Will George RR Martin’s The Winds of Winter be published this year?

It happens every time. Whenever we cross paths with HarperCollins, George R.R. Martin’s Australian publisher, the conversation invariably leans towards A Song of Ice and Fire.

532357935209ba3172b1158a_george-rr-martinWhen will the next book be coming?

Is it this year?

It’s this year isn’t it?

Blink once if it’s this year.

Was that a blink?

But it appears it wasn’t a blink after all, as Martin’s UK publisher Jane Johnson from HarperCollins gave fans the big news overnight.

“I have no information on likely delivery,” she said. “These are increasingly complex books and require immense amounts of concentration to write. Fans really ought to appreciate that the length of these monsters is equivalent to two or three novels by other writers.”

Martin too is feeling the strain of impatient fans.

“I know how many people are waiting, how long they have been waiting, how anxious they are. I am still working on Winds. When it’s done, I will announce it here,” the bestselling author said recently. “There won’t be any clues to decipher, any codes or hidden meanings, the announcement will be straightforward and to the point. I won’t time it to coincide with Xmas or Valentine’s Day or Lincoln’s Birthday, the book will not rise from the dead with Jesus on Easter Sunday.”

But while we wait for another book, the show goes on.

The TV show that is, with the release of season 4 of Games of Thrones nearly upon us, and season 5 set to air in April this year.

game-of-thronesGame of Thrones

The Complete Fourth Season

Based on George R.R. Martin’s best selling book series A Song of Ice and Fire, the fourth season of Game of Thrones features returning cast members, plus some exciting additions.

While the Lannisters hold on the Iron Throne remains intact, new and ongoing threats from the south, north and east threaten to tip the scales. As Stannis Baratheon and Daenerys Targaryen continue to grow their respective armies, the arrival of the Lannister-loathing Red Viper of Dorne poses a more immediate danger. In the north, the depleted Night’s Watch seems over matched against the advances of Mance Rayders army of wildlings, which in turn is being trailed by an even more formidable foe: the undead White Walkers.

Complete Fourth Season is packed with exclusive new bonus content including roundtable discussions, on-set interviews, audio commentaries, and brand new animated histories giving fans hours of extensive, never-before-seen material.

Order your copy of Game of Thrones: Season 4 here

A Bookish Night at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards

AACTALast night’s Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (the AACTA awards for those short of breath) had a particularly bookish feel.

The Babadook, the acclaimed thriller about a mother and son haunted by a mysterious storybook, shared Best Film honours with Russell Crowe’s directorial debut The Water Diviner, which was recently adapted into a novel by screenwriter Andrew Anastasios.

Sarah Snook was awarded Best Lead Actress for her role in Predestination, an adaptation of a Robert A. Heinlein short story, while The Railway Man, based on Eric Lomax’s acclaimed memoir, won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Which just goes to show, behind every great movie is usually an even better book.

For trivia lovers, Booktopia’s Book Guru John Purcell has a special connection with The Babadook. His younger brother Tim actually played the Babadook in the film, the terrifying six-foot-seven monster. John is only six-foot-six. He’s quite sensitive about it.

Check out our full range of Film & TV tie-ins

BOOK REVIEW: Nicholas Clements’ Black War (Review by Justin Cahill)

the-black-warIn 1976, Manning Clark famously asked “are we a nation of bastards ?” He was writing about Whitlam’s dismissal. But Clark’s real targets were the “heart dimmers”, the reactionary conservatives who he believed had brought down a man of vision.

Similar elements continue to deny that European settlement here led to war with the Aborigines. Generally, historians have tip-toed around this aspect of our past. Reading their accounts you would think the local people had, after thousands of years living here, simply melted away. But they resisted and it’s time we acknowledged the wars that followed.

Other nations do not share this collective amnesia. In New Zealand, the European settlers’ breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, made with the Māori in 1840, led to over twenty years of civil wars. Those wars have a firm place in New Zealand national history. There are monuments to the dead. Battlefields, such as Rangiriri pā, are protected historic sites. There are movies about the conflict, including Utu, released in 1983.

The frontier wars between the Indians and settlers in America’s west spawned a culture of their own, culminating in 1970 with the publication of Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

But, to paraphrase the historian James Belich, while kids play cowboys and Indians, who plays convicts and Aborigines ? There is has been acknowledgement of such a conflict, the ‘Black War’, in Tasmania. It provided the background for a movie, Manganinnie, released in 1980.

Yet recent accounts of our frontier wars have been marred by sloppy extrapolations of casualty figures from primary sources or by simply ignoring Aboriginal evidence. But how much evidence do we need ? The Tasmanians endured for about 30,000 years then, co-incidentally, were reduced to several hundred within 30 years of European settlement. Are we just too gutless to confront past wrongs ?


Nicholas Clements

If not, we had better steel ourselves. Clements is open about his political leanings and the limitations of his sources. But the contemporary reports he has found show the Tasmanian government, despite humanitarian protestations, planned to rid the colony of the local people, either by transporting them to island ghettoes or simple extermination. His accounts of their fight for survival are harrowing. Apart from detailing the massacres of poorly armed warriors, he provides vivid accounts of how the women and children were captured, used as sex slaves then often murdered.

Clements’ approach is unique that he gives equal space to the experiences of the settlers, soldiers, emancipists and convicts. He acknowledges they were “…victims of their circumstances …hatreds, frustrations, fears and sadnesses.” For example, most of the convicts transported to Tasmania were not professional criminals, but just working class men who fell on hard times. Shipped to the other side of the world and brutalised by the penal regime, they were left with the bare shreds of humanity. Fear of attack from the local people stripped them of even that – reducing them to the level of broken, snarling dogs.

We pride ourselves that we live in a more civilised age. But Clark’s question remains unanswered. Are we to be a stagnant, introverted society living in denial ? Are we still a nation of bastards ? Clements shows we don’t have to be.

Grab a copy of Nicholas Clements’ Black War here

Justin Cahill is a Sydney-based naturalist and historian. His publications include a biography of the ornithologist Alfred North and A New Life in our History, a history of the European settlement of Australia and New Zealand told from the perspective of ordinary people. He has also written on Chinese history, including the negotiations surrounding Britain’s acquisition of Hong Kong and its decolonisation in 1997.

Justin’s most recent publication is the first part of Epitome for Eleanor: A Short History of the Known Universe, written for children. His current projects include a natural history of Sydney’s Wolli Creek Valley.

He regularly contributes reviews to Booktopia.

the-black-warThe Black War

Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania

by Nicholas Clements

‘At its core, The Black War is a story about two peoples who just wanted to be free of each other . . . sooner or later Europeans and Aborigines were bound to clash, but it was Tasmania’s unique circumstances that turned this encounter into a ‘war of extermination’.’

Between 1825 and 1831 close to 200 Britons and 1000 Aborigines died violently in Tasmania’s Black War. It was by far the most intense frontier conflict in Australia’s history, yet many Australians know little about it. The Black War takes a unique approach to this historic event, looking chiefly at the experiences and attitudes of those who took part in the conflict. By contrasting the perspectives of colonists and Aborigines, Nicholas Clements takes a deeply human look at the events that led to the shocking violence and tragedy of the war, detailing raw personal accounts that shed light on the tribes, families and individuals involved as they struggled to survive in their turbulent world.

The Black War presents a compelling and challenging view of our early contact history, the legacy of which reverberates strongly to the present day.

About the Author

Dr Nicholas Clements is an honorary research associate in the School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania. Born in rural Tasmania in 1982, he now lives in Launceston. Nick is an avid rock climber and bushwalker, whose passion for Tasmania’s landscape and history inspired him to write The Black War.

Grab a copy of Nicholas Clements’ Black War here

An interview with the late great Colleen McCullough

One of Australia’s most popular authors, Colleen McCullough, has passed away aged 77.

035399-colleen-mcculloughHer novel The Thorn Birds is still the highest selling Australian novel ever written. Her popularity remained immense for the duration of her career, only last week being voted one of Australia’s 50 Favourite Authors in our nationwide readers poll.

In 2012 we were lucky enough to interview Colleen about her remarkable career, where she shared some wonderful tips to aspiring writers. We thought we’d share some of the most memorable parts of the chat.

Vale Colleen McCullough. Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

Where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Wellington, NSW, on June 1st of 1937, which makes me 75 next birthday. I was raised in rural NSW and then Sydney, and received my secondary and tertiary education in Sydney.

the-thorn-birdsWhat strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At eighteen I was an ardent socialist. Now I think socialism is as malign as it is destructive of the individual.

What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I can’t remember any standing out above the flood. I was omnivorous and totally eclectic in my choice of books, which, in a time of acute paper shortage, were seized upon eagerly as something to read in a desert. Classical music was a revelation to me, but again, no particular composer stands out in memory.

Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I can write in any literary form- that ability is simply the result of professionalism. That I write novels is my choice of a literary form; writing novels is satisfying and enjoyable to me. The writer has the necessary length to develop character while not neglecting environment or plot. The art lies in keeping all the threads from tangling and resisting the lure of tangential themes.

bittersweetWhat do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Like any writer, I hope my readers take a feeling of pleasure away from my book. Books can expand the intellect, but most books are aimed at entertaining. That means closing the book with regret when it’s finished, and occasionally thinking of it afterward.

Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Oh, so many! Shakespeare, the Restoration novelists, David Storey, Toni Morrison, Faulkner, Hemingway, de Maupassant, Zola, Goethe, Sir Arthur Sherrington, Marquez, Llosa, Allende, Cervantes, Homer – the list is far too long to nominate, and I am a pan-reader.

Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

My goal is to give pleasure to my readers. After that, to obtain as many readers as I can, of both sexes. In other words, I try not to write boring books.

What advice do you give aspiring writers?

life-without-the-boring-bitsAdvice for aspiring writers? That’s difficult, as all writers are individuals who write differing books.

First and foremost, avoid giving your manuscripts to emotionally connected people to read. Anyone emotionally connected has an axe of their own to grind, and cannot be relied on to give honest opinions.

Give manuscripts to detached outsiders to read. Don’t go thinking you’ve written the world’s best book, but don’t think you’ve written the worst one either.

Don’t give up trying to find a publisher. Some huge bestsellers were refused by literally dozens of houses before finding a niche. Look at Harry Potter.

And remember, that there is always an element of luck about writing.

Click here to go to Colleen McCullough’s author page

A ‘Mr Men and Little Miss’ film in the works

mr-tickleReally, it’s about time.

44 years, 85 characters and more 120 million copies after Roger Hargreaves wrote his first book, inspired by his son asking what a tickle looked like, film rights for the Mr Men and Little Miss characters have been secured by Fox Animation, the studio behind the Ice Age and Rio franchises.

Fox Animation president Vanessa Morrison added: “The Mr Men and Little Miss characters have delighted readers from around the world for decades.”

Shawn Levy, who produced and directed the Night at the Museum films starring Ben Stiller, will produce the movie.

Do you have a favourite Mr or Miss? Tell us in the comments below.

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Peter Twohig, author of The Torch, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Peter Twohig

author of The Torch

Six Sharp Questions

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

The Torch is about a boy who is inspired to help another boy, who is a firebug, to avoid capture, in an attempt to assuage the helplessness he felt, and the grief he feels following the death of his twin just over a year earlier. But as his story unfolds he discovers that he has become trapped in a morass of deceit and secrecy that he first attempts to pass off as coincidence, but later discovers is really the complex world of adults.

The Torch has for me been a wonderful opportunity to plunge the reader (and myself) back into the life of the main character of The Cartographer. It has also been strengthening experience as a writer: actually to be asked to write a book, especially one about an established character. Although The Cartographer was not my first novel, it was the first to be published. I therefore feel a sense that that initial accomplishment has now developed into an accomplishment of more mature proportions, and that is very satisfying.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The best moment has been completing the structural edit of The Torch. It’s very satisfying to work with editors who appreciate the characters and story so much that their suggestions enable you to rethink the whole work again, despite already having written a complete revision. Once they have granted their imprimatur, I’m a happy little Vegemite. Worst moments: none to speak of.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

The main character, a twelve-year old, occasionally gives us his understanding about something or other, making the best of (very) limited information: it’s in his nature to be helpful in that way. Here is one such example.

I knew all about pregnancy. When Johnno Johnson’s cat got pregnant, it became very lumpy; basically, it ended up being one big lump. And when Douggie Quirk’s big sister, Maureen, got pregnant (except she wasn’t so much pregnant as ‘having a baby’), she was put in a special home for girls who are having babies. Mum’s couldn’t get pregnant, of course, but they could be ‘expecting’, which was slightly different, as it meant that they were expecting to get lumpy, not expecting to go to Hell, which is what being pregnant meant (unless you were a cat or a dog). So I couldn’t understand why Mum said she was pregnant when she was actually expecting, as I knew that mothers could not be sent to Hell. I decided that she must have made a mistake. That is something that girls tend to do when they’re upset, which is the reason why it is that it always the magician who gets to saw the girl in half, and not the other way round. But call it what you will, it’s always bad news.

It’s not that the passage itself has meaning: it’s functions are to let us hear the narrator’s voice and to hear him telling his story. But it’s an endearing voice.


4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I would say that I’m an easy person to live with, requiring only writing equipment (my Mac and some top software) and coffee (which I sometimes forget to drink for long periods). I always start writing first thing in the morning, even before breakfast, or my first cuppa. After I’ve done some work, I’ll get brekky, which I take back to the computer. Ditto lunch. No dinner. Occasionally, I’ll go for a long walk or jump on my motorbike and take off. That’s it. I sleep for eight hours per night. Often I dream of a good idea, so I’ll wake up and go back to the computer for a minute. The other night, I dreamt of the opening line of my next novel. How easy is that!

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

The marketplace doesn’t affect my writing at all. I know I’m going to sell books, and that’s that. I write books for sheer enjoyment, knowing that it will shine through the writing, though I didn’t realise that until I began to get feedback from readers. So what’s left? Technical excellence, and that’s what I aim for. But even  those aspects of writing – grammar, punctuation, diction, the rhythms and structures of fiction, poetic effects, the music of voice – I’m passionate about. The way I look at it, the characters appear out of nowhere, they tell me their story, and I write it down. All I have to do is get it down faithfully.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only a few books with you. What do you take and why?

Ill-educated and uncivilised? Then I’ll start with a story about an ill-educated, uncivilised character, Huckleberry Finn. Then I’ll graduate to another streetwise but uneducated character, whose mastery of his idiom, and his problem, is deeply touching and exciting: Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban. Next, A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, a devastating critique of modern social values, starring Alex Du Large, a fifteen-year-old psychopath with a gifted ear for slang. Having shed a tear for Alex (or not, if they’re hard bitten types), I would introduce them to DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little. If that doesn’t give them a rounded introduction to literature, they’re beyond help. By this time they’ll probably need something completely different, so, as a segue to world of adult main characters, I’d take along a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (though any Vonnegut would do). Hey, I’m nothing if not subversive.

Peter, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Torch here

The Torch

by Peter Twohig

Melbourne, 1960: Mrs Blayney and her twelve year old son live in South Richmond. At least, they did, until their house burnt down. The prime suspect – one Keith Aloysius Gonzaga Kavanagh, also aged 12 – has mysteriously disappeared. Our narrator, the Blayney kid, sets off on a covert mission to find young Keith, who he privately dubs ‘Flame Boy’, to save him from the small army of irate locals – not to mention his mother – who want to see him put away.

Flame Boy has not only made himself scarce, but he’s done so with a very important briefcase of secrets, which the kid is keen to get hold of for his grandfather, a shady character who has some secrets of his own. But the kid has got a lot going on: he’s also organising a new gang of kids; coping with the ups and downs of having a girl friend (who likes to kiss – a lot); trying to avoid Keith’s dangerous prison-escapee father, Fergus Kavanagh, also an arsonist, who is suspected of selling secrets to the Russians; and all the while wondering how he can get his hands on the most beautiful object in the world: the Melbourne Olympic Torch.

A madcap, brilliantly shambolic and irresistibly fun novel about loss, discovery and living life to the full, The Torch is a ripper of a ride.

About the Author

Peter Twohig was born in Melbourne in 1948. As a boy he became one of Australia’s youngest Queen Scouts and in his mid-teens he took up guitar which led him to becoming a member of a rock band that played around Melbourne. Peter had a long career in various government departments (including the army) and as a management consultant before training in naturopathy and homoeopathy and setting up Sydney’s largest natural medicine practice in Crow’s Nest in 1995. He has a BA in Professional Writing and a BA (Hons) in Philosophy. He now lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and is a full-time writer.

Grab a copy of The Torch here


The 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Announced

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards have just been announced at a function in Melbourne.

Let’s take a look at the winners!


To Name Those Lost

by Rohan Wilson

From the bestselling author of The Roving Party, comes a moving father and son story set amidst the beauty and the violence of the poor and preyed upon of our colonial past.

Summer 1874, and Launceston teeters on the brink of anarchy. After abandoning his wife and child many years ago, the Black War veteran Thomas Toosey must return to the city to search for William, his now motherless twelve-year-old son. He travels through the island’s northern districts during a time of impossible hardship – hardship that has left its mark on him too.

Rohan WilsonArriving in Launceston, however, Toosey discovers a town in chaos. He is desperate to find his son amid the looting and destruction, but at every turn he is confronted by the Irish transportee Fitheal Flynn and his companion, the hooded man, to whom Toosey owes a debt that he must repay.

To Name Those Lost is the story of a father’s journey. Wilson has an eye for the dirt, the hardness, the sheer dog-eat-doggedness of the lives of the poor. Human nature is revealed in all its horror and beauty as Thomas Toosey struggles with the good and the vile in himself and learns what he holds important.

Grab your copy of To Name Those Lost here

the-europeans-in-australia-nationalityNON FICTION

The Europeans in Australia: Vol 3

by Alan Atkinson

This is the third and final volume of the landmark, award-winning series The Europeans in Australia that gives an account of settlement by Britain. It tells of the various ways in which that experience shaped imagination and belief among the settler people from the eighteenth century to the end of World War I.

Volume Three, Nation, tells the story of Australian Federation and the war with a focus, as ever on ordinary habits of thought and feeling. In this period, for the first time the settler people began to grasp the vastness of the continent, and to think of it as their own.

AlanThere was a massive funding of education, and the intellectual reach of men and women was suddenly expanded, to an extent that seemed dazzling to many at the time. Women began to shape public imagination as they had not done before. At the same time, the worship of mere ideas had its victims, most obviously the Aboriginal people, and the war itself proved what vast tragedies it could unleash.

The culmination of an extraordinary career in the writing and teaching of Australian history, The Europeans in Australia grapples with the Australian historical experience as a whole from the point of view of the settlers from Europe. Ambitious and unique, it is the first such large, single-author account since Manning Clark’s A History of Australia.

Grab your copy of The Europeans in Australia: Vol 3 here

the-protectedYOUNG ADULT

The Protected

by Claire Zorn

I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.

Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?

0003269Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

‘The Protected captures the volatility of adolescence, the fragility of family, and the importance of a good friend.’ AJ Betts, author of Zac & Mia

Grab your copy of The Protected here

where-song-beganPEOPLE’S CHOICE

Where Song Began

by Tim Low

Tim Low, award-winning author of Feral Future, in an eye-opening book on the unique nature of Australian birds and their role in ecology and global evolution.

Renowned for its unusual mammals, Australia is a land of birds that are just as unusual, just as striking, a result of the continent’s tens of millions of years of isolation. Compared with birds elsewhere, ours are more likely to be intelligent, aggressive and loud, to live in complex societies, and are long-lived. They’re also ecologically more powerful, exerting more influences on forests than other birds.

But unlike the mammals, the birds did not keep to Australia; they spread around the globe. Australia provided the world with its songbirds and parrots, the most intelligent of all bird groups. It was thought in Darwin’s time that species generated in the Southern Hemisphere could not succeed in the Northern, an idea that was proven wrong in respect of birds in the 1980s but not properly accepted by the world’s scientists until 2004 – because, says Tim Low, most ornithologists live in the Northern Hemisphere. As a result, few Australians are aware of the ramifications, something which prompted the writing of this book.

Tim LowTim Low has a rare gift for illuminating complex ideas in highly readable prose, and making of the whole a dynamic story. Here he brilliantly explains how our birds came to be so extraordinary, including the large role played by the foods they consume (birds, too, are what they eat), and by our climate, soil, fire, and Australia’s legacy as a part of Gondwana. The story of its birds, it turns out, is inseparable from the story of Australia itself, and one that continues to unfold, so much having changed in the last decade about what we know of our ancient past.

Where Song Began also shines a light on New Guinea as a biological region of Australia, as much a part of the continent as Tasmania. This is a work that goes far beyond the birds themselves to explore the relationships between Australia’s birds and its people, and the ways in which scientific prejudice have hindered our understanding.

Grab your copy of Where Song Began here


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