Lisa Heidke, author of Claudia’s Big Break, answers Five Facetious Questions:

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lisa Heidke

author of Claudia’s Big Break, What Katie Did Next and Lucy Springer Gets Even

Five Facetious Questions:

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1. Every writer spends at least one afternoon going from bookshop to bookshop making sure his or her latest book is facing out and neatly arranged. How far have you gone to draw attention to your own books in a shop?

Only one afternoon? The first time I saw Lucy Springer Gets Even in a bookshop I had a mild panic attack and ran out, leaving my three children in the shop squealing, ‘Mum, it’s HERE! This is YOUR book.’ I got much better at seeing my books in shops after that – and yes, I go in and make sure my books are facing out and sitting in the best seller section.  Having said that, I get upset when I see them because it means they haven’t sold and upset when I don’t see them because it means the shop’s not stocking my books…I am permanently tortured!

2. So you’re a published author, almost a minor celebrity and for some reason you’ve been let into a party full of ‘A-listers’ – what do you do?

I am my usually calm and collected self, until I’ve consumed three glasses of wine and start dancing on tabletops to  Patrick Hernandez’s ‘Born to be Alive.’

3. Some write because they feel compelled to, some are Artists and do it for the Muse, some do it for the cash (one buck twenty a book) and some do it because they think it makes them more attractive to the opposite sex – why do you do write? (NB: don’t say -‘cause I can’t sing, tap or paint!)

I write because it amuses me and makes me happy (except for those wakeful hours between two and five am when I’m terrified I’ll never again come up with a believable character or plotline).

4. Have you ever come to the end of writing a particularly fine paragraph, paused momentarily, chuffed with your own genius, only to find you’ve been sitting at the computer nude or with your dress half-way over your head or shaving cream on your face or toilet paper sticking out the back of your undies or paused to find that you’re singing We are the Champions at the top of your voice, having exchanged the words ‘we are’ for ‘I am’ and dropping an ‘s’?

No? Well, what’s your most embarrassing writing moment?

My favourite place to write is my bed (I can’t believe I’m saying this…) so I guess my most embarrassing writing moments would be when my teenage sons bring friends home after school. They think of me as ‘the mad woman who lives upstairs in bed’.

5. Rodin placed his thinker on the loo – where and/or when do you seem to get your best ideas?

When I am watching ‘The Real Housewives of New York City’ and ‘Gossip Girl’.

That and when I take the dog for a walk.

Lisa, thank you for playing.


BUY CLAUDIA’S BIG BREAK – here

Read Lisa’s answers to the more (ahem!) serious Ten Terrifying Questions - here

Follow Lisa on Twitter – here

Losing the Last 5 Kilos by Michelle Bridges

Okay, so I went to England for Christmas and because it was so bloody cold I may have eaten four or five times my normal intake of food. Yes, you could call me tubby. Yes, you could call me flabby. No, these aren’t man-boobs!

Okay, okay, I admit it, I ate like a pig while away (no offence to any pigs reading). But I swear I will change.  I will work hard. I will get back my one or two pack.

But which painful road to recovery do I take?

Well, as I’m already big loser, why not try to be the biggest?

Michelle Bridges, of The Biggest Loser fame has a new book

Losing the Last 5 Kilos:
Your Kick-Arse Guide to Looking & Feeling Fantastic Click Here to Buy

Lose 5 kilos in 30 days. It sounds straightforward and it is. Michelle Bridges is Australia’s most successful weight-loss expert and she knows how to get people into shape quickly.

Whether your weight has been slowly creeping up over the last few years, you’ve already lost a lot of weight but can’t get any further, or summer is just around the corner and you want to look your best, Losing the Last 5 Kilos gives you all the information you need to get back to your perfect size.

  • Day-by-day menu plans, with weekly shopping lists
  • Michelle’s favourite low-cal but filling recipes
  • Easy-to-follow, high-intensity exercises, with step-by-step photos
  • Michelle’s best tips for success

So, set aside 30 days to follow Michelle’s training program and menu plan. Do this for just four weeks and watch the kilos disappear.

You will look and feel fantastic.

Michelle’s program is like nothing else.  It’s like there was one single piece of information that my brain needed to figure out to understand what losing weight was all about – and I sure found it.
Amanda, 41, Sydney

Free recipe from Losing the Last 5 Kilos by Michelle Bridges –

Watercress, Fetta and Watermelon Salad

This is one of those salads that you eat visually before tasting. It looks so amazing on the table. Everyone will want to try it, and once they do it will become an instant favourite.

Serves 2
Prep 15 minutes
247 cal per serve

1 bunch watercress, trimmed and leaves picked
1/4 cup torn mint leaves
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
800 g watermelon, peeled and cut into small wedges
100 g low-cal fetta, crumbled

  1. Combine the watercress, mint, onion, vinegar and oil in a bowl. Season.
  2. Toss to coat and transfer to a large plate. Top with the watermelon and fetta.

TIPS
Watercress grows in water and doesn’t survive long in the fridge, so try to buy it on the day you’ll be using it.
Keep mint wrapped in a damp cloth in the fridge. If it has gone limp, soak it in cold water for 15 minutes and drain before using.

Michelle Bridges has worked in the fitness industry for eighteen years as a professional trainer and group fitness instructor. Her role as a trainer on Channel Ten’s hit reality weight-loss show The Biggest Loser has made her Australia’s most recognised personal trainer. Michelle has travelled the world presenting at global fitness conventions and competing in physique and fitness competitions, and is sought after as a motivational speaker. Losing the Last Five Kilos is her third book. Her first two, Crunch Time and Crunch Time Cookbook, were bestsellers.


We Had it So Good by Linda Grant

We Had It So Good is the exquisitely crafted new novel from the Man Booker-shortlisted author of THE CLOTHES ON THEIR BACKS – the thoughtful and engaging story of a London family from the late sixties to the present.

In 1968 Stephen Newman arrives in England from California. Sent down from Oxford, he hurriedly marries his English girlfriend Andrea to avoid returning to America and the draft board. Over the next forty years they and their friends build lives of middle-class success until the events of late middle-age and the new century force them to realise that their fortunate generation has always lived in a fool’s paradise.

About the Author

Linda Grant is a novelist and journalist. She won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000 and the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage in 2006, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2008 for THE CLOTHES ON THEIR BACKS.

O : A Presidential Novel by Anonymous

There has been a lot of talk about this book in the US press –  much of it scathing…

The New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani writes: “Well, now we know why the author of this much gossiped about, heavily marketed new book wanted to remain anonymous: “O: A Presidential Novel” is a thoroughly lackadaisical performance — trite, implausible and decidedly unfunny.”

The Washington Post’s Ron Charles writes: “In fact, its anonymity may be the sexiest thing about “O.” The publisher is being coy, claiming it was written by someone who “has been in the room with Barack Obama,” which means we can rule out Kim Jong Il, but just about everybody else is still fair game. In any case, trust me, it’s far too earnest for Christopher Buckley. And “O” has none of the snazzy wit of Joe Klein’s briefly anonymous novel about the Clinton campaign, or the grandeur of Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men,” or the pathos of Ethan Canin’s “America America.” No, in the pages of this new novel, primary colors fade to soft pastels.”

And Susan Page in USAToday:

“The mesmerizing power of Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics when it was published in 1996 was its roiling, pitch-perfect, three-dimensional portrait of President Bill Clinton, even if his name in the loosely fictionalized account of his first presidential campaign was Gov. Jack Stanton.

The disappointing thing about O: A Presidential Novel, which goes on sale Jan. 25, is the failure of this speculative account of his 2012 re-election campaign to offer any similar insights into President Barack Obama, known throughout only by his initial.”

In the UK, there is conflict, at least in the Guardian newspaper – The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington – begins his review thus – “O: A Presidential Novel sparks search for anonymous author: Speculation rife that mystery writer behind fictional book depicting Barack Obama may be a political insider.

The question of who wrote O has become the Washington parlour game of the winter. Simon & Schuster, which publishes it next Tuesday, has said only it is “someone who has been in the room with Obama and knows this world intimately”.

The Guardian’s Michael Tomasky then blogged: “As usual, our own Ed Pilkington delivers a nicely turned story about the new novel O: A Presidential Novel written by Anonymous. But I have to say, I don’t know that anyone is talking about it all.

I live in Washington. I’m fairly plugged in. Why last Saturday I even went to a dinner party full of swells and elitist types. I didn’t hear anyone mention it.

It seems sort of desperate and silly, does it not? Joe Klein came up with the Anonymous idea. When Joe thought of it, it was original and clever. Pulling that a second time is humiliatingly lame. It’s like, hey, let me tell you about this idea I have for a screenplay. It’s set during World War II, and the action takes place in this cafe called Rick’s…

I suppose there’s a chance the novel is good. But that strikes me as a long shot. It’s very rare that these kinds of novels are any good as novels. And Ed says Obama comes off well. What is the point of that? Someone hides their identity and writes puffery? That’s kind of ridiculous.

There is also the problem that Obama isn’t very good for satire because he just isn’t funny. Nothing about him is funny. He’s too moderate. In his personal habits, I mean. He looks good, he speaks well, he has no tics, he talks rather flatly without any colorful language. He’s unfunniest president since… I don’t know who.”

The publisher, Simon and Schuster, always knew this book was going to polarise opinion. They proudly list all of the links to the reviews I have used above, bad and worse, on their website. They know that curiosity will get the better of most lovers of political writing. The book will sell. A chance to get behind closed doors with the Obama camp will be too hard to resist.

Decide for yourself – READ AN EXTRACT: HERE

Oh, I mustn’t forget the publisher’s own description:

O : A Presidential Novel

Sometimes only a novel can tell the truth…

A novel of political intrigue about President Obama, written by an anonymous Washington insider, O offers an incisive portrait of his advisors and what they will do to win the next presidential election in 2012.

Written by an author who has been in the room with Obama, the novel includes revealing and insightful portraits of prominent figures in the political world including a rising political star who takes over the president’s 2012 reelection campaign after O’s veteran campaign chief is forced to resign because of an affair with a teenage prostitute, a dazzling young journalist whose relationship with one of her sources could complicate her career and a one-term governor with a military background, who is emerging as the likely nominee and a formidable opponent for O.

Meanwhile, O is chafing under the demands of the presidency. His senior aides are running him too hard and, to his irritation, have advised him not to play golf on the weekends. To win re-election, he realizes he may have to adopt political methods he had once denounced.

As a work of speculative fiction, the details in O will soon be overtaken by events. But no chronicle is more likely to convey the interior life of the 2012 campaign – the issues they will confront, the compromises they will make, the lengths to which they will go for victory.

O is a fascinating, entertaining, and darkly intriguing novel for anyone who wants to understand what the president and his team are really thinking.


The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards, author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

This months Women’s Weekly book club title is…

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

At a crossroads in her life, Lucy Jarrett returns home to upstate New York from Japan, only to find herself haunted by her father’s unresolved death a decade ago. Old longings stirred up by Keegan Fall, a local glass artist who was once her passionate first love, lead her into the unexpected. Late one night, as she paces the hallways of her family’s rambling lakeside house, she discovers, locked in a window seat, a collection of objects that first appear to be idle curiosities, but soon reveal glimpses of a hidden family history. As Lucy explores these traces of her lineage—from an heirloom blanket and dusty political tracts to a web of allusions depicted in stained-glass windows, both in her hometown and beyond—a new family history emerges, one that will link her to a unique slice of the suffragette movement, and yield dramatic insights that will free her to live her life to its fullest and deepest.

With revelations as captivating as the deceptions at the heart of her best-selling phenomenon, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards now gives us the story of a woman’s homecoming to the lake of her childhood, and the discovery of a secret past that will alter her understanding of her heritage, and herself, forever. A powerful family narrative and a story of love lost and found, The Lake of Dreams is an arresting novel in which every vibrant detail emerges as an organic piece of a puzzle. With her signature gifts for lyricism, suspense, and masterly storytelling, Kim Edwards’s new novel will delight those who loved The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and mesmerize millions of new fans.

Kim Edwards offers us the backstory:

Writing is often a little like dreaming, and I can’t pinpoint a particular moment when The Lake of Dreams began. It’s a book I’ve been imagining, on and off, for a very long time. I was a student when Halley’s comet returned in 1986, and I remember being disappointed by how faint and unspectacular it was for its only appearance during my lifetime. I also remember thinking that the comet, with its regular return every 76 years, would be a great way to tie a multi-generational novel together.

Though this story is fictional, I certainly drew on my six years living and traveling in Asia while writing it. Likewise, the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is the landscape of my childhood, one I’ve returned to often as an adult to explore its many facets, and its beauty. Seneca Falls, with its rich history, is half an hour’s drive from the place I grew up, and the more I read about the social reform movements of the early 20th century, especially the women’s suffrage movement, the more intrigued I became about those events, and about the way they continue to shape the present. In my lifetime, too, dramatic social changes have happened, including the ordination of women after centuries of exclusion from the priesthood. I spent several intriguing days in glass studios while researching this book, and even tried my hand at glass blowing. All these elements, and many others, found their way into The Lake of Dreams.

And an extract – Continue reading

WIKILEAKS: INSIDE JULIAN ASSANGE’S WAR ON SECRECY by David Leigh and Luke Harding

WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy is the first in-depth account of the WikiLeaks phenomenon, from the website’s launch in 2006 to the latest developments…

Written by top Guardian journalists, David Leigh and Luke Harding, who were behind the unique deal with WikiLeaks which revealed to the world last year’s unprecedented mountain of secret data…

The authors have had unprecedented access to all the major players, from diplomats and politicians to the former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Julian Assange himself

The very latest on the unfolding battle to extradite Julian Assange: will he end up in a US jail for what he has done?

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The extraordinary twists and turns of the WikiLeaks drama have been closely followed by the Guardian newspaper ever since the website launched in 2006, and Guardian journalists have had unprecedented access to all the major players, from angry and embarrassed politicians and diplomats to the extraordinary figure of Julian Assange himself.

Here two of their top reporters take the lid off the WikiLeaks phenomenon and explore the many strands of a story that continues to dominate world headlines. They look at the internet culture and technology that made the mining of secret information possible, and at the fanatical hackers who set up WikiLeaks. They explore the secret goings-on that WikiLeaks has uncovered, from the revelation of extra-judicial killings in Kenya in 2008 to the avalanche of US diplomatic cables in 2010. They study the implications of the latest revelations. And they reveal the strange and contradictory nature of Assange himself: a man praised by Amnesty International in 2009 but also a man who, barely a year later, was to be accused by Swedish police of sex crimes.

Up until now, the story has been revealed piecemeal. WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy gives the full picture.

Ensure you’re not left wondering what everyone else is talking about – order your copy now.

Lisa Heidke, author of Claudia’s Big Break, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lisa Heidke

author of Claudia’s Big Break, What Katie Did Next and Lucy Springer Gets Even

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Melbourne, trotted off to Malaysia when I was three, for three years, then back to Melbourne until I was ten. Then headed to Brisbane for twelve years.  Schooled by the nuns at Loreto, then dabbled at Queensland Uni. Have been in Sydney ever since.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve, I had my sights set on replacing Anni-Frid from ABBA… But I guess LABB doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. When I was eighteen, I wanted to be a travel writer (when I wasn’t hanging out at the Regatta). When I was thirty, I wanted to write novels. Why? Because I thought I’d be more successful at that then being an opera singer. (see next question.)

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That with training… okay… a lot of training, I could be an opera singer. Apparently, I can’t.

4. 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?

The Doris Day/Rock Hudson combo – not that Doris and Rock are necessarily works of art, but growing up, they featured prominently in my weekend television viewing. Although I was initially forced to watch them (thanks, Mum) I grew to love listening to their dialogue and watching their comedic interaction.  To counter all that sugary happiness, I was also taken with the darkness of Munch’s ‘The Scream’ and the beauty of Degas’s ballet paintings.

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

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