd’ characters, or do they just come out that way?

I guess I create the kind of characters I love reading about in other people’s books. Larger than life, high energy … Fabulous monsters! But I’m glad you feel they’re always grounded, because I do base them on real people and real traits in myself and others — only carried to extremes. Worldshaker and Liberator are very Dickensian novels in many ways, but I try to avoid Dickensian caricatures.

I hope the reader cares about them, because I do — very very much!

You’ve written quite a few books over the years. While they have all been successful, it’s Worldshaker and Liberator that seem to have propelled you into the limelight, both here in Australia and overseas. What is it about these books?

They’re my best books, for sure, and from what people have said, they’re the most compulsively readable. I aim to write a story that’s impossible to put down! But it’s also the sheer luck of producing the right story at the right time. The planets have come into alignment for me!

Has the success of Worldshaker and Liberator changed your life as an author? Are publishers now banging on your door, vying for your next book?

Well, at least I don’t have to worry about finding a publisher. The time when success really came home to me was when I did the tours of US and UK for Worldshaker — getting put up at the ritziest hotels, expense account, escorted everywhere, chauffeured limousines. For four weeks I felt like a rock star!

But no, nothing much has really changed. I still start writing straight after breakfast, I still get caught up in the world of what I’m writing — still the same boring writer’s routine. The outside world at home is the same as it always was, and the inside world, the world I get into in my head … Truth is, I enjoy that more than any rock star existence!

You refer to Worldshaker and Liberator as a duology. That implies no more sequels. But the end of Liberator, while finishing the story, would certainly allow for more. Is there any chance of a third book?

Not immediately. I’d like to come back to further developments of the story at some stage, but Col and Riff won’t feature as main characters any more. After all, their romance has wrapped up — what more can they do after that?

What’s next for Richard Harland? Will it be more steampunk?

I’ve started work on another steampunk novel. I think it’s the same world as Worldshaker and Liberator, but a different time and place (without the juggernauts). I’m very very excited about this one!

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Richard for stopping by. To find out more about him and his writing, check out his website. You can read my review of Worldshaker here, and my review of Liberator here.

Tune in next time for a bit of Dracula down under.

Catch ya later,  George

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NEWSFLASH: Author vs Sawn-off Shotgun

We interrupt normal blogging to bring you this special newsflash. A NEWSFLASH? On a bookish blog? Yes, indeed. Today’s planned post, with the remainder of the Aussiecon author videos, has had to be delayed, in favour of this story about a mild-mannered author and a shotgun wielding robber.

Yesterday evening, at exactly 6pm, I received an email from Richard Harland, author of the rather brilliant steampunk novel, Worldshaker. (Check out the Steampunk post with a guest bit from Richard.) The email detailed the events of a post office robbery… a robbery that potentially threatened the Worldshaker sequel, Liberator. I gasped as I read the email, my concern for Richard mounting. And then, as I reached the end, I thought — Hey, this would make an awesome blog post. I immediately emailed back, asking permission to post his email on Literary Clutter… um… of course, I started off by expressing relief that Richard was unharmed and that the manuscript was safe. And so, with Richard’s permission, here is the story of the post office robbery and the Liberator manuscript…

It’s true – I was just caught up in the middle of an armed hold-up! Half an hour ago! I finished the US copyedit of Liberator ahead of time, and went to a local post office to send it off. A tiny, quiet little post office in a tiny, quiet shopping area. I went to the counter and was given the international form thingy that has to be stuck on the front – and I’d just started filling it out. The only other people in the shop – it’s so small, it could hardly hold a dozen customers at once – were an old couple.

Suddenly these two guys burst in, wearing hoodies, face masks and gloves, and one of them toting a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun. About 20-25 years old, I’d have guessed from their voices, though one of them, who stood guard over me and the old couple, hardly spoke. The one with the shotgun jumped up on the counter, shouting like a character in a gangster movie – threatening, cursing and trying to sound as violent as possible.

The ugliest moment was when shotgun guy accused the post office guy of pressing the alarm button – which he had. The elderly lady was breathing and gasping and shaking, on the verge of a panic attack. I put my arm round her and said we’d be OK. It turned out she had a heart condition – luckily she had an inhaler spray with her that she used the moment they were gone.

They made the post office guy open the till, and shotgun guy jumped down and scooped up what was there. Then back on the counter, ordering the post office guy to lie on the ground (not us). There was something more they wanted, maybe access to a safe, but they decided not to hang around any longer. The post office guy told the cops afterwards that they’d got away with $1000-2000.

Anyway, they rushed out and took off in an off-white car that had been parked in the drive next to the post office. We got the number plate, for what that’ll be worth. The post office guy rang the cops who turned up pretty smartly, viewed the CCTV footage and took down our details.

Funny thing was, it didn’t seem particularly scary at the time – maybe because the shotgun was almost always trained on the post office guy, with just a flourish or two towards us. And the elderly lady did enough panicking for us all – I was more worried about her state than anything.

And now the key question you must be wondering – did they get away with the copyedited MS of Liberator? No, they didn’t even realise the treasure right under their noses! They just rushed out with the money – and I had to go to a different post office to send off my parcel.

And people think that authors live quiet, uneventful lives, never venturing from the safety of their computers. But in reality, the danger and excitement never stops!

Thank goodness no one was harmed! I don’t think that I would have been as calm as Richard, were I in a similar situation.

Tune in next time for a return to our normal programming, with part 2 of the Aussiecon author videos.

Catch ya later, George

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The Aussiecon Author Videos, part 1

I’ve been promising these videos for quite a while, and I’ve finally managed to drag myself away from my word processing program long enough to open up the video editing program and prepare the videos. When you watch the videos, you’ll probably notice that there isn’t very much editing at all. So, what’s taken me so long? I’ve only ever used the program once before, and I couldn’t remember how to use it. So it took me a while (lots of trial and error resulting in much colourful language) to re-learn the program and then to get the videos ready. Okay, enough with the pathetic excuses. On with the show…

In September 2010 I attended Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne. (Check out my Aussiecon 4 Memories post.) There were an awful lot of authors wandering about, so I thought I’d corner a few of them and stick a video camera in their faces. I asked each of them to introduce themselves and then to tell me about the book (or books) which has had the greatest influence on them.

And so here are the first four authors…

Michael Pryor is the author of many YA novels, including the Laws of Magic series. He is also co-creator, along with Paul Collins, of The Quentaris Chronicles. Check out his website.

Foz Meadows is the author of The Rare trilogy — the first book, Solace and Grief, was published last year; the second book, The Key to Starveldt, will be published later this year. Check out her blog.

Jane Routley is the author of numerous fantasy novels, including Mage Heart and Fire Angels. She writes under her own name, as well as Rebecca Locksley. Check out her website.

Richard Harland is the author of numerous novels for kids, teens and adults. His most recent novel is Worldshaker. Its sequel, Liberator, will be published later this year. Check out his website.

And tune in next time for another four videos. I promise. Maybe.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll post a video of myself. 😉

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Some book covers

You can’t judge a book by its cover. A very true statement. Many good books have crap covers and many crap books have good covers. But people do often judge books by their covers… or, at least, they make their reading choices based on covers. Unfair? Yes! But a fact of marketing. A book’s cover can affect sales. Today, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite book covers.

Clive Baker’s The Thief of Always, a children’s horror novel, has gone through quite a number of different covers over the years. Here are a few examples:

But it is this cover, that I like the best. It’s eerie, it’s intriguing and it captures the feel of the novel.

The Jelindel Chronicles, a series of YA fantasy novels by Paul Collins, have all had good covers, but for me the stand out cover was the final one. Cathy Larsen created this beautifully stylish cover for Wardragon.

Author Neil Gaiman has had a long association with artist David McKean, who has illustrated and designed the covers of many of Gaiman’s comics. McKean illustrated and designed this cover for Gaiman’s collection, Angels & Visitations.

Covers are often designed using stock photographs and illustrations, rather than being specially commissioned illustrations. One of my favourites in this vein, is this cover for Iain Lawrence’s children’s novel, Lord of the Nutcracker Men.

Interestingly, there was another version of this cover, where the photo of the toy soldier is larger and more prominent. I prefer the version with the smaller soldier. There was also another, more cluttered cover, which lacks the impact of the simpler cover.

I also really like this one for Caiseal Mór’s YA fantasy, The Harp at Midnight.

Let’s return to the specially illustrated cover. Here’s the cover for Andy Mulligan’s YA novel, Trash, illustrated by Richard Collingridge. I love the way the title is actually formed out of trash. Have a look at Collingridge’s website to see more of his fantastic artwork.

Christopher Pike has written lots of YA horror novels, and Paul Davies has illustrated many of them. This is my favourite, for the novel Master of Murder, which also happens to be my favourite of the novels (mind you, I’ve only ever read three of Pike’s novels).

Finally, I’d like to mention Kerri Valkova’s Ditmar award-winning cover for Richard Harland’s weird humorous horror novel, The Black Crusade. Yes, okay, I’m slightly biased as I happen to be married to Kerri… but I still think this is an awesome cover. I love its graphic, cartoony quality. I live in hope that one day Kerri will get to illustrate one of my book covers.

Do you have a favourite book cover? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

And tune in next time for series book covers.

Catch ya later,  George

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Aussiecon 4 Memories

The 68th World Science Fiction Convention is over! Five days of panels, talks, signings, parties, awards and other related stuff, has ended. People from all over the world are making their way home… or perhaps sightseeing across Australia before departing our golden shores. I’m now sitting in front of my computer at home in Melbourne, still exhausted, trying to come to terms with the fact that it will probably be at least another 10 years before the Worldcon returns to our country.

Since the convention finished, the blogosphere has been inundated with reports and reviews. Check out the report from Foz Meadows, author of Solace and Grief, for ABC Radio National’s The Book Show Blog. Also, check out the blog from Narrelle M Harris, author of The Opposite of Life. If you’re on Twitter, you can see posts about Aussiecon 4 at #Aussiecon4 and #Aus4.

The Dealers’ Room!

Reading the various reports, it is evident that different people had very different experiences. Some people partied; some people networked; some people collected autographs and listened to their favourite authors; some people promoted; some people shopped in the dealers’ room; and some people sat around chatting and drinking way too much coffee. I tried very hard to do a bit of everything! 🙂 And now it’s time for me to add my view of Aussiecon 4 to the ever-expanding blogosphere.

The Ticonderoga Publications table in the Dealers’ Room.

The writer Guest of Honour was Kim Stanley Robinson, author of numerous science fiction novels, including Galileo’s Dream and the Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars). I’ve never read any of his novels, as my taste in science fiction tends to lean towards lighter, adventure-based story-telling, rather than hard science. Despite this, I made the effort to attend his Guest of Honour speech… which was thoughtful, humorous and very entertaining. What I enjoyed most about it, was the insight into his non-writing life; and how he felt that one of the greatest things given to him by his writing career was the opportunity to work from home and watch his kids grow up. As a writer who is also a stay-at-home-Dad, this really struck a chord with me. I’m even tempted to go off and read one of his books.

Kim Stanley Robinson giving his Guest of Honour speech.

The artist Guest of Honour was Australian illustrator and author, Shaun Tan, creator of many wonderful books, including The Lost Thing, Tales From Outer Suburbia and The Arrival. I’ve heard Shaun speak numerous times over the years, but I never tire of listening to him. Given that my artistic abilities do not extend beyond stick-figures, I am in awe of anyone who can draw… and can this guy draw, or what? And he makes it look so easy. And he comes across as such a nice guy.

Shaun Tan (right) on a panel about art with D.M. Cornish (centre) and Richard Harland (left).

Now, let’s move on to Doctor Who, because as any regular Literary Clutter reader will know, I am a Doctor Who fanboy. Two writers who worked on the revived Doctor Who series were in attendance at the convention — Paul Cornell (who I’ve previously interviewed on Literary Clutter) and Robert Shearman (who wrote first season’s “Dalek”, the last truly awesome episode to feature this race of pepper-pot encased aliens). I got the chance to meet both of them, and even spoke on a panel with Mr Cornell — “Playing in someone else’s sandpit: franchise writing”.

There were a number of interesting Who related panels, including the one I was on, “We are all fairy tales: Doctor Who’s fifth season”, which was a discussion of how the series had changed with its new production team. It was during this panel that I referred to head writers Russell T Davies and Stephen Moffat as “Rusty and the SMoff” and made the grand statement: “I’d have the River over the Pond, any day!” — although I guess you’d need to be a fan to find any humour in this. Thankfully, neither Paul nor Robert were there for that one!

Of course, there was much discussion of both film and television during the course of the convention. One session I found particularly interesting was George RR Martin’s on-stage interview with Melinda M Snodgrass. Melinda is author of numerous novels (including the Circuit trilogy) as well as being a scriptwriter who has written for, amongst other shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, The Outer Limits and Sliders. George is author of countless novels (including the Song of Fire and Ice series) as well as being scriptwriter of 14 episodes of the 1980s television series Beauty and the Beast. The interview worked extremely well due to the obvious rapport they have from being long-time friends and colleagues, and was a wonderful insight into the world of television writing.

And then, of course, there were books… many, many books! And much discussion of those books. Some of the panels I attended included “YA speculative fiction: industry overview and insights”, “Getting published in YA spec fic”, “Nuts and bolts: editing YA spec fic, an insider’s view” and “What’s hot and what’s not: trends in YA spec fic” — do you see a pattern forming here? There were also lots of great readings, by authors local and imported. The highlight for me was the tag-team reading session by Richard Harland and Jack Dann, each providing character voices for the other’s reading.

I’ve barely scratched the surface and I’m out of blog space. Tune in next time as I continue to ramble on about the awesomeness that was AUSSIECON 4!

Catch ya later,  George

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Steampunk

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we enter a world of manners, polite society and dark secrets; a world of amazing steam-driven contraptions; a world in which Victoria sits on the throne and we all daily sing along to God Save the Queen; a world in which class divisions are nearing breaking-point and but we all pretend they are not. Welcome, dear reader, to the world of steampunk.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction. It encompasses quite a lot of diverse fiction, but is usually characterised by society in an age of steam-driven machinery, often fantastical in nature. It is Victorian-esque and is often set in 19th century England. This sub-genre has been around for quite a while but has been gaining in popularity of late.

LarklightThe first book I read which made me sit up and take notice of the sub-genre was Philip Reeve’s Larklight. Set in an alternate 1851, where the British Empire extends from Mercury to Jupiter, this charming and whimsical kids’ novel has been referred to by some as steampunk-lite. But I think that it and its sequels, Starcross and Mothstorm, are a terrific read and a jolly-good intro to steampunk. I reviewed them a while back for the Australian Spec Fic in Focus website.

WorldshakerMost recently, Scott Westefield’s Leviathan has been getting rave reviews. And last year, Richard Harland’s YA novel Worldshaker hit the shelves. Leviathan is sitting on my must-read-soon pile, but I did read and review Worldshaker when it came out (check out the review). It is, without a doubt, my favourite book of 2009. So I’m extremely pleased that Richard was able to drop by and answer a couple of steampunk questions.

Why do you like reading steampunk and what attracted you to write in that sub-genre?

I didn’t plan to write a steampunk novel, that’s for sure! When I had the ideas for Worldshaker, over 15 years ago, steampunk was only a small and little-noticed sub-genre of SF. My first idea was for a great gothic castle, but – since I didn’t just want to imitate Mervyn Peake – I built my ‘castle’ out of metal and put it on rollers. From then on, the mechanical side grew more and more important as I kept on developing the world and narrative.

I couldn’t see any chance of getting the story published for a very long while, since no Australian publisher was looking at that kind of fantasy back then. So I bided my time and kept on with the developing – and in the end, steampunk/Victoriana fiction started to catch on. I started the actual writing of the novel 5 years ago, and now it’s come out right in the middle of a huge steampunk wave in the US, and an ever-spreading wave in Australia.

I think it was the novel I always had in me to write. When I look back, steampunky elements had already crept into many of my previous novels. The Vicar of Morbing Vyle and The Black Crusade are both set in Victorian-type worlds. There’s a metal world in The Dark Edge, industrial scenery in the Humen Camp episodes of the Ferren trilogy, and quirky bits of machinery in (again) the Ferren books and The Black Crusade. I’m just lucky that the world finally wanted to read what I particularly wanted to write.

For me, the appeal of steampunk is that it’s a whole new realm of fantasy. I still enjoy post-Tolkien and medieval-type fantasies, but there are so many of them. Most very competent, many very emotionally involving—but there’s a limit to their originality. All the obvious things that can be done with that kind of world have already been done. Whereas steampunk worlds still have so many possibilities—including alternative technologies and political scenarios that can hardly appear in medieval-type fantasy.

Plus I love the atmospheric possibilities of the 19th-century-that-never-existed: claustrophobic back-alleys, grime and smokestacks, fog and gloom. The Dickensian imagination!

What’s your favourite steampunk novel/story?

Let me say first of all that I haven’t yet read Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, which I’m saving up to take with me when I start the overseas tours for Worldshaker. Since I have great admiration for Scott as a writer, it’s almost certain to join my list of favourites. (Ironically, Leviathan was my original title for the novel that became Worldshaker!)

I love Phillip Reeve’s Mortal Engines and Predator’s Gold.  (A love/hate relationship originally, because when Mortal Engines appeared, I was horrified by its overall similarities to my own as-yet-unwritten steampunk story. But I’ve got over that since Worldshaker has managed to make its own very successful way in the world.)

Of the early classics in the genre, my favourite is Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates; I admire more than love Gibson & Sterling’s The Difference Engine.

I’ve just finished reading Jay Lake’s Mainspring, which has a truly marvellous central concept.

Perdido Street StationSome of my very favourites are steampunk-ish rather than middle-of-the-genre steampunk. For example, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station and The Scar, Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights and D.M. Cornish’s Monster Blood Tattoo books.

And did I mention Michael Pryor’s The Laws of Magic series? So much of the good steampunk stuff is coming out as YA.

To find out more about Richard and his writing, check out his website. My thanks to Richard for dropping by. And a good thing that he mentioned Michael Pryor…

Tune in next time for some more steampunk adventures along with Michael Pryor, author of The Laws of Magic.

Catch ya later,  George

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George

Boomerang @ Bookfeast 2009

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

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

Now, pictures!

EXCLUSIVE: Richard Harland and WORLDSHAKER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Teen Reviewer

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

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

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

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

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

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

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

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

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

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

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

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

June Book Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… A bonus for our blog readers

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

… A bonus for our Facebook Friends

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

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

What are you waiting for? Join Now!