June Book Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… A bonus for our blog readers

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

… A bonus for our Facebook Friends

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

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

What are you waiting for? Join Now!

Interview with WENDY HARMER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was the funniest complaint you received about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Writers’ Festival: An Evening With Wendy Harmer

And what an evening it was.

Tonight’s event at the Paddington Town Hall (“I went to a Sleaze Ball here once!” – Wendy Harmer) was completely different to the one earlier this afternoon. While Coming of Age was very much about the writing process, An Evening With Wendy Harmer was about the writer herself. I guess it’s because of Wendy’s history as a comedienne, or as her jacketflap bio puts it, “humourist”. She has a certain stage presence and is comfortable veering off-course. In fact, most of the evening was spent intentionally veering off Angela “I’m supposed to be interviewing you” Catterns’ script, because, as she said, “Nobody wants to hear about that, that’s boring.” And she was always right. As entertaining and funny and engaging as her books may be (and they are), Wendy Harmer’s not the sort of person you go to hear speak to learn about her authorial intent. You want jokes, you want anecdotes, you want her opinion on things, you want her guessing the weight of Angela Catterns’ breasts – and if you were there, you got exactly that.

As an aside, this wasn’t a session for the kiddies. As someone who grew up listening to her breakfast show on 2DayFM, it was a shock (and a pleasure) to hear her frequently drop the F-bomb in conversation.

Farewell My OvariesSprinkled in amongst the social commentary and relentless gags were brief mentions of her books. She was inspired to write Farewell My Ovaries because, reading chick- and hen-lit, she’d always be annoyed at the chapter breaks between the lines “They collapsed onto the bed in each others arms.” and “They woke up the next morning.” She wanted to write the sex, but writing sex is just like writing comedy, according to Wendy, because everybody has different tastes. As she puts it, one person’s “Come on over, sexy” can be someone else’s “Oh my God, get away from me”. Reactions were varied. She quoted one reviewer who described the sex as gruesome, and another that likened her exploration of sex to canonical texts I’ve forgotten since the event (my bad).

Roadside SistersShe also spoke about her newest release, Roadside Sisters, which sounds like your standard three-women-on-a-roadtrip, only doused in Harmer’s trademark humour. But, there were more pressing matters to discuss (see: Angela’s breasts – Wendy thinks they’re somewhere between one-and-a-half and two kilos each).

Five minutes before the conclusion of the session, Angela tried to steer Wendy into a bit of shameless promotion (and it worked, the book she shamelessly promoted, her personal favourite, Nagging For Beginners sold out the moment the Evening was over, and I was sure to grab a copy for Mum, which is currently being thoroughly enjoyed, judging by the laughter coming from her bedroom). She acted out a few of the featured nags, including my favourite, the Nagging for BeginnersStriptease Nag, which, if you ever have the pleasure of seeing her perform, is the funniest thing ever.

Comedienne or humourist, whatever you want to call her, Wendy is an entertainer. If you ever have the chance to go and see her live, I whole-heartedly recommend her. If you want something to keep you company until then, there’s always her writing and her podcasts.

Sydney Writers’ Festival: Coming of Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, go on. Get reading.

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