Cherise Saywell, author of Desert Fish, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Cherise Saywell

author of Desert Fish

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

I was born in Northern NSW, in Lismore, the oldest of four girls. I grew up nearby in Casino. I hung about after I left school, failed miserably as a trainee accountant, and then worked as a receptionist in an aged care home before moving to Brisbane and going to university. In my late twenties I travelled to Scotland on a working holiday. I met my partner there, and we have two sons.

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

I can’t remember what I wanted to be when I was twelve. I didn’t think so far ahead at that age. I thought girls grew into Continue reading

The Lost Thing by Oscar winner, Shaun Tan. (Congratulations, Shaun!)

“The Lost Thing” has won the Oscar for animated short film. Directed by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, the short film tells the story of a boy who finds a misshapen creature on a beach and tries to find a home for it. The movie is based on a children’s picture book by Tan.

“The Lost Thing” was competing against “The Gruffalo,” “Let’s Pollute,” “Day & Night” and “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary).” writes Nardine Saad in LA Times

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

A boy finds a lost ‘thing’ on the beach where he’s scavenging for his bottle top collection. The thing is a large, freakish creature but no one except him really notices it. A quirky tale about finding your place in the world.

A boy discovers a bizarre-looking creature while out collecting bottle-tops at a beach. Having guessed that it is lost, he tries to find out who owns it or where it belongs, but the problem is met with indifference by everyone else, who barely notice its presence. Each is unhelpful in their own way; strangers, friends, parents are all unwilling to entertain this uninvited interruption to day-to-day life. In spite of his better judgement, the boy feels sorry for this hapless creature, and attempts to find out where it belongs.

Read Shaun’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions - here

About the Author

Shaun Tan was born in 1974 and grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. In school he became known as the ‘good drawer’ which partly compensated for always being the shortest kid in every class. He graduated from the University of WA in 1995 with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature, and currently works full time as a freelance artist and author in Melbourne. Shaun began drawing and painting images for science fiction and horror stories in small-press magazines as a teenager, and has since become best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. Books such as The Rabbits , The Red Tree , The Lost Thing , and the acclaimed wordless novel The Arrival , have been widely translated throughout Europe, Asia and South America, and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, and worked as a concept artist for the films Horton Hears a Who and Pixar’s WALL-E . His short film, The Lost Thing (based on his book), won an Oscar!

And the Oscar goes too…. the book that inspired the film!

The Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Money, Betrayal and the Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich

The fast-paced story of two Ivy-League outcasts who concocted a scheme to meet girls, and ended up inventing Facebook

Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg – an awkward maths prodigy and a painfully shy computer genius – were never going to fit in at elite, polished Harvard. Yet that all changed when master-hacker Mark crashed the university’s entire computer system by creating a rateable database of female students. Narrowly escaping expulsion, the two misfits refocused the site into something less controversial – ‘The Facebook’ – and watched as it spread like a wildfire across campuses around the country, along with their popularity.

Yet amidst the dizzying levels of cash and glamour, as silicon valley, venture capitalists and reams of girls beckoned, the first cracks in their friendship started to appear, and what began as a simple argument spiralled into an out-and-out war. The great irony is that Facebook succeeded by bringing people together – but its very success tore two best friends apart.

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WINNER! Oscar for Best Picture and Best Actor!

The King’s Speech by Mark Logue & Peter Conradi

The King’s Speech book forms the basis of a major motion picture starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter.

One man saved the British Royal Family in the first decades of the 20th century – amazingly he was an almost unknown, and certainly unqualified, speech therapist called Lionel Logue, whom one newspaper in the 1930s famously dubbed ‘The Quack who saved a King’. Logue wasn’t a British aristocrat or even an Englishman – he was a commoner and an Australian to boot. Had Logue not saved Bertie (as the man who was to become King George VI had always been known) from his debilitating stammer, and pathological nervousness in front of a crowd or microphone, then it is almost certain that the House of Windsor would have collapsed.

The King’s Speech is the previously untold story of the extraordinary relationship between Logue and the haunted young man who became King George VI, drawn from Logue’s unpublished personal diaries. The King’s Speech is an intimate portrait of the British monarchy at a time of its greatest crisis, seen through the eyes of an Australian commoner who was proud to serve, and save, his King.

Order Now! Continue reading

One Day by David Nicholls – Soon someone will recommend you read it.

The Galaxy National Book Awards honour the best books and authors of the year. The winner of the 2010 Galaxy Book of the Year was One Day by David Nicholls.

Even though people made lots of noise about One Day when it was released and even though it received good reviews and was visible on the web and in bookshops and sold lots and lots of copies, 99.99% of readers have yet to read it.

But this will change. One Day is the book friends recommend to friends. It is the book  writers offer as an example of what writers can achieve – a near perfect synthesis of popular and literary needs. Easy to read, engaging and yet so true and well observed that it delivers a punch and leaves a mark – something most novels fail to do.

And it is this capacity to move us which will ensure that One Day becomes the book we readily recommend. One Day will pass from hand to hand, infiltrate markets undreamed of by the publisher and will still be read in ten years time. So few books reach this enviable position.

UPDATE: News from the UK -

David Nicholls’ One Day (Hodder) has broken the record for the biggest ever weekly sale from an adult-readership novel in the month of August.

Across all print editions, One Day sold 92,336 copies at UK booksellers in the seven days to 27th August, beating the previous record, set by Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol (Corgi) last year, by more than 15,000 copies.

It brings total sales of the bestselling novel to 1,090,000 copies across all editions, meaning it has become only the 30th novel to surpass the one million print sales mark since Nielsen BookScan records began in 1998. The February 2010-published mass-market edition of the book sold 52,142 copies at UK booksellers last week, and tops the Official UK Top 50 ahead of the more recent film tie-in edition (39,937 copies sold). more…

The blurb…

‘I can imagine you at forty,’ she said, a hint of malice in her voice. ‘I can picture it right now.’

He smiled without opening his eyes. ‘Go on then.’

15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.

So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows?

One Day is a funny/sad love story spanning twenty years, a book about growing up – how we change, how we stay the same.

One Day is a wonderful, wonderful book: wise, funny, perceptive, compassionate and often unbearably sad. It’s also, with its subtly political focus on changing habits and mores, the best British social novel since Jonathan Coe’s What A Carve Up.John O’Connell, The Times.

‘The funniest, loveliest book I’ve read in ages. Most of all it is horribly, cringingly, absolutely 100% honest and true to life. I lived every page.’ – Jenny Colgan.

‘A brilliant book about the heartbreaking gap between the way we were and the way we are…the best weird love story since The Time Traveller’s Wife’ – Tony Parsons.

‘Finished One Day by David Nicholls last night and now there is a big whole in my life. If you haven’t read it, you must. Utterly brilliant.’ Pippa Masson – Sydney literary agent via twitter.

Guardian review – here

Wanna read an excerpt? Continue reading

Christina Hopkinson, author of The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Christina Hopkinson

author of The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

I was born in London, but was soon moved to a village near Cambridgeshire and spent the next 20 years trying to make the reverse journey. I’m an asphalt flower in that I need concrete to survive and even now that I have children and all my contemporaries are talking of the joys of rural life, I’m convinced I’ll only leave the city in a hearse.

My parents are Catholic so I went to four schools, all called St Mary’s and all peopled by nuns. From there Continue reading

A Classic Truth: from The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

The Wisdom Of George Eliot:

“Plotting covetousness and deliberate contrivance, in order to compass a selfish end, are nowhere abundant but in the world of the dramatist: they demand too intense a mental action for many of our fellow-parishioners to be guilty of them.

It is easy enough to spoil the lives of our neighbours without taking so much trouble; we can do it by lazy acquiescence and lazy omission, by trivial falsities for which we hardly know a reason, by small frauds neutralized by small extravagances, by maladroit flatteries, and clumsily improvised insinuations.

We live from hand to mouth, most of us, with a small family of immediate desires; we do little else than snatch a morsel to satisfy the hungry brood, rarely thinking of seed-corn or the next year’s crop.’ from The Mill on the Floss

About the book: The Mill on the Floss, based on George Eliot’s own experiences of provincial life, is a masterpiece of ambiguity in which moral choice is subjected to the hypocrisy of the Victorian age.

As the headstrong Maggie Tulliver grows into womanhood, the deep love which she has for her brother Tom turns into conflict, because she cannot reconcile his bourgeois standards with her own lively intelligence. Maggie is unable to adapt to her community or break free from it, and the result, on more than one level, is tragedy.

AUTHOR: Mary Anne (Mary Ann, Marian) Evans (22 November 1819 22 December 1880), better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist. She was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. Her novels, largely set in provincial England, are well known for their realism and psychological insight. She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure that her works were taken seriously.

Female authors were published under their own names, but Eliot wanted to ensure that she was not seen as merely a writer of romances. An additional factor may have been a desire to shield her private life from public scrutiny and to prevent scandals attending her relationship with the married George Henry Lewes.

Tobsha Learner, author of Yearn, Tremble and Quiver, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Tobsha Learner

author of Yearn, Tremble, Quiver and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

I was born in Cambridge and raised mainly in North West London by parents who were (although not Australian born) Australians. I went to the local comprehensive school, then onto a London art school for foundation year, spent six months in Carrara, Italy, carving marble, then migrated to Australia at 17 (these were punk years) finished my BA in sculpture at the Victorian college of the Arts, then did the playwrights course at NIDA then screenwriting at Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

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

Actress when I was twelve, sculptress at eighteen and actually was a playwright at thirty. I had a fairly extreme childhood and teenagehood – my parents were left-wing intellectuals and very liberal. It was not a sheltered childhood, my father was killed on a Continue reading

We Have Met the Enemy: Self-control in an Age of Excess by Dan Akst

A witty and wide – ranging investigation of the central problem of our time: how to save ourselves from what we want.

Freedom is dangerous.  Half of all deaths in America, for instance, come from overeating, smoking, drinking too much, failing to exercise, and other deadly behaviours that we indulge in against our own better judgement.  Why are we on a campaign of slow-motion suicide?

While temptations have multiplied, like fast-food outlets in suburbia, crucial social constraints have eroded.  Tradition, family, church, and ideology have lost much of their capacity to circumscribe behaviour, while financial limits, once a ready substitute for thrift, were swept away by surging affluence and the remarkable open-handedness of lenders (a confluence that recently ended in tears).  The result is a world that puts more pressure that ever on the ‘self’ in self-control, sorely testing the limits of human willpower.

We Have Met the Enemy is a brilliant and irreverent search for answers that delves into overeating, overspending, procrastination, anger, addiction, wayward sexual attraction, and most of the other homely transgressions that bedevil us daily in a world of freedom, prosperity, and technological empowerment.

Using self-control as a lens rather than a cudgel, Akst draws a vivid picture of the many-sided problem of desire – and delivers a blueprint for how we can steer shrewdly toward the wants we most want for ourselves.

‘You wouldn’t be able to stop yourself from reading this book!  Daniel Akst is among the sharpest, most perceptive writers of this generation.’ – Gregg Easterbrook, author of Sonic Boom

We Have Met the Enemy is an investigation of how we manage (or fail to manage) desire, one in which I glide freely across disciplines as only a practiced dilettante can. Nobody likes a Puritan, John Dewey reminds us, and so I was careful to avoid penning some grimly censorious screed. On the contrary, by the time I was finished I was full of sympathy for those who, from Augustine to Eliot Spitzer, find themselves on the losing end of our never-ending battle with desire. On top of which, the history, psychology, economics and politics of self-control are a lot of fun, and that’s what I had with the book. I hope you will too. Daniel Akst.

Daniel Akst has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and many other publications. His previous books include Wonder Boy, which chronicled the wondrous financial fraud he had a hand in exposing, and the novels St Burl’s Obituary (a PEN/Faulkner finalist) and The Webster Chronicle. He lives with his wife and sons in New York’s bucolic Hudson Valley, generally a good place to hide from temptation.

From Michael Short in The Age: Too many people have become enslaved by their own appetite for excess, even if it’s killing them. Dan Akst says the answer is not more tofu, but more self-control. more….

Here is an essay Daniel wrote on the subject.

Fiona McIntosh, author of The Valisar Trilogy, answers Five Facetious Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona McIntosh

author of The Valisar Trilogy: Royal Exile, Tyrant’s Blood and King’s Wrath, and many, many more…

Five Facetious Questions


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?

Agreeing to work in a busy bookshop in a huge shopping centre over the Christmas period and ruthlessly spruiking my titles – along with some other very good fantasy authors I might add. Even so, sales for my titles soared that week. Far more effective than covering up Twilight on the shelves with a pile of my Continue reading

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith – Reviewed by Kylie Ladd

Zadie Smith is one of those writers other writers love to hate. Not for her the years of unpublished obscurity, the endless tweaking of the query letter, the rejection after rejection after rejection that the rest of us tell ourselves is an unavoidable and indeed vital component of becoming a novelist.

Instead, Smith was offered a publishing contract for her first novel on the basis of some short stories written in her second year at Cambridge University and included in a student anthology. She turned that down, electing to be represented by the highly sought-after Wylie agency, who subsequently sold her unfinished manuscript to Hamish Hamilton (a division of Penguin) at a highly-contested auction. Smith completed the novel, White Teeth, in her final year at Cambridge. On its release the following year it quickly became both a commercial and critical success, winning the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. The Autograph Man, her second novel, was again a bestseller, while her third, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.

For all these reasons I was quite prepared to resent her when I first picked up White Teeth five or six years ago. The book had been out for a while by then, but I had eschewed it, intimidated by its success, until my husband finally bought a copy, devoured it avidly, then shoved it under my nose and insisted that I read it. He was right to do so. White Teeth, which deals with immigrant families in London adapting to their new society, is a masterpiece- clever, funny and full of heart. On Beauty was even better. Smith reminds me of a younger, sexier AS Byatt- they share the same aggressive intelligence, innate Britishness and absolute command of language, as well as simply knowing a hell of a lot about pretty much everything.

All these qualities are on display in Smith’s collection of “occasional” essays, Changing My Mind. As the author herself acknowledges in the foreword, such books are written essentially by accident, and- in contrast to a novel- with no unifying theme or voice. Quite possibly as a result, I found Changing My Mind significantly less accessible or Continue reading


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