Stephen Dando-Collins, author of Crack Hardy, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Stephen Dando-Collins

author of Crack Hardy: From Gallipoli to Flanders to the Somme, the True Story of Three Australian Brothers at War,

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 and raised in Tasmania. With a certificate of graphic design from the Launceston School of Art, I set off to conquer the world. Working as an art director in advertising in England I increasingly wrote copy for the ads, and on my return to Australia became an advertising agency copywriter. Many fellow authors, including Peter Carey and Peter Mayle, come from a similar advertising agency copywriting background. It’s a great training ground for writers, nurturing the creative process, breeding an appreciation for the effectiveness of an economy of words, and inculcating a writing discipline. Before I turned to Continue reading

James Lee Burke: 75 Years of an American Legend

This is a GREAT interview.

By the way, we can expect a new novel from James Lee Burke in September.

To browse Booktopia’s selection of James Lee Burke titles click here

Mardi McConnochie, author of The Voyagers: A Love Story, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mardi McConnochie

author of The Voyagers: A Love Story and Coldwater

Ten Terrifying Questions


Update: The Voyagers has won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Christina Stead Award 2011

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 Armidale, NSW, and grew up in Adelaide. I went to Blackwood Junior, Primary, and High School.

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

At twelve I still sort of wanted to be a ballerina, but since I was already taller than my mother, the penny was beginning to drop that maybe that wasn’t going to Continue reading

The 2011 Miles Franklin Award Shortlist

The three novels shortlisted
for the 2011 Miles Franklin Award are…

When Colts Ran by Roger McDonald

‘There was nothing more definite when it came to promise than the worn old earth.’

In this sweeping epic of friendship, toil, hope and failed promise, multi-award-winning author Roger McDonald follows the story of Kingsley Colts as he chases the ghost of himself through the decades, and in and out of the lives and affections of the citizens of ‘The Isabel’, a slice of Australia scattered with prospectors, artists, no-hopers and visionaries. Against this spacious backdrop of sheep stations, timeless landscapes and the Five Alls pub, men play out their fates, conduct their rivalries and hope for the best.

Major Dunc Buckler, ‘misplaced genius and authentic ratbag’, scours the country for machinery in a World War that will never find him. Wayne Hovell, slave to ‘moral duty’, carries the physical and emotional scars of Colts’s early rebellion, but also finds himself the keeper of his redemption. Normie Powell, son of a rugby-playing minister, finds his own mysticism as a naturalist, while warm-hearted stock dealer Alan Hooke longs for understanding in a house full of women. They are men shaped by the obligations and expectations of a previous generation, all striving to define themselves in their own language, on their own terms.

‘When Colts Ran’, written in Roger McDonald’s rich and piercingly observant style, in turns humorous and hard-bitten, charts the ebb and flow of human fortune, and our fraught desire to leave an indelible mark on society and those closest to us. It shows how loyalties shape us in the most unexpected ways. It is the story of how men ‘strike at beauty’ as they fall to the earth. Order a copy now.

Read Roger’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here

That Deadman’s Dance by Kim Scott

Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.

The novel’s hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.

But slowly – by design and by accident – things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are “accidents” and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby’s Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia… Order a copy now.

Read Kim’s answers to my Ten Terrifying Questions here

Bereft by Chris Womersley

It is 1919. The Great War has ended, but the Spanish flu epidemic is raging across Australia. Schools are closed, state borders are guarded by armed men, and train travel is severely restricted. There are rumours it is the end of the world.

In the town of Flint, Quinn Walker returns to the home he fled ten years earlier when he was accused of an unspeakable crime. Aware that his father and uncle would surely hang him, Quinn hides in the hills surrounding Flint. There, he meets the orphan Sadie Fox — a mysterious young girl who seems to know more about the crime than she should.

A searing gothic novel of love, longing and justice, Bereft is about the suffering endured by those who go to war and those who are forever left behind.

‘Bereft is a dark, brooding story of war, family secrets and a man’s search for justice.  Chris Womersley knows how to shine light into the darkest corners of rural Australia.’ – MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

‘Bereft is a beautiful novel . . . Womersley writes with such compelling power it is barely possible to put the book down.’ – DEBRA ADELAIDE Order a copy now.

To the three shortlisted authors…
Congratulations from Booktopia.

Winner of The 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The U.S.A. digs this book…

Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Which is for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life…

Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

One of the New York Times Book Review‘s Top 10 Books of 2010

One of the Best Books of the Year: Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, NPR’s On Point, O, the Oprah Magazine, People, Publishers Weekly, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Slate, Time, The Washington Post, and Village Voice

Book Description: Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa. We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her longstanding compulsion to steal.

Click here to buy A Visit from the Goon Squad

Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life – divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed up band in the basement of a suburban house – and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang – who thrived and who faltered – and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to Powerpoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both – and escape the merciless progress of time – in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.

About The Author

Jennifer Egan is the author of The Invisible Circus and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in such magazines as The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, Zoetrope, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. Egan lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.

Michael Robotham, author of The Wreckage, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Michael Robotham

author of The Wreckage, The Suspect, Lost and many 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 the town of Casino in the Northern Rivers of NSW, the son of country school teacher whose peripatetic existence took me all round the state. My primary school years were spent in Gundagai, where the dog sits on the tuckerbox, and I’m still remembered as the little boy who played with matches and almost burned down the town. The first house the blaze threatened belonged to the boss of the town’s volunteer fire brigade. By then I had crawled under Continue reading

SuperChef AUSTRALIA: A Parody by Ben Pobjie

A hilarious parody of Australia’s most successful tv cooking phenomenon

From the cooking show to end all cooking shows, comes the book of the show that makes all other books of shows look feeble and pointless. Finally fans of the worldwide ultra-smash SuperChef can take the essence of the program home in handy book form, preserving the experience of history’s greatest-ever televised cooking competition for all eternity. (buy a copy here)

SEE the backstage secrets behind the making of the most successful television show in the history of the universe.

DISCOVER what makes a cooking show judge tick-is it greed, or just anger?

GET TO KNOW the contestants in terrifyingly intimate detail.

LEARN how to cook like a SuperChef, if that’s really what you want.

Packed with helpful kitchen hints, signature recipes from the stars of the program, and fun activities for the whole family, SuperChef: The Book is perfect for foodies, aspiring chefs, and obsessive reality-show fans alike. Catch the kitchen-fever today!*

‘SuperChef is the one show I make all my apprentices watch-it’s the only way they’ll learn’ – Marco Zatapathique, head chef, L’Oiseau Deprime

‘SuperChef is so good that every time I watch it I am crushed beneath the weight of my own inadequacy’ – Helen O’Gortigan, host of Heating it Up with Helen

‘Superchef is the only valid reason to live’ – Charlie Stanwick, inventor of the chicken parmigiana

* Book does not actually cause fever (buy a copy here)

About Ben Pobjie:

During Masterchef series 2, journalist Ben Pobjie built up quite a following as he vented his thoughts via Twitter during each episode each night. Starting out as an uninterested outsider, he soon found himself deeply immersed in the world of Masterchef and has now become, not only a fan but also a well-respected commentator.

Order your copy today –
click here to go through to the Booktopia online bookshop

David Baldacci, author of The Sixth Man, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

David Baldacci

bestselling author of The Sixth Man, Absolute Power, Hell’s Corner and many, many 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 and raised in Richmond, Virginia. I attended college at Virginia Commonwealth University (Go Rams!) and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia.

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

At age 12, I wanted to be a superhero.

At age 18, I wanted to be 21 so that I could drink.

At age 30, I wanted to be doing something other than practicing law.

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

When I was 18, I believed people in authority when they told you something. I got over that.

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

Book: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It made me want to write thrillers.

Music: Pink Floyd’s The Wall

Painting: Francisco Goya’s Executions of May 3, 1808

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

I can’t sing and I can’t dance, and my juggling is iffy.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel… The Sixth Man.

Edgar Roy is The Analyst. He’s tasked to know everything about American intelligence. A wee problem, he’s been arrested as a serial killer. My series stalwarts, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, the former Secret Service agents, have to discover the truth before it’s too late.

(BBGuru: from the publisher… After alleged serial killer Edgar Roy is apprehended and locked away in a psychiatric unit, private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called in by Roy’s lawyer – an old friend of Sean King – to look into the case. But their investigation is derailed before it begins: while en route to their first meeting with the lawyer, King and Maxwell discover his dead body.

A rash of terrifying events begins to unfold and it is up to King and Maxwell to uncover the truth: is Roy a killer or not? But the more they dig into his past, the more they are bombarded with obstacles, half-truths, and dead ends that make filtering the facts nearly impossible. As each new theory brings a new revelation, King and Maxwell will be pushed to the limit. Could this deadly case be the one that leaves the duo permanently parted?

About the Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series:  Sean King is a former Secret Service agent who allowed his attention to wander for a split second, an error that resulted in the death of the presidential candidate he had been protecting. Michelle Maxwell is a former Secret Service agent who “lost” the politician she was supposed to protect when the politician vanished behind closed doors while comforting a grieving widow. Their destinies converge when Michelle becomes obsessed with Sean’s case, and when Sean needs the help of a new friend to solve crimes that implicate him as the culprit. Professional pride, romantic tension, and common causes bring together King and Maxwell as a crime-solving dynamic duo. )

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope they feel entertained and slightly more informed about important issues than when they opened the book.

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

Mark Twain. He took on serious issues with great humor. And he was as captivating a speaker as he was a writer.

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

To keep writing until I croak. And to branch out into other avenues, including independent film production.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Write even more than you read. Never let a stranger suck the passion out of you by rejecting one of your works. Believe in yourself even if no one else believes in you.

David, thank you for playing.

Penguin Classics UK: Top Ten Cruellest Classics

In my inbox today was a newsletter from
Penguin Classics UK in which they list the…

Top Ten Cruellest Classics (wah, ha, har!)

They didn’t say ‘wah, ha, har!’ that was me. I thought it needed something.

They did say this, however:

Despite some sunny days recently, we wouldn’t dare argue with T. S. Eliot – and since it’s April, here is our top ten of the very Cruellest classics:

1. Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola

‘It was like a lightning flash of passion, swift, blinding, across a leaden sky’

In a dingy apartment on the Passage du Pont Neuf in Paris, Thérèse Raquin is trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin Camille. The numbing tedium of her life is suddenly shattered when she embarks on a turbulent affair with her husband’s earthy friend Laurent, but their animal passion for each other soon compels the lovers to commit a crime that will haunt them forever. Thérèse Raquin caused a scandal when it appeared in 1867 and brought its twenty-seven-year-old author a notoriety that followed him throughout his life. Zola’s novel is not only an uninhibited portrayal of adultery, madness and ghostly revenge, but is also a devastating exploration of the darkest aspects of human existence.

Robin Buss’s new translation superbly conveys Zola’s fearlessly honest and matter of fact style. In his introduction, he discusses Zola’s life and literary career, and the influence of art, literature and science on his writing. This edition also includes the preface to the second edition of 1868, a chronology, further reading and notes. Buy

 2. Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov

“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.”

Thus begins Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark; this, the author tells us, is the whole story–except that he starts from here, with his characteristic dazzling skill and irony, and brilliantly turns a fable into a chilling, original novel of folly and destruction.

Amidst a Weimar-era milieu of silent film stars, artists, and aspirants, Nabokov creates a merciless masterpiece as Albinus, an aging critic, falls prey to his own desires, to his teenage mistress, and to Axel Rex, the scheming rival for her affections who finds his greatest joy in the downfall of others. Buy

3. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

Ah, why should wrath be mute, and fury dumb?
I am no baby, I, that with base prayers
I should repent the evils I have done;
Ten thousand worse, than ever yet I did
Would I perform, if I might have my will.
If one good deed in all my life I did,
I do repent it from my very soul.  Continue reading

Jacqueline Lunn, author of Under The Influence, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jacqueline Lunn

author of Under The Influence

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

Born, raised and schooled in Brisbane. My parents still live in the same house that I came home to after breaking the record in the maternity hospital for being the longest baby. Exciting I know. I had a carefree childhood and left Brisbane after I finished university to travel the world, drink too much cider in London and eventually end up working on a newspaper in Sydney.

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

At 12 I remember telling the local butcher I wanted to be a lawyer. I think because one of my older brothers had just started studying it at uni and I thought he was the ant’s pants. At 18 I wanted to be an actress – well, I did win the school drama prize and I was rather adept at pretending to have a range of deep emotions I had absolutely no clue about. At 30 I went through one of many ‘what am I doing with my life?’ crises. I was pregnant with my second child and wanted a change on the work front. If you don’t have flexibility with your time in journalism, it can become very limiting.

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

That men who are arrogant bastards with serious personality issues are really interesting, worthwhile and would love me if I just changed.

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?

This is a hard one because I have always thought real people influence me the most. My friends’ stories about how they survived Christmas with the in-laws and a partner who is increasingly ‘mentally’ absent, the conversation I overhear at the café, a story in the paper about a grandmother killing a man when charges against him were dropped for sexually assaulting her grandchildren, a question one of my children asks when they are bored in the backseat of the car. But here goes: three works of art that I loved?

The Little Dancer by Edgar Degas. Known for his paintings of ballet dancers and ballet classes, this one is a rare sculpture and I found it both beautiful and ugly.

Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights’ High – so clever and laugh out loud funny. He has a clear vision.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison – I read every page in awe.

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

Because I have no other artistic avenues open to me. Can’t sing, play a musical instrument, draw, use my hands to create. But I can dance. At night and with a lot of drinks under my belt so I don’t think that counts.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Under The Influence is about three friends, Eve (a cellist living in London), Meg (a country doctor) and Sarah (a mother) who went to boarding school together a long time ago in Sydney and share a secret that has changed who they are as women. It’s about ‘that girl’ at school – we all had one – in this case her name is Rebecca Thornton and she makes her mark. It’s about people who want to control and dominate those they say they love and care for. At the end of the day it’s also about the complexity of female friendship.

Click Here For More Details, To Read An Extract Or To Buy Under The Influence

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

People are flawed, but not all flaws are created equal. Also, when you are a woman make conscious choices about life. Don’t let things just ‘happen to you’. Try not to find yourself downstream one day drowning and have no clue how you ended up there.

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

I admire many, many writers. Those who write more lyrical novels, those who write satire or thrillers or historical fiction. Any genre, as long as, I want to turn the page.

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

When you really love doing something I don’t know if it’s ambitious to want to get better at what you do or simply natural. I want to be a better writer.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Relax. Don’t try to write what you think someone wants to read, or write ‘literature’, write how you write and what you want to write. And then you have to keep writing for a long, long time.

Jacqueline, thank you for playing.


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